Small farms and community supported agriculture

 Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a sustainable food production system where farmers sell direct to the consumer. Farmers grow a product  consumers want, in exchange for them supporting the farmer.

It provides small landholders who farm close to large urban populations with potential economic opportunities. CSA encourages both farmers and consumers to form a relationship and share the risk of agricultural production providing economic, social and environmental benefits. 

Farmers producing for CSA groups can either supply limited produce from their own farm or team up with other farmers to provide a wider range of produce including vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers, meat and eggs.

CSA meets growing demand for local sustainable food production

Interest in CSA has grown as consumers have demanded fresh, sustainable food that is produced locally. CSA involves the establishment of a consumer group that signs up to a 6-12 month subscription with a farmer. Subscriptions are paid in advance or in instalments throughout the growing season. Consumers can receive weekly or fortnightly deliveries, collect produce from a central point or collect directly from the farm.    
Box of fruit and vegetables produced from community supported agriculture, a sustainable food production system.

 The type and quantity of produce delivered depends on the time of season, level of production (how much there is to go around) and other vagaries of  farming. CSA enables consumers and farmers to share the financial, environmental, and farming risks such as droughts, floods, pests and diseases. In  exchange for consumers sharing these risks they benefit from a connection with their food, knowing where it comes from and understanding how food is  produced.

 When is CSA a suitable business model?

 CSA is best suited to small, independent, intensive farms that produce fresh produce using ecological, organic or biodynamic farming methods that are  otherwise difficult for consumers to source.

 Small farms that are close to the peri-urban fringe are the most capable of participating in successful CSA schemes. 

CSA programs can operate successfully on small farms where limited yet diverse volumes of food are produced. Small farmers involved in CSA place a greater emphasis on sustainable food production, implementing a range of sustainable farming practices."Interest in CSA has grown as consumers have demanded fresh, sustainable food that is produced locally." 

 Benefits of CSA to small farms

 These are some of the main benefits to small farms of participating in community supported agriculture systems:

  • Building a strong connection with consumers
  • Economic security
  • Less waste
  • Guaranteed market access
  • Reduced costs

 Getting started in community supported agriculture

 Starting a CSA farm will require a consumer group that is keen to know exactly where and how its food is produced, one that it is committed to local  farmers and is prepared to share the risk. Farmers will need to have fertile land that is suitable for intensive food production and strong people skills. They  will need to have a range of farming skills that enable them to manage multiple crops or enterprises at varying stages of development.

 Success of CSA will depend on effective communication between the farmer and consumer. Communication is important so the consumer understands  seasonal and week-to-week delivery variations, ensuring long-term commitment from CSA members. 

 Farmers can communicate with CSA members via:

  • Farm visits and walks
  • Newsletters, updating consumers on current seasonal conditions and production
  • Recipes and ideas on using in-season produce
  • Social functions, ensuring consumers are regularly connected with the farm

 Where to from here?   

 CSA offers consumers the opportunity to obtain safe sustainable food because they know exactly where and how it has been produced. At the same time,  the system enables small landholders to successfully compete in the food market against much larger companies. 

 The next article is this series will outline the benefits of forming a producer and marketing group.

Charlie Roberts - small farms consultant.

The author Charlie Roberts is one of the FarmStyle Australia experts, he runs this website along with a successful farm near Dubbo in Central New South Wales, so he walks the talk.

Charlie has a Bachelor of Farm Management and a Masters of Business Administration. He has worked for a number of agricultural companies in both New Zealand and Australia. He has a wealth of experience working with farmers in a range of environments.   

New Forum Topics

Topic Replies Last post Forum
5522 Total newbies on 8 acres Vic
by shelle on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 10:56
4
by Albertgotdonkey
Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:08
New Members
5733 serrated tussock
by Robdog on Sun, 06/09/2019 - 13:33
2
by rolly @ fi
Thu, 06/13/2019 - 10:11
Weeds & pests
5503 Agistment gone bad!
by frontess on Mon, 04/01/2019 - 21:35
5
by sallyero62
Tue, 06/11/2019 - 18:16
General Forum
2644 Cattle branding - fire v electric
by Comraich on Mon, 11/02/2015 - 14:33
7
by sallyero62
Tue, 06/11/2019 - 15:13
Farming Help
3316 Atherton Tablelands Queensland
by Benfairley on Mon, 01/22/2018 - 17:08
3
by sallyero62
Tue, 06/11/2019 - 15:05
New Members
5684 What do I do with 20 acres of grapes?
by Phil on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 19:20
3
by sallyero62
Tue, 06/11/2019 - 14:51
New Members
3130 How to farm with sheep....
by mandys76 on Tue, 12/20/2016 - 14:02
3
by sallyero62
Tue, 06/11/2019 - 14:32
New Members
5689 Vaccination of weaner cattle
by FDE on Tue, 05/28/2019 - 06:12
2
by FDE
Fri, 05/31/2019 - 13:13
Farming Help
5611 lantana and land clearing
by samsmith on Tue, 05/07/2019 - 17:21
3
by samsmith
Tue, 05/28/2019 - 20:08
Farming Help
3148 Wiltipol Sheep and Boran Cattle
by chisel on Sun, 01/22/2017 - 19:07
6
by Brownscows
Sun, 05/26/2019 - 07:19
New Members
5520 Assignment help
by AJD on Mon, 04/08/2019 - 13:22
1
by Phil
Thu, 05/23/2019 - 19:37
General Forum
5544 Petrol supply carburettor Massey Ferguson 35 Petrol
by Scarydingo on Sun, 04/28/2019 - 16:09
1
by Phil
Thu, 05/23/2019 - 19:10
Machinery & products
5670 New member - Brisbane - looking for agistment for cattle
by [email protected] on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 18:22
1
by admin
Wed, 05/15/2019 - 14:39
New Members
5466 How to Become Classified as A Primary Producer/Alpacas
by Char on Fri, 02/01/2019 - 11:04
2
by AmarooFarm
Tue, 05/14/2019 - 10:45
Farm planning
5673 Goat Worming
by Brettgarland on Sat, 05/11/2019 - 17:06
1
by barb
Mon, 05/13/2019 - 17:05
Farming Help
5672 Barley Straw
by Griswold on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 20:34
0
by Griswold
Fri, 05/10/2019 - 20:34
Farm water
5545 Best animals for low maintenance earning on 500 acres - QLD
by fazeraus on Mon, 04/29/2019 - 20:19
1
by admin
Tue, 05/07/2019 - 16:03
Farm planning
5538 New member looking for Dorper lambs in Noth Brisbane area
by Darryl1377 on Sun, 04/21/2019 - 17:40
1
by admin
Mon, 04/29/2019 - 07:54
New Members
5537 Dorper and Johnson grass
by krooges on Sat, 04/20/2019 - 11:44
1
by rolly @ fi
Wed, 04/24/2019 - 13:10
Sheep
5536 NLIS CONFUSION
by RedGums on Fri, 04/19/2019 - 15:00
1
by barb
Tue, 04/23/2019 - 13:12
Goats

Our Sponsors

Our Partners