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Community Farming Going Global: New CSA’s In China, Thailand

Some of the oldest community-supported agriculture programs started in Japan in the 1960's but the movement is just taking off in several nearby countries.

A small, black donkey stands in the middle of a sandy pen surrounded by a an old log-and-post fence.  Her nose is near the ground, like she's sniffing for food.

Photo: Edward Sanderson (Flickr)

China's Little Donkey Farms takes its name from this actual donkey who lives on site. They bought her hoping she could help till the fields, but haven't been able to find someone who knew how to train her for it. She's currently kept as the farm mascot.

(Read part one and part two of our series profiling the past, present, and future of CSA farming around the world.)

The CSA model has spread widely throughout the United States since its inception in 1986, and particularly since 2007.

Internationally, though, the movement is just starting to take off in many places.

China’s Little Donkey, Professor

The model is taking root in China. Its most prominent example there is the Little Donkey Farm, which currently provides weekly boxes of organic food to four hundred families, and rents small plots of land to another 260 families who manage their own small gardens there.

Just outside of Beijing, Little Donkey Farm is currently running China’s first and only CSA. Four hundred families subscribe to receive weekly boxes of produce from the farm, and an additional 260 families rent small plots of land to grow their own gardens there. (And, yes, there really is a donkey.)

Short-Term Pains For Long-Term Gains In Thailand

The community of Mae Tha in Thailand is using a CSA model to resist the overwhelming practice of monoculture farming in that country.

Most of Thailand’s arable land is devoted to raising tobacco, wheat, and corn.

Insufficient crop rotation drains the soil of necessary nutrients, requiring intensive fertilizing to keep them growing year after year.

The biggest challenge for Thai farmers wanting to diversify their crops and consider organic farming is the cycle of debt that monoculture farming entails.

Farmers must take out substantial loans in the beginning of the year for pesticides, fertilizers, and seeds, which they repay at the end of the year when they harvest everything at a single time.

CSAs offered Mae Tha farmers the opportunity they needed to find other up-front sources of cash, both by engaging their community and by satisfying a growing demand in the nearby big city, Chiang Mai, for greater consumer contact with farmers.

Read More:

  • How Community Supported Agriculture Sprouted In China (NPR)
  • Chiang Mai Farmers’ CSA (Zester Daily)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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