What is a Farm Share?
Farm shares (also called Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs), have become popular across the country, as a way to get fresh healthy food and support local farmers and food systems.
Farm share programs provide a direct link between local farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it is grown each season. This provides the farmer the up front cash needed for seed, equipment, and other expenses to farm throughout the season, so they are less reliant on bank loans. Each week during the season, the farmer delivers a share of great tasting, healthful food to predetermined locations, where members pick it up. In some instances, members pick up the share directly from the farm.
Farm share members share in the harvest: during good growing seasons, everyone benefits by getting more produce. When the season is less bountiful, members shoulder the risk and receive less. This type of arrangement helps people to connect back to the earth and the food they eat.
Characteristics of a Farm Share:
- Farm share members purchase a share before the season starts and shoulder the risks along with the farmer. The farmer then has an obligation to provide a share of the produce they grow to their members.
- Farm shares feature locally grown, freshly picked produce which tastes better and is priced competitively with supermarkets. Most farm share programs offer a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs in season. Some provide a full array of farm products, such as shares of eggs, meat, milk and baked goods.
- Farm shares connect local farmers directly with consumers, which helps develop a regional food supply and strong local economy. Farm shares also cut out the middleman, which lowers costs for consumers and provides better income for farmers.
- Some farmers use organic, certified natural, sustainable or biodynamic farming methods, minimizing adverse environmental impact and encouraging land stewardship.
- Farm shares help maintain a sense of community. Farm share organizers often host farm days, inviting members to visit the farm and, in some cases, help grow food. Many also offer recipes and suggestions on how to cook the unique variety of vegetables provided each week.
- Some are dedicated to serving particular community needs, such as helping the homeless, seniors or children, or low income groups.