an introduction to community supported agriculture (csa)

First introduced in Japan and Switzerland in the 1970s, community supported agriculture (CSA) is a form of partnership between farmer and consumer.  They enter into a contract which provides consumers with a certain number of ‘shares’ in the farm. Each share provides the consumer a box (or bag or bucket or …) of vegetables or other products at a regular interval. 

There are four basic components of a CSA:

  1. Partnership: a mutual agreement between the producer and the consumer is established for the growing season
  2. Local Production: the exchange is local, i.e. a part of the community, in order to facilitate the relocalizing of the human-food relationship
  3. Solidarity: a unifying relationship is developed that is beneficial to both producer and consumer
  4. A Producer/Consumer Tandem: the direct person-to-person relationship, i.e. no intermediaries or hierarchies, is established

The establishment and execution of a CSA have several benefits and challenges for producers and consumers that are summarized below.

Challenges

Opportunities

Producers

  • Potential for a bad worth of mouth
  • Increased management requirements
  • Time demands → customer relations
  • Packaging and distribution costs

Consumers

  • May feel like they are not getting their money’s worth
  • Lack of choice
  • May be expensive
  • ‘Long-term’ commitment
  • Short shelf life (no preservatives)
  • A significant amount of produce that requires cooking
Producers

  • Marketing before the growing season
  • Consistent cash flow
  • Development of customer relationships → loyalty
  • Shared risk
  • Cuts out the ‘middleman’
  • Little capital investment
  • Word of mouth advertising

Consumers

  • Access to super fresh produce
  • Development of relationship with producer
  • Contact with the farm

Society

  • Reduced environmental impact of food(?)

For the implementation of a successful CSA, the participants – both farmers and consumers – must have the ‘right’ type of personality, i.e. committed and patient. However, if such a relationship can be established, CSAs are a very viable marketing strategies that can be used by small farmers to remain competitive in an environment largely dominated by industrialized agriculture.

sources:

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex3482?opendocument
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy597