Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new, but revolutionary model of commerce transacting between the farmer that tends the land, nurturing food and nutrition from the soil, and the eater that nourishes themselves with food grown by the farmer. Grown out of several cultural traditions around the world, CSA’s promote the relational value of food, farmer prosperity, community connection, seasonal eating, and adventure around preparing a variety of food. Inherently, CSA asks all of us to consider the source of all food, or the soil, which is the radical or root of all life. In this article I will focus on three themes that distinguish CSA’s from other forms of farmer-eater relationships: interdependence, stability, and relational ethics.
First off, farmers and eaters are interdependent rather than independent parties. The broken industrial food-complex and advent of bioengineering food technology are direct examples of what happens when the disparity of the relationship swings to the extremity of independence from one another. It favors larger, mechanical, and a satellite’s eye view of the farm system. CSA helps us celebrate smaller scales, slowing down the speed of agriculture, and favors biodiversity and appropriate technology, both old and new. In the CSA model, the connection between soil, farmer, and eater are viewed as a complex ecosystem.
The shared economy of the farm system stabilizes the production and consumption of food to the benefit of the farmer and the eater. This is achieved through evening out the wavy nature of seasonality, expense and income cycles of the farm, the pursuit of weekly shopping, and food preparation at home. Membership makes active participants of all parties in the food chain, holding them accountable to stability, organization, and interaction. All farms bear more than 50% of their expenses before the harvest of the first marketable crop, making them rely on debt mechanisms or bootstrapping to maintain the farm system. Eaters have busy schedules that benefit from an organized, easy opportunity to procure their food, have a meaningful interaction, and break out of the weekly recipe routine.
Better planning yields abundance, environmental consideration, and thoughtful interaction. CSA creates stable patterns in the farm system, helping the farm maximize it’s efficiency, crop coordination, and focus on abundant, delicious food. CSA production also drives a relationship of biodiversity in the farm’s crop planning. The shared responsibility of the farm’s production, care, and consumption, additionally challenge all parties to see the value of the commons, which includes the health of the soil, the farmer, the eater, the water, the woods, the atmosphere, the community, and nature.
All in all, CSA represents a lofty, but worthy pursuit to incorporate values of community and thoughtfulness into the farm plan and among the community of eaters. It asks us to take a step outside of rampant consumerism and celebrate the value, abundance, and impact of commitment to one another.