Initially, community supported agriculture began in the 1980s in northeastern United States. The initiative was to provide a form of food security for the community. The idea was first incorporated in Europe using biodynamic agriculture by two farmers Jan Vander Tuin and Traugher Groh. The first CSA was established in Massachusetts at the Great Barrington. The various CSA gardens that were subsequently created over to the 1990s remained satisfied, but it was the Temple-Wilton Community Garden that has proven to be the most successful of all as it still operates to this very day (Cone & Myhre, 2000). The significance of the Temple-Wilton Community Garden cannot be overlooked as it has grown to be a part of the community and even receives grants from the federal, state and local authorities.
Evidently, the nature of the CSA has become influential over the years that the basic concept has been adopted in other parts of the world. In Japan, a parallel concept to the CSA goes by the name Teikei and has been used by the people of Japan since the 1960s. Nonetheless, following the success stories and the convenience of the CSA, many regions have adopted the economic model for purposes of encouraging food security (Greenwood & Leichenko, 2012). In North America alone, there are almost 13000 CSA farms as per the data in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the year 2007. A decade later, the number is perceived to have grown significantly.
Brown and Miller in their work, “The Impacts of Local markets: A review of research on farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture” conclude that CSAs will never be more than a small part of the food system. This was back in 2008. However, the current status of the CSAs proves different from the conclusion of the authors. Ideally, the CSAs have grown to be an even bigger part of the food system as well as the economic market. In the current contemporary world, CSA is used as an economic model of both food distribution and agriculture (Kumar, Duell, Soergell & Ali, 2011). The current model of the CSAs takes four main approaches. First is the farmer-managed approach. Ideally, this approach involves a farmer who sets up a CSA and within it, he or she recruits people to work on the farm as well as subscribers. However, the central management of the farm is left to the farmer.
The second approach is the shareholder method. In this process, locals within an area acquire a piece of land and establish a CSA. Upon establishment, the locals who are also the shareholders, hire a farmer who will grow the crops on their behalf. The harvest is then distributed among the shareholders, and any surplus is handed over to the food banks for future use. In this instance, the shareholders manage the operations and functionality of the CSA. The third method is the farmer cooperative approach. In this particular case, the principal shareholders or subscribers to the CSA are farmers. This process involves several farmers coming together and creating a CSA program. In essence, the producers come together and put up a CSA that is bound to be beneficial to the community as a whole. This method brings together an array of farming ideas that may involve more crop production due to the vast experience of the farmers.
Lastly is the farmer-shareholder cooperative mode that sees the farmers and residents coming together to set up and manage a CSA. Based on the above-described methods of CSA initiatives, it would be prudent to state that Brown and Miller’s conclusion that CSAs will never grow beyond their small scale nature in the food system was wrong. The development and different initiatives of the CSA have developed to make CSAs an important and big part of the food system and essential to food security (McFadden, 2011).
- Cone, C. A. & Myhre, A. (2000). Community-supported agriculture: A sustainable alternative to industrial agriculture? Human Organization, 59(2): 187-197.
- Greenwood, D. & Leichenko, R. (2012). Community-supported agriculture. In Danto, W. (ed). Food and Famine in the 21st Century. ABC-CLIO.
- Kumar, S., Duell, J., Soergell, A. & Ali, R. (2011). Towards direct marketing of produce by farmers in India: Lessons from the United States of America. Journal of International Development, 23(4): 539-547.
- McFadden, S. (2011). The call of the land: An agrarian primer for the 21st century. NorLights Press.