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Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a direct farmer to consumer market, similar to farmers markets. Consumers buy “shares” in the harvest and prepay before the growing season for a certain amount of produce and/or other farm products during the harvest season. The upfront payment from the customer helps offset expenses accrued during the season (for example, equipment management or seed purchase). Once the food is ripe or produced, the farmers deliver the food directly to the consumer or a predetermined pick-up site, or customers pick up their shares at the farm.

CSAs are sources of local food grown for freshness instead of shelf life. CSAs have the potential to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in families. Research conducted at West Virginia University shows that participating in a CSA can cost up to 2.5 times less than purchasing the same produce from local stores.

Implementation Considerations:

WIC and SNAP benefits can be used in some states to purchase CSA shares, and programs are available to help subsidize the cost for low-income customers. Payment plans or a sliding scale for upfront payments can also be used to increase the accessibility of CSA shares to low-income customers.

Producers running a CSA must establish and maintain relationships with consumers. CSAs can operate through pre-existing groups such as workplaces in order to reach larger groups of customers. Producers must be able to plan their yields and market their CSA shares months in advance.

Resources to Learn More

Can CSA Cost-Offset Programs Improve Diet Quality for Limited Resource Families?
Discusses the research component of the Community Supported Agriculture Cost-Offset Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Strengthen Local Agricultural Economies project. Seeks to evaluate dietary outcomes and local economic impact based on a number of interrelated interventions.
Author(s): Kolodinsky, J., Sitaker, M., Morgan, E., Connor, L., et al.
Organization(s): Agricultural & Applied Economics Association
Date: 2017

The CSA Farmers Nationwide Guide to Accepting SNAP/EBT Payments
Guide for community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers outlining how to integrate SNAP/EBT payments into their business model.
Organization(s): Zenger Farm
Date: 3/2013

Towards Improving Healthy Food Access Through Community-Supported-Agriculture-Farmshare Programs in Food Desert Areas and Among Low-Income Populations
Study investigating community supported agriculture (CSA) programs as alternative food sources for low-income populations.
Citation: Annals of Global Health, 82(3), 397-398
Date: 5/2016