The Local Agriculture Movement in Practice
Consumers can participate directly with local farming and enjoy fresh local produce via Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. In these programs, growers offer the public subscriptions to the food they cultivate. Once consumers sign up for memberships, they receive boxes full of the farm’s seasonal output at various intervals, such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
Benefits for Members
Purchasing a farm subscription, also known as a share, offers consumers a regular, hand-picked selection of the freshest, high quality, locally grown produce available. By developing a dialogue with growers and distributors, people can learn exactly how the food they eat is grown. Often, a selection of fruits, vegetables, and other farm products is offered that is unavailable in traditional supermarkets. For some, this method may be more convenient than visiting a neighborhood farmers market each week.
How CSAs Support Farmers
CSA membership fees are invested directly in the operation of each individual farm, and function as investments into quality local growing. While farmers may still be shipping produce to other vendors in distant locations, local farmers who also participate in CSAs encourage and make it easier for the community to enjoy local, seasonal, food.
When CSAs use smaller farming operations, consumers may have to pay higher costs for produce. Smaller agricultural businesses don’t benefit from the economies of scale that corporate farming enjoys, and these small farms often do not use commercial pesticides and fertilizers, which reduces output and requires more labor. Therefore, every pound of food originating at a small farm often takes more energy to produce (measured in calories), which can result in higher food costs when compared to produce farmed on a mass scale. These prices will be factored into CSA membership rates. Some CSAs allow consumers to supplement membership dues with volunteer work on the farm itself.
How to Find a CSA
Consumers can find out more about what kinds of farms are in their area and how to participate in a CSA by visiting the Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association, or LocalHarvest, a popular community farming organization.