Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new socio-economic model of food production, sales and distribution with the goal of connecting the actual people who grow our food-farmers-with the actual people who eat it-us. CSA programs provide access to fresh, organic produce produced locally, eliminating the financial and environmental costs of packaging, shipping, and advertising. This boosts the CNY economy because the whole production and consumption cycle happens right here. Look ma, no multinational corporate middlemen!
Farmers typically go into debt every year in order to pay for seeds, equipment and labor, all of which has to be paid for before the harvest. CSA is a way to put the control of our food production and distribution into the hands of actual farmers and real consumers like you and me, rather than in the hands of banks and big corporations headquartered in places that have no ties to Central New York. CSA shareholders pay for produce in advance of the growing season, providing the farm with the necessary capital to help cover the anticipated costs of farm operation and the farmer's salary.
Prices for a CSA share are similar to prices you find at farmer's markets. The nice thing about CSA, though, is that it is a system that produces no waste. Everything picked gets sold and used. Farms going to market generally have to pick much more than what they will sell, and accept the rest as a loss. The reality is that farms would rather sell to a supermarket if they can get a decent price because then they sell everything and they don't have to stand around all day at a market when they really need to be on the farm farming. The problem with relying exclusively on sales to supermarket chains is that if farmers get a fair price then we have trouble affording the product after markup; if farmers don't get a fair price then they have trouble keeping their farms in business, meaning more of our food industry gets consolidated into distant, exploitative, unsustainable operations too big and far away for us to have a voice in.