Friday, February 19, 2016

The "community" in CSA

When the first CSA models emerged in Japan around the 1960s, they were called “teikei”—literally meaning ‘relationship’ or ‘partnership1.’ Similar to why consumers today invest in CSAs, these original shareholders wanted to know the people producing their food so as to support local economies and protect the health of their families. With the onslaught of modern technology, however, the ‘middleman’ is often reintroduced into this relationship. For instance, some farms now offer a CSA delivery service, meaning that shareholders don’t even need to visit the farm to receive their produce. Other farmers are forming online communities that organize multiple farms into one sign-up platform, allowing consumers to decide which CSA shares to purchase without actually coming face-to-face with the producer. These new takes on community supported agriculture are designed to increase the accessibility of fresh produce, but considering the high emphasis that original teikei models placed on consumer-farmer relationships, is a CSA that fails to foster this type of connection really a CSA at all?

When forming opinions about this widened definition of community supported agriculture, consider that 13.6% of the St. Lawrence population is food insecure.2 Transportation to places selling nutritious food—including farms, markets, or even grocery stores—proves a major hurdle for many people in this rural region. It’s unreasonable to believe that everyone can easily afford and physically access farm-grown produce, so isn’t anything that acknowledges this difficulty and facilitates innovative solutions—such as delivery CSAs—a step toward bridging the farmer-consumer food gap? With our food system currently in the clutches of factory farms and corn monocultures, isn’t any CSA model, however abstract, better than no CSA model at all?

If the issue preventing you and your family from accessing fresh produce is price, GardenShare may be able to help. Through our CSA Bonus Bucks program, recipients pay a reduced price for a CSA share and the rest is covered by grants and donations. For more information on this program, please be in touch with us at and we will send you an application