What is a CSA?


If you are new to the world of local food and can’t make it to your weekly Farmers Market- a CSA share is a great way to start eating locally.

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” It is a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Membership in the CSA is based on shares of the harvest. Members are called shareholders and they subscribe or underwrite the harvest for the entire season in advance.

How it works:

A local farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products such as meat or dairy may be included. Local residents purchase a share (aka a “subscription”) and in return receive a weekly box of seasonal produce typically May through October or throughout the specified farming season.

What you get:

Depending on the size of share you purchase, you get enough produce to feed a family of four for a week or a single/couple for two weeks. The share will be a sampling of what is in season at any given week and will vary from week to week.

Benefits for You:

  • You get the best selection of ultra fresh food and all the added health benefits of seasonal food.
  • You don’t have to think about where to purchase local food, you just pick it up at the farm or convenient drop off location
  • You get to know your farmer and participate in supporting their farm and their labor
  • It gives you the chance to choose how your food is grown and by what practice or farming philosophy.

Challenges for You:

  • You are typically expected to pay upfront for your seasonal share which could range anywhere from $400-$900 depending on farm and size of share (single or family)
  • You typically do not choose what is in your weekly share, but rather get a sampling of what they harvested that week. This can be challenging as you learn to cook with unfamiliar items.
  • You take on the risk of the farm -i.e. if a crop fails or is plagued by harsh weather or insects, you don’t receive that specific crop
  • A CSA is not flexible and is not ideal for someone who travels frequently

If you live in the Nashville area, there are several fantastic farms who offer CSA subscriptions. For a detailed list of farms around Nashville please check out the Future of Food in Nashville website. If you are looking for CSA’s in other parts of the country you should check out Local Harvest.

(Doesn’t sound like you? Not a problem. You can still support your local farmers and get delicious fresh local food at your Farmers Market. For a list of the ones that I am involved in – visit this site )

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10 Responses to “What is a CSA?”

  1. Kim De May 3, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    We signed up for our first CSA today. Between that and visits to the markets, we will be swimming in veggies! Quite excited

    • Mary Crimmins May 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

      That’s great! You are going to love it!

  2. leslie goebel May 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    We did a CSA last year. It was great and really expanded my food IQ. But there is something I love about strolling through a market and picking out my own stuff. With so many markets focusing on local vendors these days, you cant go wrong. We are all market this year, but might do the CSA again in the future.

    • Mary Crimmins May 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

      Leslie, I completely agree. I love being able to buy whatever catches my eye at the Market. Thanks for the comment.


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