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C.S.A.’s WHAT THEY ARE, WHAT THEY DO, AND WHY YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE

By Gretchen Morfogen

 

Community Supported Agriculture or C.S.A.’s are simply you directly financially support a local farmer and in return acquiring field fresh produce for your family or business on a weekly basis throughout the growing season. More and more people are benefiting from this agricultural exercise in gathering the freshest possible produce, meat, eggs, poultry, and baked goods that their farm can provide. The nutrient density of fresh local edibles is far healthier and exponentially more beneficial than anything found in the typical grocery store. Why? Because the absence of excessive transportation, preservatives and pesticides the use of pastured animals and natural growing practices plays a critical role. Ultimately you are developing a relationship with the person who is responsible for creating this food source, your farmer.

Since our existence is primarily dependent on farming, we cannot entrust this essential activity solely to the farming population which is merely 2% of us. The realization that a small minority of farmers cannot possibly meet the needs of all the people is here and people are ready to share agricultural responsibilities with the active farmers.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a new idea in farming, one that has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. The CSA concept originated in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in economic partnerships.

As satisfaction is gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production, the numbers of people joining this movement is advancing. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. These direct sales to community members the growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

Some farms offer a single commodity, or team up with others so that members receive goods on a more nearly year-round basis. Some are dedicated to serving particular community needs, such as helping to employ others in their communities. Each CSA is structured to meet the needs of the participants; so many variations exist, including the level of financial commitment, active participation by the shareholders, details of payment plans and food distribution systems.

CSA is sometimes known as “subscription farming,” and the two terms have been used on occasion to convey the same basic principles. In other cases, however, use of the latter term is intended to convey philosophic and practical differences in a given farm operation. Subscription farming arrangements tend to emphasize the economic benefits, for the farmer as well as consumer, of a guaranteed, direct market for farm products, rather than the concept of community-building that is the basis of a true CSA. Growers typically contract directly with customers, who may be called “members,” and who have agreed in advance to buy a minimum amount of produce at a fixed price, but who have little or no investment in the farm itself.

Truth be told not all farmer’s practice what I would call “clean farming” or naturally grown techniques. Many are still held hostage by the chemical components of agriculture which essentially damages the nutrients of their crop being produced. A shift however in the paradigm of farming is taking place and the cognizant, ecologically connected farmer is transitioning away from the industrial attitude which is polluting, and contaminating the food source through this chemical onslaught. They are becoming more and more educated about what damages occur when producing toxic foods. Organic, biodynamic, naturally grown is the way, the only way we can perpetuate our survival and alleviate the illnesses that come with malnutrition from commercially produced poor food sources. There is a long road ahead for these positive changes to be a part of our wholeness and a journey I am on for the duration…

For a list of local farmers participating in CSA’s go to either www.agrimissouri.com or www.comharvest.org

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