Do you enjoy preparing and cooking with a variety of fresh vegetables but don’t have the knowledge, time, or space to grow your own? Would you like to expand your horizons, advance your relationship with whole foods, locally grown farm fresh products? If so—you may be in the market to partner with a CSA!

Early beginnings of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) stem back to Japan, Switzerland and Germany before its initiation to the United States around 1986. Robyn Van En from South Egremont, MA along with her Indian Line Farm has been referred to as the one of the initial founders of CSAs in this country.

Continual growth and expansion of CSAs has been varied in size and complexity ever since the onset in the 1980s. In the early years most were very small, five acres or less, and somewhat limited to the number of shareholders they could support and the types of food (mostly vegetables) that were offered. Those numbers have vastly increased in the years since. Community supported agriculture is as widespread as it is diverse.

CSAs are a way to re-acquaint people with the root of their food source, with the offerings changing throughout the growing season. Many CSA customers have commented on their increased exposure to new and different vegetables that they wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.

Local farms offer annual shares for weekly or biweekly boxes of food, and customers pre-pay the subscription price. Sometimes pre-boxed by the farmer before delivery or pick-up, others may allow the customer to choose on their own from what is available at that time.

Farm fresh produce direct from the farmer to consumer with no middlemen benefits both producer and consumer. These symbiotic benefits go beyond the immediate season of growing and eating. This also supports the local farmer and local economy, and helps create community—while increasing consumption of healthful whole foods.

The revenue from selling shares, verses selling goods to various uncertain markets, removes some of the uncertainty from the farmer’s business model, but it does pass some of that uncertainty along to the shareholder. Variations in weather, crop loss, etc. can reduce amounts and availability of some items, however, that shared risk is part of the CSA model.

When shopping for a CSA there are many points to consider. Will you and your family prepare and eat the veggies you buy? If cost is a factor look for CSAs that will trade labor for food which is a good option for those with extra time and/or wanting to learn more about growing and harvesting.

The large number and variety of CSAs in the Madison and adjoining areas offer more options than ever so consider types of vegetables offered, cost and convenience. Understand if you are expected to pick up at a certain time and location (very common) or if they offer delivery. Understanding the commitment level and product(s) before writing the check will benefit both you and the farmer you choose to partner with.

To date there are thousands of CSA’s around the country varying in size and complexity that can be searched via online or locally through many county extension offices. In addition to searching local community shared agriculture farms, this website has a large catalog of local food shopping and information.

So, whether you are a seasoned vegetable consumer or looking for new ways to put more fresh vegetable/whole food fortification into your body a CSA may be a healthy option for you, your family, and the community.


FairShare CSA Coalition

Community Supported Agriculture – LocalHarvest

The Origins of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – HeartBeet Farms

The growth of community supported agriculture – Morning Ag Clips