Posted March 31, 2005: Somewhere, somehow,
you’ve heard of CSA – Community Supported Agriculture.
It’s a style of bringing farmers and eaters together
that includes enough variety to fit many different settings,
seasons and sensibilities.
To fill in any of your CSA information gaps, we’ve
collected our related stories: what we think is the conclusive
history of the movement’s birth in North America; stories
by CSA farmers from California and Wisconsin throughout last
year’s growing season; features on great CSA operations;
and, for your direct connecting to farmers close to you, our
Farm Locator’s list of CSA farm profiles from around
If you're a consumer, you'll be delighted by the profiles
of creative, dynamic farm families around the country who
are working hard to bring you the best local produce, and
a great experience. If you're a farmer, you'll get lots of
great advice and insights into how to run a CSA--and you'll
need all the help you can get. As Harmony Valley CSA farmer
Linda Halley once said, CSA farming is graduate level farming
because you have to balance the demands of customers, marketing,
a complex distribution system, and a challenging planting
schedule for dozens of crops.
Note to consumers: Many
CSA members have already paid their CSA farmer for some or
all their season’s food by now, and are eagerly awaiting
weekly eating of what’s in season. But many of these
farms still have room to add new members, and would welcome
the opportunity to fill out their roster to meet their anticipated
production of vegetables, fruits, pastured poultry, grass-fed
meat and artisan cheeses.
It’s also planting time for farm families in most of
the US, so be patient as they scurry for their customer-service
hats to get you the information and attention you need to
start your CSA relationship.
Resources: A collection of books, websites
and other must reads for those thinking about the community
History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part I.
Community Farms in the 21st Century: Poised for Another
Wave of Growth? This is the first in a two-part
series exploring the birth of the CSA movement in the United
States as well as the potentials for this growing and successful
model of community agriculture.
History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part II.
CSA’s World of Possibilities When Steven
McFadden first wrote about CSAs back in 1990, there were
about 60 CSAs in the country. Now in 2004, he says, there
are around 1,700 ... and he sees a strong potential for
another wave of CSA development, a wave that could not only
triple or quadruple the number of CSAs over the next few
years, but also raise in importance the role these farms
play in their communities.
visit to the home of Teikei: CSA and the Japanese
Organic Agriculture Association, by Elizabeth Henderson
buying clubs combine emerging technologies and community
values Two entrepreneurs committed to the local
food movement are about to make their marketing models available
to the public.
for Social Sustainability in Agriculture Organic
farming endeavors to improve the health of the consumer
and the environment, but what about the farm worker?
FOR CREDIT At colleges and universities across
the country, students are finding--and founding--opportunities
to make sustainable agriculture part of a well-rounded education.
Many go on to farm organically in real life. Many of the
farms run CSAs (see below).
Farms Directory: A total of 48 farms in 25
states (and 1 province) currently listed! Many of these
student-run farms are CSAs.
Organics manages the economics of a 1,000-member CSA
The owners of the Illinois-based CSA shared their mission
statement, organizational chart and business plans with
attendees at the recent Biodynamic Farming Conference in
Pennsylvania sustainable farmers featured in video, tell
the real stories of drip tape, customers and long days.
PASA video provides excellent window into the lives of innovative,
entrepreneurial farmers who connect to customers through
Shop: CSA Grower's School. Advanced training
for advanced farmers who are serious about CSA at NOFA-NY.
Harttung’s humongous CSA: Growing by 10,000 households
How a forester’s inspiration, venture capital, a chef,
savvy marketing, open bookkeeping, and a radical agenda
combined to create—oddly enough— economic success.
from Mariquita: A CSA Journal from California
31, 2005: Thinking out of the box
As any CSA farmer will attest, waxed boxes can be a major
expense. Andy and his crew have found a local solution that
reduces their dependence on box makers who may have to toast
their profits with slightly less expensive champagne.
15, 2005: And the moral of the story is... Andy's
telling his CSA members bedtime stories. No, the stress
hasn't finally gotten to him, it's the first newsletter
of the season and there is a moral to this story--keep the
boxes neat, clean and folded; don't forget to tell us when
you're away; and, last but not least, enjoy the connection
between country and city.
