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Community Supported Agriculture

A Farm Experience for the Whole Family: Community Supported Agriculture

How can you introduce your family to a farm experience this summer, get a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits for nearly six months and reduce your grocery costs? The short answer is to join a group that supports community supported agriculture (CSA) in our area.

The formal CSA is a relatively new concept, whose origin is usually traced to Japan, where “Teikei” was first initiated in 1965. The Japanese movement translates the term “Teikei” as “food with the farmer’s face on it,” although a more literal translation is “partnership.” This special form of consumer-farmer partnership spread to Europe, and was transplanted to Massachusetts in 1984. Over the past two decades, CSAs have multiplied in the US everywhere that consumers want the security and peace of mind that come from having a “share” in a farmer’s harvest, and farmers want the security and peace of mind that come from having a committed and prepaid market for a variety of truck-farm crops.

Robyn Van En at the Center for CSA Resources describes the CSA as a relationship of mutual support and commitment between local farmers and community members who pay the farmer an annual membership fee to cover the production costs of the farm. In turn, members receive a weekly share of the harvest during the local growing season. The arrangement guarantees the farmer financial support and enables many small-to-moderate-scale organic family farms to remain in business.

The CSA creates "agriculture-supported communities" where members receive a wide variety of foods harvested at their peak of ripeness, flavor and vitamin and mineral content. While there are many kinds of CSAs, all include payment in advance at an agreed upon price. In some, members of the community purchase a "share" of the anticipated harvest, while in others they sign up for a predetermined amount of produce over the course of the season. In most cases, this commitment implies a willingness to share with the farmer both the bounty from the land and at least some of the risks involved with production. In return for fair and guaranteed compensation, consumers receive a variety of freshly picked, (usually organic) vegetables grown and distributed in an economically viable and ecologically responsible manner.

Last summer I joined a local Community Supported Agriculture program that operates through Andy Fellenz’s farm in Phelps and became an advocate! A couple of Sunday mornings weeding and picking tomatoes and peppers on his property gave me an appreciation of the effort required to grow and harvest our food. Every Monday after work, at a distribution point in the Canandaigua area, I picked up my share of vegetables and fruit. The freshness and variety sold my husband on the value of being part of a CSA. While that was also important to me, I enjoyed the people I met and the satisfaction of being part of the farming process, even in a limited role.

If you are interested in learning more about CSAs, and the benefits of this partnership, please contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County at 585-394-3977, ext. 427 or 410 and ask for our free brochure on Community Supported Agriculture. Spring is the time to stake your claim to a “share” of fresh farm produce for the season, and help keep Ontario County rich in farms as you do!

This site brought to you by The Ontario County Agricultural Enhancement Board In cooperation with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County, the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, and Ontario County Department of Planning. Canandaigua, New York 14424
585-396-4455 or 585-394-3977.