Ask the master gardeners
Q: What is a CSA?
A: CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, an agricultural system that allows people in the community to directly connect to farmers and receive local freshly harvested produce.
The CSA movement began in Japan in 1965; named Teikei (translated as partnership or cooperation), it was initiated by a group of women who were concerned about the use of pesticides and the quality of the produce available on the market. Around the same time biodynamic farming, based on Rudolph Steiner’s principle that all living organisms are dependent on one another, was introduced in Europe, where the first CSAs were created in Germany and Switzerland.
The concept was brought to North America in 1984 by Jan Vander Tuin, who founded the first CSA in South Egremont, Mass. In 1991, Roxbury Farm, a CSA located in the Hudson Valley began bringing their produce to the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan. Its founder, Jean Paul Cortens, helped Just Food, an organization devoted to connecting local farms to communities, to start 100 CSA sites by matching city groups with farmers.
According to a 2009 study by the University of Massachusetts, there are now more than 1,000 CSAs in the United States and Canada and more than 150,000 members. Some farmers work as groups to transport their particular specialty such as organic vegetables and fruits, granola, eggs, cheese and milk.
The foods are harvested and distributed weekly during the growing season, usually from June to October. Members buy shares in the CSA early in the year, and these funds provide working capital for the farmers. During the growing season, the members of a CSA have the opportunity to work together to harvest and distribute the produce.
Children and adults may learn through CSA involvement how to grow food, good nutrition habits and environmental stewardship.
Last but not least, they build stronger communities through the relationship with the farmers and among the working members. Many people enjoy pesticide-free, seasonal produce directly from the farmer, along with the exercise they get when they help bring the crops to harvest.
Kathy Dowd, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland