This week, on NPR's The Salt, Ted Burnham asked the question, "What is community supported agriculture?" It sounds straightforward, but it turns out the answer isn't so simple. While CSA's are defined as a community who pledges support to a farm, others have reinterpreted it more broadly to include many farms from larger, regional co-ops. Burnham explains:
...spiritual renewal may not be enough when consumers are used to finding year-round variety of imported fruits and veggies at the supermarket. So some farmers have adapted the CSA model to appeal to a wider – and perhaps less idealistic – audience, while still providing fresh produce from small farms.
Not surprisingly, this reinterpretation of CSA's is upsetting traditionalists who believe you should know your farmer.
That's a valid concern. CSA's are meant to foster a relationship between a community of individuals and a farmer, to reconnect those individuals to the land, and to support that farmer at the risk of a poor harvest. CSA's that supplement their shares with produce from other farms take away from the original objective of a CSA. Arguably, they are simply yielding to consumer demand for increased profits. Yet, without supplementing their shares, farmers might not have the support they need to survive. As CSA's evolve, it's important to redefine them, whether that means reinforcing their original purpose, or extending their definition.
How do you define a CSA? And, what is your experience using them?
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