Spring, the time of year when harvests begin to poke through the soil is also the time of year when local farmers round up their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members for the season. Community Supported Agriculture is a way for the local community and the local farmer to be in a reciprocal communion around food. The community member buys a share of the farmers’ harvest at the beginning of the season. In exchange for this financial support to local farmers, the CSA member receives a weekly or bi-weekly share of the harvest.
CSA is a term actualized in the United States; however, this agricultural model did not originate in the United States. The international organization Urgenci (An Urban – Rural Network: Generating new forms of Exchange between Citizens), who serves as the steward for CSA models worldwide, explicates the international roots of this agricultural paradigm.
Purportedly, CSAs appeared throughout worldwide agricultural history, but began taking their current shape in Japan in 1974. Teikei, (meaning “co-partnership” in Japanese) is the term used for the Japanese version of the CSA. The two-fold affect which spawned the Teikei Movement in Japan was a growing awareness of chemical pollution issues surrounding global agriculture and a local recognition of being the solution for these agricultural concerns.
Traveling a bit west, farmers in Switzerland in 1978 were so inspired by agricultural movements in Chile and France that they started their own grassroots CSA. Subsisting on turnips and living an impecunious lifestyle, these forward-thinking farmers turned their one-crop organization sustained by fifty members into 50 crops for 400 members over the decades.
Flying over the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, CSAs became pronounced in 1985 at small gatherings of biodynamic and organic farmers. With initially slow forward progress, CSAs instantly shot out of the cannon after the Locavore movement developed in 2005. France and Portugal followed suit in the first 5 years of the new Millenium with AMAP and Reciprico. More CSA models continue to take shape today in places such as Mali with its food stalls inspired by AMAP’s model or Bangkok’s Open Air Green Fair.
While each of these versions of the CSA model embody their own personalities, common threads connect them across oceans. The CSAs around the world contain the following threads:
- they arose as a solution to both local agricultural issues as well as global concern with food.
- they promote communal connections between food producers and consumers through harvest memberships.
- they ensure that farmers receive financial investments for planting and harvesting costs and consumers receive food they trust to be of the highest quality.
- they reduce the effects of global issues such as chemical pollution from fertilizers and pesticides and transporation and packaging impacts.