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Last Update 06/03/08

Community Supported Agriculture

Support a Farm Each Spring for Produce all Season Long


Image: SANBeltsville, Md. -- Tired of settling for produce that travels, on average, 1,300 miles from where it is grown, consumers began joining Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms across the country to receive fresh, delicious and affordable local harvests.

Since it began in the 1980s, CSA has grown to include some 1,000 farms across the U.S. In a unique arrangement , people buy "shares" in CSA farms -- usually at the beginning of the growing season in March or April -- in exchange for weekly supplies of fresh products. It's good for farmers, too. They receive a fair, steady source of income and a chance to learn more about what their customers like.

To tap into an increasing demand from consumers for fresh food alternatives, USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network assembled a list of of CSA farms nationwide. Available in print and on the World Wide Web, the list of more than 500 farms offers names and contact information for CSA operations in almost every state. As part of USDA's sustainable agriculture program, which promotes a food system that is profitable for farmers, environmentally sound, and good for communities, SAN created the list because sharing the expenses -- and the bountiful harvests -- of local farms appeals to consumers.

"Given the growing interest in eating fresh, nutritious food, we wanted to provide a convenient source of information about community supported agriculture", says Jill Auburn, director of USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which funds SAN. "CSA provides a great opportunity for the farmers and consumers of our food to gain all sorts of benefits -- from fair wages to fresh food to on-farm learning experiences -- because they live near each other".

In its best sense, CSA unites individuals who pledge to support a farm so that it truly becomes a community enterprise. The grower and CSA members share both the risks and the benefits of food production. Typically, CSA farmers use organic or sustainable farming methods and strive to provide fresh, high-quality foods. Most CSA farms offer a diversity of vegetables, fruits, and herbs in season; some provide a full array of farm produce, including eggs, meat, milk, baked goods, honey and even firewood.

To access the new CSA list, see the lists, where you can search by state. Farmers and consumers can receive printed lists of CSA farms in their states by writing to CSA/CSREES, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Stop 2207, Washington, DC 20250-2207. Organizations can request a free copy of the printed CSA directory at the same address. (Please specify whether you want a directory or a state list in your request.)  

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