Community Supported Agriculture

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The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
National Agricultural Library
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Reviewed April 2016

Contents

Introduction

Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

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What is Community Supported Agriculture

Defining Community Supported Agriculture

Marketing through Community Supported Agriculture

History

Surveys and Statistics

  • Data collected in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that 12,617 farms in the United States reported marketing products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement, a .5 percent increase over the 12,549 farms marketing through CSAs in 2007.  Information by state also is available.
    • 2012
      Table 43. Selected Practices: 2012. In 2012 Census of Agriculture - State Data. p. 558. (2014) U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
      See the column titled, "Marketed products through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (farms)" to find the number of farms that answered yes to the question, "At any time during 2012, did this operation market products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement?"
      See also: 2012 Agricultural Census Home page
    • 2007
      Table 44. Selected Practices: 2007. In 2007 Census of Agriculture - State Data. p. 606. (2009) U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
      See the column titled, "Marketed products through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (farms)" to find the number of farms that answered yes to the question, "At any time during 2007, did this operation market products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement?"
      See also: 2007 Agricultural Census Home page
  • 2009 Survey of Community Supported Agriculture Producers. (July 2009) Cooperative Extension Service, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky. Analysis of survey findings on the business and marketing practices of 205 CSA farms in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
    http://www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/csareport.pdf
  • CSA 2001: An Evolving Platform for Ecological and Economical Agricultural Marketing and Production. (2005) University of Massachusetts. Analysis and update of previous surveys, with emphasis on the U.S. Northeast.
    http://api.ning.com/files/3FyohVhrK-m5eIn2G2jfkF2vpDUXaYlfQtSpRUvy4u2WE1tMaovZ673Tnfo*fd8T3ysBa9ncJb4Z81pTNEIQUaoTvYJIe6Qs/NESAWGCSA2001.pdf
  • CSA Across the Nation: Findings from the 1999 CSA Survey. (2003) Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Provides the first comprehensive portrait of the CSA movement in the US. Findings from a 1999 national "census" survey show commonalities and diversity among CSA farms.
    http://www.cias.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/csaacross.pdf
  • Community Supported Agriculture Entering the 21st Century: Results from the 2001 National Survey. (undated) D. Less, A. Bevis, G.W. Stevenson, J. Hendrickson, and K. Ruhf. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Presents the results of a 2001 survey of 300 Community Supported Agriculture farms in 43 U.S. states. Continues the 1999 survey as described in the report CSA Across the Nation: Findings from the 1999 CSA Survey, above.
    http://www.cias.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/csa_survey_01.pdf
  • Community Supported Agriculture in the Mid-Atlantic Region: Results of a Shareholder Survey and Farmer Interviews. (2004) L. Oberholtzer. Future Harvest-CASA. Research from the Small Farm Success Project.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the Midwest United States: A Regional Characterization. (2005) Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
    http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs-and-papers/2005-01-community-supported-agriculture
  • Community Supported Agriculture on the Central Coast: The CSA Member Experience. (2003) Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), University of California.
    http://escholarship.org/uc/item/5wh3z9jg
  • Marketing Your Organic Products. In Final Results of the 4th National Organic Farmers Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace. p. 48-51. (2004) Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). Survey conducted in 2002.
    http://ofrf.org/sites/ofrf.org/files/docs/pdf/4thsurvey_results.pdf
  • Unraveling the CSA Number Conundrum. McFadden, Steven. The Call of the Land. Blog. January 9, 2012.
    https://thecalloftheland.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/unraveling-the-csa-number-conundrum/

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Where to Find More Information

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Search AGRICOLA, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) Catalog.
AGRICOLA (AGRICultural Online Access) is a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and its cooperators. Records describe publications and resources encompassing all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines. [Learn more about AGRICOLA.]

  1. Search strategy: ("community supported agriculture") or ("community supported farm???") or ("CSA farm???") or ("subscription farm???") or ("box scheme?") or ("teikei")
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Review Community Supported Agriculture - Automated Database Searches to search additional resources.

Additional Information for Farmers

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Eating Seasonally and Regionally

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Community Food Systems: Farm-to-School, Food Circles, and Farmers’ Markets

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The Sustainable/Organic Agriculture Connection

Information from USDA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture supports three major programs that offer sustainable agriculture information and assistance. Whether you are a farmer, an educator or a researcher seeking more information about sustainable agriculture in general, about a specific crop, or help with a specific problem, these programs can help. Contact information for each program and a description of each program's area of specialization are provided below.

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Additional AFSIC resources on Community Supported Agriculture include:

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