Community supported agriculture (CSA) takes many forms in the UK.
The diversity of CSA reflects the fact that CSA farms have grown from grassroots initiatives and individuals finding their own way to address the challenges of food production, rather than following a set model. However all share the common principles of sharing the risks, rewards and responsibilities of food production.
We have identified four approaches to CSA:
A farmer offers a share of production in return for a fixed subscription. The share may vary with the vagaries of production (so the risks and rewards are shared), while the subscription is generally payable in advance and for a relatively long term (providing secure income to the producer). This is the most widely used approach and is also common in France and the USA.
Good examples of producer-led CSA farms include: Chagfood and Canalside Community Food.
A farming enterprise is set up and owned by the community, which takes on direct responsibility for production. Labour may be provided by volunteers and/or employed professionals.
Produce may be distributed amongst the community and/or sold for the benefit of the enterprise, including using the share of the harvest model.
Stroud Community Agriculture is one of the most established CSA farms using this model.
The enterprise, owned by the community through a co-operative or similar structure, works in close partnership with existing producer(s) to provide a secure and long-term supply of produce to CSA members.
Good examples of this model are The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm and Cambridge Cropshare.
A farming enterprise is secured through community investment but does not necessarily trade primarily with the community members.
Fordhall Farm and The Community Farm are the best known examples of this model.