A Brief History of the CSA in the US of A
Our thanks go out to Shannon for putting this one together! It’s a great little history lesson and gives some insight into the motivation behind the CSA movement, and small farming in general:
The CSA is approaching its 27th anniversary here in the United States. Community Supported Agriculture started out as a small, grassroots movement and through the past three decades has continued to grow because of community interest in safe, local, and sustainable agriculture.
There were two farms here on the East Coast that started the movement in 1986: Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire. They began by taking concepts from biodynamic farming in Europe, and the ideas of an Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The major concept was that of the consumer and producer being linked by common interests, and to develop a community where you produce locally what is consumed locally. They began to see that the CSA was a way to bring the two concepts together. The farms grew independently of each other, but would meet to share ideas. They are still active and successful today having not only made it through many difficulties over the years but also setting the base for how the current CSA model works.
At Indian Line Farm the overall concept was that of the consumers actively taking responsibility to hold farmland open and to make that land available and affordable for farmers over a long term without government involvement.
At Temple-Wilton Community Farm they asked members of the farm community for a pledge rather than asking them to pay a fixed price for a share of the harvest. They realized that the members of their community had a wide range of needs and incomes and that one set price was not necessarily fair for every family. What they do each year is present a budget showing the true costs of the farm over the coming year and then ask the members of the farm to make pledges to meet the budget. This working concept is in place to this day.
In the last decade the CSA has grown at a very rapid speed. Issues such as global warming, mad cow disease, pesticides, and genetic engineering have garnered community interest in supporting local farms. The community concept of a CSA has also began including not only traditional farms, but orchards, dairies, bakeries, and livestock/butchery, among others. This is allowing the program to grow in size and be protected against unforeseen consequences as droughts, freezing temperatures, etc. during a season.
Most importantly a CSA helps to link those in a community, while also renewing the soil, and reintroducing the human need of farming for survival.