Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a model of food production and distribution that directly connects farmers and eaters – people buy shares in a farm’s projected harvest in advance and for a set period (a season, or a year, for example) and receive regular deliveries.
Being part of CSA is a way for eaters to share with the farmer the costs and risks of farming as well as the bounty.
CSAs vary in their structure and payment terms, but the principle is that farms supply their produce directly to their members through a subscription model – a commitment from the eater is made to accept the produce they are given and to share the risk of the harvest with the farmer.
CSA started in the 1970s in Japan by organic vegetable farmers and is now widespread and growing around the world. It is based on the Principles of Teikei (1978).
Principles of Teikei
Principle of mutual assistance
Principle of accepting the produce
Principle of mutual concession in the price decision
Principle of deepening friendly relationships
Principle of self-distribution
Principle of democratic management
Principle of learning among each group
Principle of maintaining the appropriate group scale
Principle of steady development
Australia has a growing CSA movement as small-scale farmers move to this solidarity economy for financial security, risk sharing, and deeper connection with the people who eat their produce.
To find a CSA near you, check out our directory!
Q I am not a farmer, but I aggregate multiple farmers’ produce and distribute boxes to a community of eaters each week. Am I a CSA?
A No. A CSA is a direct relationship between farmers and eaters. There are many excellent box schemes in Australia (such as the pioneers and food sovereignty activists who do such good work at Food Connect), and these are all part of the broader food sovereignty movement, but they are not CSA.
Q I am a farmer who sells directly to a regular group of customers who pay weekly. Am I a CSA?
A It depends. If you have a commitment from your community to share the risk of your harvest with you – that is, they would still pay if your tomatoes were wiped out by blight or your entire crop by hail – then yes, that is fundamentally CSA. If your customers would not pay if your crop failed under the examples above, then it is not a CSA, which has at its essence the sharing of risks and benefits.
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