Community-supported agriculture (CSA; sometimes known as community-shared agriculture) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme. Many CSAs also sometimes include herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat. In theory a CSA can provide any product to its members, although the majority of CSA tend to provide produce and other comestibles. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs.
Community-supported agriculture began in the early 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan as a response to concerns about food safety and the urbanization of agricultural land.[dubious ] In the 1960s groups of consumers and farmers in Europe formed cooperative partnerships to fund farming and pay the full costs of ecologically sound and socially equitable agriculture. In Europe, many of the CSA style farms were inspired by the economic ideas of Rudolf Steiner and experiments with community agriculture took place on farms using biodynamic agriculture. In 1965 mothers in Japan who were concerned about the rise of imported food, the loss of arable land, and the migration of farmers into cities started the first CSA projects called Teikei (提携) in Japanese – most likely unrelated to the developments in Europe.
Community-supported agriculture began in the United States in the 1980s, influenced by European biodynamic farming ideas formulated by Rudolf Steiner. Two European farmers, Jan Vander Tuin from Switzerland and Trauger Groh from Germany, brought European biodynamic farming ideas to the United States in the mid-1980s. Vander Tuin had co-founded a community-supported agricultural project named Topinambur located near Zurich, Switzerland. Coinage of the term "community-supported agriculture" stems from Vander Tuin. This influence led to the separate and simultaneous creation of two CSAs in 1986. The CSA Garden at Great Barrington was created in Massachusetts by Jan Vander Tuin, Susan Witt, and Robyn Van En. The Temple-Wilton Community Farm was created in New Hampshire by Anthony Graham, Trauger Groh, and Lincoln Geiger.
The CSA Garden at Great Barrington remained together until 1990 when many members left to form the Mahaiwe Harvest CSA. One of the original founders, Robyn Van En, became incredibly influential in the CSA movement in America and founded CSA North America in 1992. The Temple-Wilton Community Garden was more successful and still operates as a CSA today. It became an important member of the Wilton community and it receives funding from state, federal, and local source.
Since the 1980s, community supported farms have been organized throughout North America — mainly in New England, the Northwest, the Pacific coast, the Upper-Midwest and Canada. North America now has at least 13,000 CSA farms of which 12,549 are in the US according to the US Department of Agriculture in 2007. The rise of CSAs seems to be correlated with the increase in awareness of the environmental movement in the United States.Some examples of larger and well established CSAs in the US are Angelic Organics and Roxbury Farm. CSAs have even become popular in urban environments as proven by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger's own CSA program that maintains locations in all five boroughs of the city. The largest subscription CSA with over 13,000 families is Farm Fresh To You in Capay Valley, California. The Québec CSA network (17 years old in 2012) is one of the larger in the world. It is a unique system where a non-profit organization reach the customers for the farmers and provide these farmers with technical support. More than one hundred farms are part of this network.
Since 2008, the international CSA network Urgenci has been coordinating dissemination and exchange programmes that have resulted in the creation of dozens of small scale CSA in Central and Eastern Europe.
The CSA system 
CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure. This kind of farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-producer relationship. The core design includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to fund a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods. The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. CSA theory purports that the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste or financial loss.
Community-supported agriculture farms in the United States today share three common characteristics: an emphasis on community and/or local produce, share or subscriptions sold prior to season, and weekly deliveries to members/subscribers. Though CSA operation varies from farm to farm and has evolved over time, these three characteristics have remained constant. The functioning of a CSA also relies on four practical arrangements: for farmers to know the needs of a community, for consumers to have the opportunity to express to farmers what their needs and financial limitations are, for commitments between farmers and consumers to be consciously established, and for farmers needs to be recognized.
From this base, four main types of CSAs have been developed:
- Farmer managed: A farmer sets up and maintains a CSA, recruits subscribers, and controls management of the CSA.
- Shareholder/subscriber: Local residents set up a CSA and hire a farmer to grow crops, shareholders/subscribers control most management.
- Farmer cooperative: Multiple farmers develop a CSA program
- Farmer-shareholder cooperative: Farmers and local residents set up and cooperatively manage a CSA. 
