CSAs are small farms owned, jointly, by a nearby community, and that supplies food for people who live nearby. Sometimes townspeople will buy a plot of land close to town, hire a farmer to work it for them, and share all the crops. Other times the community can sell the surplus for a profit.
In some circumstances the farm is affiliated with a farmer’s market that sells the produce back to local people, giving the town a source of civic income; in other cases, townspeople simply own shares in the farm and get part of the harvest as profit. Still other times the farm is more like an allotment, with families owning their own sections. There are almost as many models as there are farms.
Such community ventures solve many problems at once. First, they find a use for plots near towns that otherwise might go unused. They provide work for farmers in an age when their numbers are diminishing – and if the community hires young people as hands, they give wages and rural skills to local youths.
In a recent interview with Global Public Media, community farmer Jay Martin made the point that many farmers must go deeply into debt in order to begin or keep farming – and when they have a successful crop, he says, they must deal with transport and the uncertainties of the market.
When he turned his farm into a CSA, on the other hand, the costs were covered by the community, and he had no transport costs and a built-in market.
But perhaps the most important use of such farms is giving a community food that is not flown in from across an ocean. We are surrounded by fertile land here in
Food transported from one kilometre away, rather than 10,000, eliminates a major source of climate chaos and pollution. At present, many foods must be sealed in plastic and foam packaging, sometimes preserved in chemical gases, to delay spoilage. Some experts estimate that by the time your food reaches your plate, 75 percent of the nutrition is gone. If the farm is next door, the food is always fresh, and no rubbish need be generated. Also, we would not use those thousands of gallons of fossil fuel right away, and do our part to delay a global energy crunch.
Finally, in an age when fewer people feel part of a community, a CSA allows people to invest in a project together, with their neighbours, and share in the rewards.