Participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one of the best ways you can support your local food web and become more intimately acquainted with growers and producers in your local area. Your subscription in a CSA puts you in touch with growers and allows you to develop a personal relationship with the people who are producing the food you put on your table.
What is Community Supported Agriculture
In a nutshell, Community Supported Agriculture is a system that puts producers and consumers into a partnership bringing the food network closer together. Consumers purchase shares or subscriptions from the producer getting the consumer a share of the harvest from a farm or group of farms. CSA’s are an alternative to the industrial model of agriculture and removes many of the intermediate cost factors involved in large scale commercial agriculture. In the CSA model, the producer and the consumer share the risk of production.
Most CSA’s in West Texas offer weekly share distributions during the harvest season. Some producers will offer the opportunity for extra shares to subscribers by inviting them to harvest additional produce at the peak of the season when the expected harvest is greater than what is required to fill shares.
This shared risk model develops direct connections between consumers and producers, which strengthens the local food net. The economics of the model benefits both sides. Producers get the benefit of the subscriptions at the beginning of the growing season when farming costs are greatest. AN inflow of funding at the beginning of the season allows the producer to purchase, seed, equipment, and other goods at the time they are most needed. In most cases, the funding allows the producer to expand operations to the extent that provides excess produce during the season that is sold at farmers’ markets or direct to end-users such as restaurants increasing the income stream later in the season.
Subscribers benefit by receiving weekly or bi-weekly shares of fresh farm produce from a source that is known and trusted. The direct relationship between producer and consumer is usually the most important factor for those who participate in CSA shares. These consumers cite the quality of the food and the knowledge of the production methods as the two most important factors in the relationship.
Structures and Forms
Several different structures for managing and operation CSA’s developed.
- Farmer Managed – The farmer/producer sets up and maintains the CSA, recruits subscribers, and controls the management and operation of the CSA.
- Shareholder/Subscriber Managed – Local residents set up a CSA and hire a farmer to grow the crops. Shareholder/subscribers manage the rest of the CSA.
- Farmer Cooperative – Multiple farmers develop a CSA program, each contributing to the production and taking a share of the subscriptions. Management of the operations varies in structure and form.
- Farmer/Shareholder Cooperative – Farmers and residents set up and cooperatively manage a CSA.
CSA’s are becoming more prevalent. To find CSA”s in your area, reach out to the producers who are selling at your farmer’s market. You may find many of them are running CSA’s already. If not, urge them to consider the idea. If you are having trouble finding a CSA in your area, contact your local agriculture extension office and ask there. Many states have statewide associations of CSA operators that can give you a list of producers in your area.
Links and Resources
For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.
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Known Local CSA’s
South Plains Food Bank – GRUB Farm – Shares in the GRUB program farm are used to support the Getting Ready for Urban Business youth program at the farm. GRUB is an educational program to prepare disadvantaged and at-risk youth for entry into the workplace with a curriculum based around working on the market farm.
Quail Feather Farms – Quail Feather Farms, LLC is a market farm-based in West Texas. Our policy is to use all-natural, sustainable farming practices to grow delicious, nutrient-rich food, and beautiful bedding plants for our customers. Quail Feather Farms is committed to ethical land, water, and wildlife stewardship.
Local Harvest – Offers lists of CSA’s and farmer’s markets searchable by location.