- A transparent, whole season budget for producing a specified wide array of products for a set number of weeks a year;
- A common-pricing system where producers and consumers discuss and democratically agree to pricing based on the acceptance of the budget; and
- A ‘shared risk and reward’ agreement, i.e. that the consumers receive what the farmers grow even with the vagaries of seasonal growing.
Meaning that individuals, families, &/or groups do not directly pay for x pounds or kilograms of produce but rather support the budget of the whole farm and receive weekly what is seasonally ripe.
This approach eliminates the marketing risks, costs for the producer and an enormous amount of time and labor, and allows producers to focus on quality care of the soils, crops, animals and co-workers as well as on serving the customers. There is financial stability in this system which allows for thorough planning on the part of the farmer.
Some farms are dedicated entirely to their CSA while others also sell through on-farm stands, farmers' markets and other channels. Most CSAs are owned by the farmers while some offer shares in the farm as well as the harvest. Consumers have organized their own CSA projects and have gone as far as leasing land and hiring farmers. Many CSAs have a core group of members that assist with CSA administration. Some require or offer the option of members providing labor as part of the share price.
Some CSAs have evolved into social enterprises employing a number of local staff, improving the lot of local farmers and educating the local community about organic and ecologically responsible farming.
Typically CSA farms are small, independent, labor-intensive family farms. By providing a guaranteed market through prepaid annual sales consumers essentially help finance farming operations. This allows farmers to not only focus on quality growing but can also level the playing field in a food market that favors large-scale, industrialized agriculture over local food.
Vegetables and fruit are the most common CSA crops. Many CSAs practice ecological, organic or biodynamic agriculture by avoiding pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The cost of a share is usually competitively priced when compared to the same amount of vegetables conventionally grown – partly because the cost of distribution is lowered.
Community-supported agriculture in America was influenced by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. He developed the concepts of anthroposophy and biodynamic agriculture. The Temple-Wilton Community Farm used his ideas to develop three main goals of CSAs:
- New forms of property ownership: the idea that land should be held in common by a community through a legal trust, which leases the land to farmers
- New forms of cooperation: the idea that a network of human relationships should replace the traditional system of employers and employees
- New forms of economy: that the economy should not be based on increasing profit, but should be based on the actual needs of the people and land involved in an enterprise
As CSAs have increased in both number and size since they were first developed, they have also change ideologically. While original CSAs and some more current CSAs are still philosophically oriented, most CSAs today are commercially oriented and community-supported agriculture is predominantly seen as a beneficial marketing strategy. This has led to three ideologically based types of CSAs. The first type is instrumental, the CSA is considered a market in the traditional sense, instead of an alternative form of economy and relationship. The second type is functional; there is a relationship of solidarity between the farmer and the subscribers, but this extends mostly to social functions, not managerial or administrative functions. This is the most common type of CSA. The final type is collaborative; this is the closest to the original aims of CSAs where the relationship between the farmer and the subscribers is seen as a partnership.
Distribution and marketing methods 
A distinctive feature of CSAs is the method of distribution. In the U.S. and Canada shares are usually provided weekly with pick-ups or deliveries occurring on a designated day and time. CSA subscribers often live in towns and cities – local drop-off locations, convenient to a number of members, are organized, often at the homes of members. Shares are also usually available on-farm.
CSAs are different from buying clubs and home delivery services where the consumer buys a specific product at a predetermined price. CSA members purchase only what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest sharing some of the growing risk with the farmer. If the strawberry crop is not successful, for example, the CSA member will share the burden of the crop failure by receiving fewer, or lower quality, strawberries for the season. CSA members are often more actively involved in the growing and distribution process through shared newsletters and recipes, farm visits, farm work-days, advance purchases of shares and picking up their shares of produce.
Some families have enrolled in subscription CSAs in which a family pays a fixed price for each delivery and can start or stop the service as they wish. This kind of arrangement is also referred to as crop-sharing or box schemes. In such cases the farmer may supplement each box with produce brought in from neighboring farms for a wider variety. Thus there is a distinction between the farmers selling pre-paid shares in the upcoming season's harvest or a weekly subscription that represents that week's harvest. In all cases participants purchase a portion of the farm's harvest either by the season or by the week in return for what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest.
