What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

The following information on Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) was provided from Small Farm Research & Education Center (SFREC) based at Silver Creek Farm, an organic diversified 75-acre farm in Hiram.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters that provides a direct link between production and consumption of food. Consumers become members who share in the responsibility and risk involved in growing their food. Typically, members purchase a "share" of the upcoming harvest in the spring of the year.

This money allows the farmer to cover the costs of production and links the member to the risk and reward of growing food in an organic climate. In exchange, a member receives a boxfull of the weekly share of produce (fruits, veggies, herbs) from the farm. Silver Creek, like most CSAs. has add-on shares such as a cheese or yarn shares. Generally, a share feeds 2-4 people. Single folks have been known to split their shares with couples or a couple of friends. Drop off points are determined by In Northeast Ohio, the growing period of the CSA usually lasts about 22 weeks.

CSA farms embody a committment to build a more sustainable and equitable local agriculture system, and, therefore, are organic and biodynamic. Silver Creek Farm's CSA, for example, serves 65 to 100 members each year. Shareholders have the opportunity to participate on several levels. Some are selected as "working core" members, which means in exchange for a reduced seasonal cost, they committ to work at the farm during the growing season (CSA at Crown Pointe in Bath costs $385 for working members; $485 for non-working).

The working core member become intensely involved in the production of their food by planting, weeding, harvesting, washing and packing for the CSA. Non working-core members volunteer to host a drop-off site, deliver food, attend potluck dinner and other farm events.

The concept of CSA originated in the 1960s in Japan and Switzerland. Consumers interested in safe (i.e., pesticide and chemical free) food and farmers interested in stable markets for their products formed a partnership of mutual support. By the mid-1980s, the concept was introduced in the U.S. and a the number of CSA has increased steadily. Currently, there are approximately 1000 CSA programs in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the inherent benefits of becoming a shareholder in a CSA include:

  • The CSA is a way to teach people about the food they eat and how it is produced
  • The CSA = Food Security. You'll know exactly the who what's and where's concerning your food. Who grew it, how and where it grew.
  • The CSA insures that the members' food dollar stays in the local economy. When we choose to buy locally over 80% of that money stays in the local area. This contributes to the health of all sectors of the local economy, increasing the local quality of life. When we choose to spend our food dollar at the big national chains (Kroger, Meijer's, Cub, Safeway, etc) about 70% of the money leaves the local area and does little to bolster the local economy.
  • One of the great strengths of CSAs such as Crown Pointe is that they grow a diverse crop of nearly anything that is native and can be grown in season in Ohio. Diverse crop selection maintains healthy, robust soil and biodiversity compared to land where a single crop is grown.
  • Some CSAs, such as Silver Creek Farm, maintain heritage livestock breeds, to maintain genetic diversity and offer an alternative food choice to conventional farm animals which in recent years have been bred only for higher production. An organization called Slow Food USA has 21 farms in 14 states growing 4800 heritage turkey breeds.


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