22, 2005: Spring flowers bring me down ... Andy's got
the early season nerves. What if his overwintered carrots
bolt before his CSA season starts in late March? Most of
his neighbors start later, but he thinks it's worth the
risk ... and the nerves.
10, 2005: Just kidding around Andy's goats might look
like an expensive hobby on paper, but they keep the poison
oak under control, entertain the human CSA kids and prevent
Andy from pummeling the occasional penny-pinching market
27, 2005: Blame it on the boyfriend Disappearing CSA
boxes. Vanishing flowers. Missing strawberry containers.
Can it all be laid at the feet of ignorant or irresponsible
boyfriends and husbands, or are men just a convenient excuse?
Andy ponders some of the profound mysteries of running a
7, 2005: A very dairy New Year Life slows down at Mariquita
and, as another year begins, Andy reminisces about the 42
hours of exhausted delirium on a fateful New Year's Eve
that inspired him to farm vegetables.
9, 2004: Addicted to learning the hard way Like most
organic farmers, Andy Griffin is a pugnacious experimenter.
He has taken radicchio to “radiculoso” extremes
you wouldn’t believe—and he won’t give
up on blanched celery either.
23, 2004: The value--and the limits--of fantasy in any farming
operation For Andy Griffin, every season begins with
a magic carpet ride through those glossy agricultural fantasies
called seed catalogues. Then, the fantasy meets the customer.
9, 2004: Farm wife meets mother earth As Julia tours
Italy and hobnobs with farmers from all over the world at
the Terra Madres conference in Turin, Andy is left to the
job of farm wife--a post he just can't seem to get a handle
on. Julia's networking pays off, though, and now that she's
back, Andy can breath a sigh of relief.
14, 2004: A little bit of Mexico on Monterey Bay An
“end-of-the-season” party brings some regional
Mexican rivalry to Mariquita Farm. Workers from Michoacan
and Oaxaca have a friendly argument over the best way to
barbecue a goat.
28, 2004: Giving a voice to small farmers … in 90
seconds or less Even public radio’s signature
show, All Things Considered, doesn’t consider the
farmer very often. So when Andy got a chance to spout off
about farming on the local NPR station, he jumped.
13, 2004: Pardon my Padróns … Andy is still
working out the details of how to harvest his Spanish Padrón
peppers before they get too hot. When he succeeds, the $20
per pound he fetches may finance a second honeymoon back
in Spain … speaking of hot.
31, 2004: Dangling crystals, bad poetry and political theater...
The social challenges of running a farmers' market stall
The protestors and cranks at an urban farmers' market thrust
Andy inot delicate merchandizing dilemmas and make him eager
to return to the sweet country life.
17, 2004: You can keep your lemonade … Life gave
me elderberries, not lemons, and that’s just fine
with me, says Andy.
3, 2004: Garlic Snakes Andy discovers how his first-ever
planting of stiff-necked garlic got it's scientific name
and stumbles upon another marketing gimmick--spicy serpents.
20, 2004: Keep Rollin' While the rest of the world savors
basil and tomatoes, Andy gets pumped up to plant parsnips.
It's all part of the cycle.
2, 2004: Keep Truckin' Stop! Put that plastic truck
(or other piece of marketing swag) down and back away. Think
smart promotion to keep your small farm in the public eye.
2, 2004: Kinky Carrots It's astounding to what uses
Andy Griffin's farmers' market customers will put his kinky,
crooked carrot culls. Every carrot has a home.
11, 2004: Ain't I smart? Carelessness, poor planning
and neglect leads Mariquita's Andy Griffin to discover the
true value of a strange old heirloom crop--black Spanish
April 20, 2004: Hats off to the many sombreros of a farmer
Quack lawyer, truck driver, fake chef, and borderline carnival
barker: all in a day’s work for a farmer like Andy
Griffin … and once in a while he gets to contemplate
2, 2004: The watermelon radish: Conspiracy from the left
or the right … or just a darned good heirloom daikon?
