Community Supported Agriculture and Organic Farming
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms seek members who pay in advance for a season’s worth of farm fresh products. This reduces the farmer’s need to borrow money at the beginning of the season in order to purchase farm inputs, such as seeds, tools and fertilizers. It also assures the farmer of a market, which is one of the most difficult and risky aspects of farming for a living. Most CSAs use organic farm practices.
CSAs have many variations. Some CSAs have multiple drop-off points for their members, while others require their members to travel to the farm. Some CSAs ask that people work on the farm or have a two-tiered fee for the year – one for working members and one for non-working members. Some CSAs work cooperatively with other local growers to offer their members a greater diversity of products than the one farm grows.
Is a CSA organic if it isn’t certified organic?
You need to ask the farmer. CSA farmers usually produce their crops organically but may or may not be certified organic. One purpose of CSAs is to strengthen the understanding and connections between farmers and their members. By enabling members to learn about the production methods a farmer uses to grow vegetables and other crops, people become familiar with the farmer’s practices, including organic production methods.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets provides an opportunity for CSAs to list their farms on the Department’s website as a member of the Pride of New York Program or in the Farm Fresh Guide. In addition, there are several national websites that provide lists of CSAs in the U.S.
RESOURCES for CSAs
“Sharing the Harvest” by Elizabeth Henderson, a guide to Community Supported Agriculture. This book is available from book stores and is a how-to for members and farmers on every aspect of CSAs.
This New York City organization helps farmers and community groups start CSAs in the greater New York City area.
This Columbia County, New York CSA provides a wide variety of resources for CSA farmers including grower manuals.
New York State Organic Farming Links