*Written By: Maggie Vander Pol*
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an amazing model for so many reasons. With CSAs, members make a commitment to their local farmer by paying upfront for a season of produce. This upfront payment is vital to the success of many farmers as it allows them to prepare for the season ahead (purchase seeds, pay farm staff, prepare the fields, repair/purchase machinery, etc.). Then during the season, farmers share their bounty of food with their CSA members, as well as share the risk if any unexpected occurrence hurts their crop (most commonly from bad weather).
You can probably understand how this CSA model benefits you and your community, but we want to explain the nitty gritty about just how valuable CSAs are:
CSAs build a strong local economy
By purchasing a CSA share, you are paying money to farmers and their workers (or to organizations like GoFarm) who live, work, and spend money in the same region you do. You are building up members of your community, keeping dollars local, and keeping goods/services cycling through the local system.
CSAs protect our environment
When food is grown locally it doesn’t have to travel as far to reach our plates. And when it doesn’t have to travel as far, it uses less energy (gas/fuel).
Local farmers who have CSAs need to plant a variety of crops to fulfill the dietary needs of their CSA members. Planting a variety of crops is a very sustainable growing practice, as it creates diversity of plant roots and healthy bacterium in the soils. These farms that grow a variety of unique produce items are coined “specialty crop farms”. This is different from commodity crop farms which grow very few crop varieties and thus degrade the soils because of lack of plant diversity (amongst other reasons).
Local farmers also use many other sustainable growing practices that help regenerate and build healthy soil!
Having healthy soils means that there are more plants in the ground in our local community, which means more roots in the ground, less runoff, less flooding, more carbon sequestration, and so many more environmental benefits.
CSAs give us more appreciation for the food on our plates
When you can shake the dirty hand of the farmer who harvested the tomatoes or peppers that you eat for dinner, you know just how much work went into the meal you’ve prepared.
When you purchase a CSA share, you are sharing the risk of farming with your local farmers. In Colorado, farmers deal with natural forces like drought, flooding and hail. There is always a chance that a storm will come through and ruin parts of their fields. But as a CSA member, if a farmer loses their crop because of these natural occurrences, you could also lose out on some of your share. When we pay upfront, we share the risk so that when disasters arise, it doesn’t just affect the farmer alone. This allows us to experience a greater appreciation for what it means to get food onto our plates.
CSAs are good for our health
Show me someone who is invested in a CSA because of the delicious food, appreciation for farmers and dedication to the local economy, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking at an above average healthy person. When you see the work that goes into making good food, you appreciate every healthy bite, and you eat more of it!
Generally speaking, most local farmers with CSAs also use sustainable growing practices (all of GoFarm’s farmers do!). This means no GMOs, pesticides, or unwanted, unnatural chemicals that can have undetermined negative health consequences.
CSAs provide farmers a reliable revenue stream
For an industry that is financially dependent on one season of the year (harvest), CSAs provide a way to give farmers stability during other parts of the year, arguably, when they need it most. Having money at the beginning of the season to invest in seeds, equipment, labor, etc,, is critical to a farmer’s success – as these expenses are necessary in order to have a strong growing season, but they incur when funds are drying up.
When farmers fill up their CSA shares and have money they can rely on, they have energy and time to focus more on what they do best: farm! (instead of other activities like marketing or sales).
CSAs build strong community
Not only are you supporting local farmers when you invest in a CSA, but you connect with and build community with other like-minded individuals’ intent on creating a better food system not only locally, but nationally and globally.
As Michael Moss from Kilt Farm says, “The local food system provides access to much fresher and healthier food for our communities. Having local farms and a strong food system provides for buffers against any shocks to our just-in-time delivery systems”.
We couldn’t have said it better.
Happy CSA Day! We hope you celebrate by researching the farms near you and signing up for a CSA! GoFarm’s Local Food Share is a multi-farm CSA, and by signing up with us you can support many local farmers at once. Trust us, once you start tasting the most delicious, farm-fresh produce that a CSA offers, you won’t want it any other way!