” Community Supported Agriculture ” (CSA) offers farms a valuable means to cover their operating costs, and to make direct sales to people in their community. This can be beneficial for all parties involved; without middlemen such as distributors, retailers and marketers involved in each purchase, farmers can maximize their profits while still offering attractive, affordable pricing to their supporters.
Each CSA group is different, but typically a farm with a CSA program will pre-sell “shares” of a season’s produce to community members. Each member will pay for the produce up front, before the crops are grown and harvested. This pledge of support guarantees that the farm will have some much-needed operating capital, rather than having to struggle with cashflow issues all the way until harvest time.
Then throughout the growing season, at pre-determined intervals — often weekly — each supporter will receive a share in the produce.
Community supported agriculture does have inherent risks. Many CSA groups are set up in such a way that supporters share in the farm’s risks, including vulnerabilities of crops to weather and pests.
Before you commit to supporting a CSA program, we recommend visiting the farm you’ll be supporting. Talk to the farmers. Ask questions. Make sure that this is an operation you and / or your family feels comfortable investing in.
Most of the time, CSA supporters are satisfied with the arrangement; sometimes they even get more out of the bargain than they put in.
Usually, farmers enjoy mixed successes and failures; they may plant some crops that fail, but usually there are plenty of successful crops to ensure a plentiful harvest despite some disappointments.
However, in theory, there could be times when a farm encounters a major disaster, causing widespread crop failures. Agriculture is a risky business, and when you choose to participate in community supported agriculture, you share in these risks as well as the rewards.