What is community-supported agriculture (CSA)?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a way of inviting the community to take part ownership of the crop. At the beginning of each season you become a member and pre-buy a set quantity of fruit, and in exchange, you get a membership rate for pick-your-own (PYO) fruit throughout the season.
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance describes community-supported agriculture (CSA) as a model of food production and distribution that directly connects farmers and eaters – people buy shares in a farm’s projected harvest in advance and for a set period (e.g., a season, or a year) and receive regular deliveries.
Being part of CSA is a way for eaters to share with the farmer the costs and risks of farming as well as the bounty.
CSA schemes vary in their structure and payment terms, but the principle is that farms supply their produce directly to their members through a subscription model – a commitment from the eater is made to accept the produce they are given and to share the risk of the harvest with the farmer.
CSA was started in the 1970s in Japan by organic vegetable farmers and is now widespread and growing around the world. It is based on the Principles of Teikei (1978).
Teikei in Japanese means “cooperation”, “joint business”, or “link-up”. In reference to CSA, it is commonly associated with the slogan “food with the farmer’s face on it”. Read more about the origins of Teiki and CSA here.
Principles of Teikei
- Mutual assistance
- Accepting the produce
- Mutual concession in the price decision
- Deepening friendly relationships
- Democratic management
- Learning among each group
- Maintaining the appropriate group scale
- Steady development
Australia has a growing CSA movement as small-scale farmers move to this solidarity economy for financial security, risk sharing, and deeper connection with the people who eat their produce.
How does CSA work at the Orchard Keepers?
CSA schemes vary worldwide, but essentially we are seeking to break with more traditional sales and distribution systems and build a community around the farm. Our orchard has supplied fruit to the local community for almost 150 years. We want it to continue because we see the orchard as a vital community asset. Part of that is building closer relationships between customers (you) and farmer custodians (us).
You become a member by buying an upfront share in this season’s harvest. You join a community that is more connected to the farm and the crop and you collectively share risk (rather than us carrying it alone).
An example of this is that last year we lost most of our peach and nectarine trees because of excessive rain. That means this year (and into the foreseeable future) there will be almost no peaches and nectarines available. Luckily, we grow so many varieties of fruit that we can still offer a diverse and interesting mix for CSA members throughout the season.
You can find out more and sign up for the 2023/24 season here.
CSA frequently asked questions are here.
And if you are looking for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CSA members, that’s here.