November 14, 2018
Harvest of vegetables
Ask the Experts

Should I Join a CSA?

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: What's a CSA, and is it a good way to buy produce?

A: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been gaining momentum in recent years in the U.S. as more people seek to know where their food comes from. As a “shareholder” in a CSA, you buy directly from a working farm in your area. The fee, typically paid before the growing season, entitles you to a weekly basketful of fresh produce at below-market cost, while the farmer is guaranteed buyers and assured a fair wage. The food is distributed at a designated pick-up location in your community, though visiting the farm (and even working on it) is often encouraged. If it’s a good season, everyone benefits; if a crop goes bust, the financial loss to the farmer is minimized. That is, you reap the bounty but also share the risk.

This mutually beneficial relationship between farmers and the community originated in Japan in the 1980s, where the word for the concept, “teikei,” roughly translates into “food with the farmer’s face on it.” By conservative estimates, there are more than 4,000 CSAs in the U.S., up from about 1,000 in 2005. Whether you live in a city, a suburb, or a rural area, there may be one you can join.

For more information on CSA, go to the USDA National Agricultural Library website.

To find a CSA in your area, visit LocalHarvest's searchable database.

Also see Clearing up Confusion about Organic Food.