WHAT IS A CSA FARM?

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WHAT IS A CSA FARM?

Post  Admin on Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:23 am

CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." CSA is a term coined for a type of direct farm-to-consumer marketing trend that cuts out the middlemen and provides fresher foods and better prices for both the farmer and the consumer. There are currently approximately 2,000 CSA farms in America, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. There are a small but growing number of CSA farms in Kansas. CSA is a new twist on an old idea, where consumers have more "say" in the types and varieties of foods and food products they can purchase locally, and the methods of production used to bring that food to their tables.

Some CSA farms are owned by their membership, as a sort of co-op. The organization buys or leases land, equipment, seeds, etc. It hires managers and laborers to do the work. The membership pays the wages and expenses for the food produced, and divides up the food equally among its members.

More simplified forms of CSA begin with a farmer/grower who already owns land and is experienced with equipment and methods of production. This farmer/grower offers "harvest shares" in a subscription format. Subscribers or shareholders purchase a seasonal "share" which is priced to cover the grower's expenses and labor to produce various crops according to the preferences of the subscribers. The subscription fee or share price is usually paid up front before the growing season begins to provide a guaranteed market to the grower for all his crops, and to provide the grower with funding to purchase seeds and supplies - since the grower is planting only for a certain number of pre-paid subscribers. The vast majority of CSA farms in America follow this model.

The "C" in CSA indicates the consumer shares both in the risks of farming with the grower and in the responsibilities. Shareholders generally participate in the transportation and distribution aspects of food production, providing farm pickups and deliveries to drop-off points in their communities. With the CSA model, there is a greater sense of "community" and "connection" with the source of food and the farm. Some CSA's require a certain number of hours of labor be provided by its members to help on the farm, although most CSA's do not.

CSA farms generally have a limited number of shares available each season. In Kansas, CSA share seasons may run 12-26 weeks, depending upon the arrangements. CSA farms provide weekly shares throughout the growing season. Volumes may range from an average of 4-7 items or be measured in pounds or bushels. Many CSA's provide an average of half bushel of produce per week. Costs range from around $250 for short season share programs, up to $600 for long seasons and higher volume shares. Some CSA farms offer full shares and half shares. Some CSA's provide optional add-ons, such as eggs, meats, and/or other farm products. There may be surpluses of some crops that may be marketed locally to subscribers and non-subscribers or through farmers markets and other marketing venues.

In CSA models there is little waste of food and fewer market uncertainties for the grower. Many CSA farms follow "organic" or "chemical free" production methods, although not all are certified by the USDA.

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