Those were among the suspicions raised by this ancient veggie
at a recent event in Santa Cruz designed to introduce consumers
to local food producers.
23, 2004: NOW is the time for shameless self-promotion
He can't plant, cultivate or harvest--the fields are a swamp--but
Mariquita's Andy Griffin can sell shares and hustle publicity.
4, 2004: Guerilla garlic Battling the influx of cheap
Chinese garlic—even in to Gilroy, the “Garlic
Capital of the World”—Mariquita Farm grows green
spring garlic, and banks its garlic dollars long before
the garlic festival in July.
13, 2004: New riders of the purple goosefoot In Watsonville,
California, the founders of Mariquita CSA discover the value
of this antique cousin to spinach.
30, 2004: Reflections on the 2003 CSA season Giving
thanks for a season with no disasters, good partners, a
great new staff member, and—overall—more sanity.
12, 2003: How do you define YOUR CSA? CSA
is such a loose concept that you can make yours whatever
you want it to be, as long as there's a community to support
the concept. Try to characterize what you're about in 5
short phrases. It will be the beginning of a press release
about your farm.
8, 2003: From money pit to economic provider for a farm
family and its employees ... in just 4 years! Julia
Wiley of Mariquita Farm says that to run a CSA successfully,
you have to grow well. That’s a given. But you also
have to know how to nurture a whole human community. Here’s
the story of how their CSA began.
CSA Notebook: Harmony Valley
CSA in Wisconsin
17, 2005: A construction project
brings together organic transplants and true Wisconsin originals
Vern and Ole have been running heavy
equipment in Vernon County, WI for more years than Harmony
Valley farmers Rich and Linda have memories—but shared
work and food build mutual respect between these “locals”
and their organic neighbors.
9, 2004: Serving CSA members better As the CSA season
draws to a close, the Harmony Valley team brainstorms about
ways to boost member retention from year to year—and
to encourage former CSA members to become faithful farmers'
17, 2004: Finding the support in Community Supported Agriculture
After 30 years of full-time farming, Richard DeWilde experienced
a farmer's worst nightmare--he was laid up with severe back
pain and unable to work. How the heck would the farm survive?
3, 2004: UPDATE: A legal immigrant odyssey In the spring,
Linda Halley wrote about their decision to go legal with
their Mexican help. Now, in the thick of the season, she
sends an update.
19, 2004: The worth of good work: An H2-A odyssey Wisconsin
vegetable growers Linda Halley and Richard de Wilde venture
into new territory with the federal seasonal worker program.
So far, so good.
27, 2003: Community Comes to the Farm Even if your farm
is nowhere near your customers, you can still cement the
relationship and sense of shared community with a few low-key
events each year on your farm.
22, 2003: Over-Abundance: Mid-Summer at Harmony Valley CSA
What you DON'T put in your box may be as important as what
you do. And having other markets that can absorb overproduction
24, 2003: Distribution – An important connection to
your members Linda Halley describes the system of distributing
share boxes each week that has worked well for them over
the last 11 years . . . with some tweaking.
2, 2003: Two veteran CSA farmers share their insights
Richard de Wilde and Linda Halley have been running a successful
CSA for 11 years. This month: Introductions and some initial
thoughts on retention.
of CSAs from around the country and the world
California’s Full Belly Farm redefines what it means
to be a family farmer Despite its 35 full-time
workers, 15 retail accounts, 15 wholesale accounts, 650
member CSA and three farmers’ markets almost year
‘round, Full Belly still has the heart and soul of
a family farm.
good food to local people in a busy world Don
and Becky Kretschmann share the insights they've gained
over 32 years of farming--including the secret to running
a successful CSA
idealistic myth: The REAL Kretschmann Farm
Don Kretschmann describes the evolution of their farm and
When it comes to organized support for CSAs, Canadians have
a thing or two to teach us, don’t cha know?
The D-Trois-Pierres CSA, outside of Montreal, Quebec, is
part of a well-organized network of around 70 farms that
are actively promoted and supported by Equiterre, a Quebec-based
organization that champions sustainability and fair trade
the loop It started ten years ago with "a
rototiller and an idea." Today, Full Circle Farm grows
organic produce for 500 CSA members, 50 restaurants, 15
grocery stores, 12 farmers' markets, and 4 wholesalers.
