Youth Farm: A Bit on CSAs
Friday afternoon I was walking through the fields with Meranda, a teen working at the Youth Farm. I was telling her about our CSA program, and quickly realized that she didn’t know what I was talking about. So Meranda and I spent the rest of her work shift talking about CSAs, and why we do what we do at the Youth Farm. Inspired by that conversation, I figured it could be good to take it back a bit, talk about CSAs here on the blog, and maybe we’ll all learn thing a thing or two.
The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model came to the states in the early 80s and has been spreading over the country ever since.
There are two CSA models. With the “subscription CSA,” the farmer organizes the CSA and farm work is not required of subscribers. A “shareholder CSA” model typically involves a group of people who may personally rent or lease land, then they hire a farmer to provide the food. Subcription models are much more common, and that’s what we do at the Youth Farm.
According to ATTRA (a fantastic resource for all things farming), Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or conceptually, the community’s farm. The growers and consumers provide mutual support and share the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members, or “shareholders,” of the farm 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.
Basically the CSA model connects communities with their food, and people with their farmers, while providing the farmer capital up front and easing pressure to focus on marketing during the crazy season.
In the case of the Youth Farm, the CSA is not only a great deal for shareholders (0n average CSA folks pay 1.50 per pound of food), but the actual operation of the CSA connects Montana teens with good work, healthy food, appreciative shareholders, learning opportunities, and an experience of which they can be proud. Thanks to all our CSA members for joining the local food movement, and giving us the opportunity to grow your food.