An advantage of the close consumer-producer relationship is increased freshness of the produce because it does not have to be shipped long distances. The close proximity of the farm to the members also helps the environment by reducing pollution caused by transporting the produce. CSAs often include recipes and farm news in each box in which tours of the farm and work days are announced. Over a period of time consumers get to know who is producing their food and what production methods are used.
Share prices can vary dramatically depending on location. Variables also include the length of share season and average quantity and selection of food per share. As a rough average, in North America, a basic share may be $350–550 for a season lasting for 14–20 weeks in June to September (or October). The produce would be enough of each included crop for at least two people consisting of perhaps 8–12 common garden vegetables. Seasonal eating is implied as shares are usually based on the outdoor growing season which means a smaller selection at the beginning, and perhaps the end, of the period as well as a changing variety as the season progresses. Some CSA programs offer different share sizes or choices of share periods e.g. full-season and peak season.
Although there are many benefits to community supported agriculture, there are some disadvantages. As CSAs currently only serve a very small population in the U.S. (National Research Council, 2010), some people argue that the benefits of CSAs do not cover a broad population of people, especially lower socioeconomic groups (Cone & Myhre, 2000). Another criticism of CSAs is that it is somewhat risky. Because of shared financial support between farmers and consumers, loss and gain is not only experienced by the farmer. Since the “CSA is a system that works on trust and familiarity” (Kumar et al., 2011, p. 544), some people are hesitant to adopt this lifestyle of food purchasing.
Environmental context 
The environment’s benefit is quite simple- the minimal transportation required to transport food locally is a significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Many CSA farmers also produce their food without the use of pesticides or inorganic fertilizers, so they are as natural as possible, limiting their impact on the environment. The human fixed nitrogen used as fertilizer for crops accounts for 75% of human fixed nitrogen, which causes eutrophication, greatly harming aquatic ecosystems. The environment also benefits indirectly through the elimination of the farm’s need for subsidies. Farm subsidies “can foster overloading of croplands, leading to erosion and compaction of topsoil, pollution from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, denitrification of soils, and release of greenhouse gases, among other adverse effects,”. Biocides have also become an increasingly important issue. At least a billion pounds of biocides are used each year in the U.S. alone, only 1% of which actually end up killing what they were meant to. CSAs eliminate all of this, as long as they are following the traditional CSA methodology of organic farming.
The growth of the environmental movement has certainly helped CSAs to grow. Concern for a healthy environment is the primary reason that CSA members join. Other primary reasons for belonging to a CSA are a desire to eat vegetables in season, source of organic produce, and support of local food sources. These reasons are all connected to the environmental movement, issues that pertain to sustainability and spending locally. The environmental movement also had large influence over the awareness of the issues surrounding pesticide use, popularized by Rachel Carson, which was likely a huge spark to the fast-growing fire of CSAs.
CSAs around the world 
The term CSA is mostly used in the USA but a variety of similar production and economic sub-systems are in use worldwide:
- Association pour le maintien de l’agriculture paysanne (AMAP) in France
- Agriculture soutenue par la communauté (ASC) in Québec
- Teikei (提携) in Japan
- Reciproco in Portugal
- Solidarische Landwirtschaft in Germany
- Andelslandbruk in Norway
- Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (GAS) in Italy, (see also, Ethical purchasing groups)
- Съпричастно земеделие in Bulgaria
- Asociația pentru Susținerea Agriculturii Țărănești (ASAT) in Romania
- Grupa solidarne razmjene (GSR) in Croatia
All these different models are represented in the international network, Urgenci, under the terminology of local and solidarity-based partnerships between producers and consumers. Some of them have been documented in Urgenci's newsletter, Teikei. The Romanian, Croatian and Bulgarian models were directly implemented as a result of Urgenci's dissemination programmes.