FIGHTING HIGH LAND VALUES & NAFTA: Organic—and
sustainable—in South Jersey Beginning
in 1999, Bob Muth started transitioning acres to organic.
He now has nine of his 80 acres certified organic . . .
and is wondering if he should go all the way organic with
his CSA, farm stand and wholesale operations.
Consumers seek like-minded farmer looking for long term
CSA relationship The Philadelphia area's newest organic
farm started as a consumer dream.
CSA in N.E. Iowa successfully serves an all-rural market
Ten farm families contribute to CSA, a buyers’ club,
and a cooperative that markets produce to local institutions.
Apprentice It’s not just a way to trump
up cheap labor, says Brookfield Farm’s manager, but
a committed partnership that requires a real investment
from both farmer and student. (To study the history of Brookfield
Farm, on the outskirts of Amherst, Mass., is to chart the
course of the CSA movement itself. It's the third community
supported farm ever to be established in the U.S.)
up Ten years ago, Gabe Cox and Sophie Bello
had barely begun to think about farming. Today, they grow
vegetables and fruits on over 40 certified acres and sell
at 7 farmers' markets a week, in addition to managing a
CSA and wholesaling.
city girl takes the plunge and buys the farm
Twelve years ago Janet Hahn returned to Ohio to care for
her mother and fell in love with the life of an organic
farmer. Her farm operation includes a CSA.
just a farm, but a creative community Roy Brubaker,
his family, and six interns collaborate, innovate and share
labor, food and meaning on the Brubakers’ 30-acre
organic produce farm in western Pennyslvania.
Minds Innovative MSU ag professor sows the
seeds for a new generation of organic farmers with a student
farm at Michigan State University in East Lansing, including
a CSA operation.
small After two seasons at the Intervale, Spencer
and Mara Welton of Half Pint Farm are showing how much can
be done in a little space
Smith goes to Burlington This Intervale Farm
Program veteran finds politics and farming to be fairly
different kind of community-supported farm
Forty-five minutes north of Chicago, the people at Prairie
Crossing are redefining the suburban housing development
to include ecological restoration, green building technologies,
and small-scale organic farming
Natural Agriculture: Farming to create heaven on earth.
Morioka Town's Yoshinori Takahashi Farmers
and customers in this CSA began their mutual involvement
out of obligation, but the romance of earth and the power
of food won their hearts
Natural Agriculture: Farming to create heaven on earth.
Tsumagoi Town's Toki Kuroiwa In a region where
cabbage is king and chemicals infuse the landscape, this
tiny, determined farmer quietly does things her way
Natural Agriculture: Farming to create heaven on earth.
Yamada town's Osamu Yoshino Natural Agriculture
farmer finds locating a market more challenging than letting
go of chemicals
praise of country life In rural Adair County,
Iowa, a birthplace museum, meeting center and organic farm
pay tribute to legendary ag secretary Henry A. Wallace by
keeping his rich legacy alive, not just as a memory but
as a vital living tradition, including a CSA.
Henderson, Peacework Organic Farm CSA farm
expects more than a yearly fee; members gladly dig in.
& Ted Bartlett, Silver Creek Farm Retail
marketer uses trade secrets to create a successful CSA operation
DeWilde & Linda Halley, Harmony Valley CSA
Local farmers use big city money to live a rural dream
& Marie Heath, M&M Heath Farms Diversification
in the field and market become part of former conventional
agriculturist's guiding principles
farm dreams DO come true Maybe not the way
you thought they would. But with planning, persistence and
a little luck it is possible to get started in farming today.
NewFarm.org columnists Melanie and George Devault tell their
New farmer musings
on their CSA operations
Looking for a CSA to join? Want to talk to another farmer
in your area already doing CSA? Use The
New Farm Locator. Just click
here and search "By marketing method". When
you choose CSA, you'll get a list of nearly 300 CSAs across
the country. Or, narrow the search to your region by entering
your state, county and zip code.