What is CSA? And what makes CSA so wonderful? CSA stands for community supported agriculture. The philosophy behind this concept is that our food is a shared commodity, and therefore the production of food should be a shared responsability too. In our current foodsystem we find most farmers at the bottom of the chain, with the consumer all the way at the other end of it. In between a lot of other players, such as wholesalers and supermarkets who, let’s be honest, often earn a lot more than the farmers themselves. Especially the risks, such as a wet summer, plagues and diseases and therefore a bad harvest, are a heavy load to carry for farmers. In an ideal world, these risks would be calculated into the price of food in supermarkets. The way we currently organise our foodsystem, however, does not take this into account, and does not enable a fair distribution of profits and risks. Which is strange, because where would we be without our farmers? Or more precisely, what would we eat?
The CSA model is a great alternative solution to this problem: it enables us, farmers and consumers, to share the responsibility for our food. This is how it works: the farmer runs the farm year round, takes care of sowing, planting, weeding and harvesting. He or she calculates how many persons or households could be fed with the harvest of the farm, and the exact costs of realise that harvest (including his own income). As a consumer, you can then become a members of that CSA. You pay a set amount per month or year, and, very important, you commit yourself for a full year to the farm. This entitles you to a share of the harvest for the whole year, which in some cases you can even harvest yourself! This way, the farmer has a reliable source of income, and you are assured of fresh, healthy food. Because almost all CSA farmers farm according to organic standards, and because of the close relationship with the farmer, you can make sure of this yourself.
This way, farmer and consumer share the profit and the risks, so that a bad harvest does not immediately create financial problems for the farmer. It does mean that your share of the harvest will be a little smaller at that moment. Then again, in a good year, you will share in the abundance of a good harvest! This way you reconnect with the seasons, and become more aware of the real costs of foodproduction. Together we can make sure that our food remains honest and sustainable.
Want to find a CSA farm near you? Try going online to see if there are any CSAs near you. Urgenci is the international organisation for community supported agriculture. Visit their website for more information on what they do: urgenci.net. They also have an online map that shows csa networks and initiatives worldwide: urgenci.net/csa-map.