Recent research conducted in the US on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Massachusetts by Mark Paul is reported on the Civil Eats website. As the article says:
CSA describes a long-term economic arrangement between farmers and eaters that cuts out the middlemen. How does it work? CSA members pay the farmer before the growing season begins, thus providing working capital for the farm. In turn, the farmer provides members with weekly produce representing a share of the harvest throughout the growing season.
With at least 6,200 known CSA farms reported in 2014 (with only 2 reported in1986), the article discusses why there has been this incredible growth – especially outside the mainstream commodity market for small and mid-scale farmers – and asks about the future.
A few notable points are:
– CSA farms struggle within the larger market and policy environment, and farmers struggle to pay farmworkers a living wage;
– CSA farms can spread risks associated with crop failure by growing a range of crops and varieties – thus providing crop rotation patterns with a guaranteed market from the members;
– CSA farm structures reduce farmers’ reliance on bank loans;
– CSA is encouraging young and new farmers, and especially women, interested in sustainability into the business.
One conclusion from the research is that:
The central challenges facing CSA moving forward are providing fair compensation to farmers and farm workers, while making shares available at prices that can attract more members of the community.