Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Brief History of the CSA

Community Supported Agriculture is an exciting and rapidly growing form of farm management and marketing. It is also a great way for people to find the freshest possible, locally grown and usually organic or biodynamic products. There are CSA farms in every state and most provinces, and the numbers are increasing. These farms, under the CSA umbrella, can take many forms and have different arrangements with their members.


box of produce

CSA farms can be traced to Japan in the mid 1960s. In 1965, a group of women approached a local farm family with an idea to address these issues and provide their families with fresh vegetables and fruits. The farmers agreed and a contract was drawn up and teikei, meaning “food with the farmer’s face on it”, was born.

The first documented CSA farm in the U.S. began in 1985 in western Massachusetts (van En 1988) Four years later, there were thirty-seven identifiable projects in the U.S. And Canada. In 1994 the number of CSA’s in the US was about four hundred. Informal estimates suggest close to one thousand in 1995.

In its simplest form, CSA is a contractual agreement between a farm and a group of consumers variously described as “shareholders.” “Members,” or “subscribers." At the beginning of the season, each member buys a share of the harvest at a predetermined price and in return receives products usually on a weekly basis. The core of CSA production is organic vegetables, but other products may be distributed as well: meat and poultry, dairy products, cider, honey, flowers, and even maple syrup.