You Say Potato, I Say CSA

By far, the most ethical, most economically sensible, and rewarding changes I have made in the past year has been to join, and support, my local CSA. For the uninitiated, CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture, and works on a subscription basis where individuals are asked to contribute in advance, or on a monthly basis, to an area farm, with the understanding that you will get a return on your investment in the form of a share of farm fresh food.

This socio-economic model has gotten a good deal of recent attention in the press, spurred on by rising food prices, eat local movements, as well as rampant food scares, but really the CSA model is hardly new. With established CSA farms in the United States dating back to the mid-80s, and European and Japanese models pre-dating those by at least 30 years, the CSA construct is a time-tested idea that maybe the beneficiary of a confluence of domestic problems.

As a parent, I have discovered an unforeseen benefit in joining my local CSA. I have long been a supporter of local farmer’s markets (I have fond memories of buying sacks full of sweet cherries from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market as a teenager) and was convinced that the exchange between consumer and farmer over a folding table of farm-fresh vegetables was the pinnacle of righteous living.

I still frequent farmer’s markets, but have found the access and experience of belonging to a CSA makes for an entirely different experience, especially with children. There is a sense of undeniable ownership and esteem in knowing that our family has made a small, but significant, contribution to this farm (in the form of money and time spent planting onions) and that we are not just customers, but patrons.

We are not simply buying from the farmer, but we are “going to our farm” and picking up “our veggies.” This may be an issue of semantics for some, but I can’t help but thinking that all this is profoundly resonating with my child as he sprints through the rows of green beans chanting “our farm, our farm.”

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


Khat Bliss
Past Member 6 years ago

In my area, we have a "farm co-op" and it works the same way. We pay a yearly fee and get back "dividends" in savings. But, its all farm fresh. I am personally glad to see this article and hope many seek out CSA's or co-ops or just buy from the local farm stand or farmer's market or even local produce in your grocery store...just look for it and you will find it! Peace.

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

Good article.

sherrie e.
sherrie e8 years ago

Great idea but nothing like that in my area. Sure wish there was!

Christin Benoit
CHRIS Benoit8 years ago

I want to grow food on my balcony but my building has a pigeon problem. Even though I have a net up to keep them off, the s**t and feathers still get onto my balcony. I'm concerned that a large amount of pigeon crap would get into the soil and, ultimately, into the food where washing won't help. It makes me sad...

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Timothy S.
Timothy S8 years ago

Thank you for sharing that

Alicia Nuszloch
Alicia N8 years ago

well done CSA .

Anil Sanyal
Anil Sanyal8 years ago

good and useful information, thank you for sharing it with others.

Nona E.
Nona E8 years ago

Another great example of what can be accomplished when people unite their efforts for the greater good!

Sandra Q.
Sandra Q8 years ago

I think this is a great idea..

Hilda Perrett
Hilda Perrett8 years ago

thank you