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Changing The CSA Model To Fit Consumer Needs

Community supported agriculture means fresh, local food and being connected to the farmers and the land. But not everyone is sold on the traditional model.

garden produce

Photo: Miles Evenson (flickr)

CSA members get produce based on what's in season.

It’s the beginning of February, and for many that means it’s time to sign up for a CSA.

Share The Harvest

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) connect farmers with consumers long before summer farmers markets set up shop. CSA members pay an upfront fee for the privilege to pick up a weekly share of harvested vegetables throughout the duration of the growing season.

The bounty changes as the season wears on, meaning some weeks there will be an abundance of certain vegetables that then won’t be seen again until the next year’s harvest.

Proponents of CSAs say the model is helpful for farmers because they are guaranteed money at the beginning of the planting season — exactly when they need the cash to buy seeds and supplies. For consumers, they become more connected to their food source.

What Are The Choices?

However, CSAs have their drawbacks.

The model is producer-centric, leaving the consumer with little say on what or how much produce they get. And, if consumers miss a weekly pick-up, they then have paid for food they never receive.

Flexible CSAs have come to the rescue, offering slightly more customizable plans. Pendleton’s Country Market in Lawrence, Kansas, offers the traditional CSA or a prepaid card that can be used at their local farmer’s market stand on whatever the consumer wants that week.

Other options include weekly ordering so the consumer can get as much or as little as they want.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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  • guest

    It isn’t consumer supported agriculture – it’s community supported agriculture. It’s about relationships, participation, reciprocity. Let’s keep it that way.

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