Field Notes Blog > Interested in Starting a CSA?

  • Interested in Starting a CSA?

    June 12, 2019

    Featured writer: Raechel Sattazahn, Knowledge Center Director

    There are lots of ways to direct market farm products to consumers. One that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is CSA (community supported agriculture). According to the USDA, there were approximately 12,617 farms in 2012 nationwide that reported marketing products through a CSA arrangement.

    What is a CSA?

    CSA is a food production and distribution system that connects farmers and consumers. It allows consumers to purchase “shares” of a farm’s harvest in advance, and then receive a portion of the crops as they are harvested.

    Benefits of a CSA to the Farmer

    Marketing through a CSA offers farmers the ability to market their products before they are harvested. They receive payment early in the season, which provides cash flow during a time when they typically do not receive income since most income comes when the products are sold at harvest (or shortly after). CSAs also provide an opportunity to engage with consumers and share information about the farm and products grown.

    Writing a CSA Contract

    Before you embark on setting up a CSA for your farm operation, be sure to consider having a clearly written CSA membership agreement. Part of establishing a CSA is that the farmer and the members share risks such as crop failure due to drought or disease. Having a contract in place is important so that farmers and shareholders have an understanding of the CSA relationship and how risks are shared.

    Check out the resources linked below to help you in establishing a CSA membership agreement. They were developed by the University of Maryland in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Farm Bureau.

    Although these resources offer a good place for farmers to start in establishing CSA membership agreements, farmers are advised to seek the counsel of an attorney before using the documents.

    Learn from Others

    If you are interested in learning how you can incorporate a CSA on your farm operation, the best place to start is to reach out to other farmers who have used the model and discuss all of the pros and cons. Many farmers use CSA to market a portion of their products, but also use other marketing channels as well.

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