For more than 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, has been a way for people to buy seasonal food directly from local farmers in cities across America. Now, this tradition in supporting local farms and community-based initiatives is enduring a time of change, broadening its scope to include not only produce, but also art.
Community Supported Agriculture is a program that goes beyond the basic farmer’s market model. Within this community of farmers and consumers, the public is offered a certain number of “shares” from participating farmers. These shares generally consist of a box of fruits and vegetables, though other handmade products may be included. Consumers can purchase a share, which is basically ensuring their subscription to the program, and in turn receive one box (or bag, or basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This transaction is beneficial to everyone involved for many reasons. For one thing, it allows a relationship to form between consumer and farmer, and thus, between consumer and product. It also helps forge a community that supports its local farmers, as well as a culture of eating healthy, in-season foods. CSA also establishes a community of sharing that is more appealing to many consumers than purchasing their food from corporate grocery stores.
If you needed another reason to participate in your local CSA, the organization is providing one: an inclusion of art in their sharing program. Now, alongside farmers providing the best seasonal products are artists, selling shares so that consumers, or in this case, collectors, can support another local craft. According to an article in the New York Times, “Without even having to change the abbreviation, the C.S.A. idea has fully made the leap from agriculture to art. After the first program started four years ago in Minnesota, demonstrating that the concept worked just as well for art lovers as for locavores, community-supported art programs are popping up all over the country: in Pittsburg; Miami; Brooklyn; Lincoln, Neb.; Fargo, N.D.”
The philosophy of Community Supported Art is the same as Community Supported Agriculture, in that the program aims to create connections between consumers and artists that extend beyond commerce. With this in mind, consumers who invest in the artists are supporting another person’s vision, and just like with seasonal produce, they never really know what they’re going to get. This form of CSA creates a community-based art-sharing program, and allows for local artists to be recognized and revered as a commodity as necessary as seasonal produce.
CSA is truly revolutionizing what it means to “buy local.”