Orti Solidali (Italy) 
Orti Solidali (meaning Solidarity Gardens) is an example of a CSA project in Italy; the reasons for participating are mostly ethical. Participants' commitment to sustainable, local produce protect the development of the network from mainstream market forces, allowing it to develop independently and flourish. Key to its success are shared ethical and environmental values, as well as the nature of the relationships that are formed, which help to shape and constitute this protective environment. Orti Solidali uses a sustainable agronomic method for food production and supplies locally-sourced produce while providing revenue and fair working conditions for the producers. With one of the aims being the reduction of economic growth, also known as degrowth, the objective is to transition to a new economic system based on environmental protection and social equity.
See also 
- Civic agriculture
- Community supported fishery
- Development Supported Agriculture
- Farmers' market
- Local food
- Sustainable agriculture
- Vegetable box scheme
- Eating for Your Community: A report from the founder of community supported agriculture. Robyn Van En. Context Institute.
- "History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part 1" (2005), Rosdale Institute, accessed 05-15-2013.
- "Community Supported Agriculture" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-09-05.
- "USDA 2007 Agricultural Census Table 44" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-08-09.
- Honeybrook Organic Farm
- Roxbury farm.com Roxbury Farm
- Farm-fresh project[dead link]
- Mark Anderson (22 August 2010). Capay farm, distributor buys West Sac warehouse. Sacramento Business Journal
- Committee on Twenty-First Century Systems Agriculture, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Division on Earth and Life Sciences (2010). Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ISBN 9780309148962.
- 2009 Survey of Community Supported Agriculture Producers, University of Kentucky, accessed 05-15-2013.
- "Community Supported Agriculture", The Center for Social Research. Accessed 05-15-2013.
- "Community Supported Agriculture", Technotes: Office of Community Development, US Department of Agriculture, accessed 05-15-2013.
- "Devon Acres CSA: local struggles in a global food system" (2008), retrieved 04-11-2013.
- Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook NCAT
- Speth, J.G. (2008). The bridge at the edge of the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Community-Supported Agriculture: A Sustainable Alternative to Industrial Agriculture?
- Agricultural Innovation: Sustaining What Agriculture? For What European Bio-Economy? page 26 of the CREPE report
Additional reading 
- Cone, C. A., & Myhre, A. (2000). Community-Supported Agriculture: A Sustainable Alternative to Industrial Agriculture? Human Organization 59(2), 187-197.
- DeMuth, Suzanne. (1993). "Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Guide", September.
- Egan, Timothy. (2003). "Amid Dying Towns of Rural Plains, One Makes a Stand," New York Times, December 1.
- En, Robyn Van. (1995). "Eating for Your Community: A Report from the Founder of Community Supported Agriculture," Context, Fall, p, 29.
- Groh, Trauger, and Steven McFadden. (1990). Farms of Tomorrow: Community Supported Farms - Farm Supported Communities. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
- Groh, Trauger, and Steven McFadden. (1998). Farms of Tomorrow Revisited: Community Supported Farms - Farm Supported Communities. Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association.
- Kumar, S., Duell, J., Soergell, A., & Ali, R. (2011). Towards direct marketing of produce by farmers in India: Lessons from the United States of America. Journal of International Development, 23(4), 539-547. doi:10.1002/jid.1600
- McFadden, Steven. (2004). "The History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part II: CSA‘s World of Possibilities." Rodale.
- McFadden, Steven. (2011). The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century, 2nd ed. NorLights Press.
- Organic Gardening. (1984). "Produce by Subscription," April.
- Organic Gardening. (1986). "From Farms to Families," July.
- Speth, James Gustav. (2008). The bridge at the edge of the world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Time. (2003). “Fresh Off the Farm, A new breed of planters and eaters are joining forces to nurture the local-foods movement,”, November. 3.
- Tuin, Jan Vander. (1992). "Zürich Supported Agriculture," RAIN magazine 14(2), Winter/Spring.
- Urgenci, the international CSA network, also feeds a blog
- Wilson College's community-supported agriculture database for CSA registration or research.
- Directory of US CSAs
- National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture CSA resource
- Comprehensive map of CSAs in the United States
- Going beyond CSAs with Community Food Systems