The cornerstone of any local food economy is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. These organizations connect consumers directly to farmers. They allow the consumer to purchase shares in a farm’s produce and provide the farmer with the security of knowing they have a stable, local market.
Direct farm-to-consumer markets keep costs down on both ends by eliminating the middlemen that drive up retail food prices. They also eliminate the need for farms to sprawl out and grow only one or two cash crops to meet the large volume demands food distributors and processors require in conventional markets. Consumers benefit by paying essentially wholesale prices for a bigger variety of food that is farm-fresh. CSAs also encourage communal bonds amongst participants. By developing face-to-face relationships with the farmers who supply their food, CSA members are likely to learn a few things about growing their own and be more politically active on issues pertaining to local food security.
One CSA in Los Angeles has developed into a paragon for others. CSA California started as a fundraiser for school garden and nutrition programs two years ago. Currently, it supplies hundreds of Los Angeles area residents with local, organically grown food by way of dozens of pick-up locations around the city and a more flexible program for share-holders that allows members to obtain organic produce on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. The CSA also offers gardening classes, as well as shares weekly recipes and a newsletter informing members of issues affecting the community. Members can meet many of the participating farmers at various markets around Los Angeles.
The best part is that CSA California has not forgotten its original mission of charity. For every bag sold, $2 goes to benefit local schools. Linwood Howe Elementary is one such beneficiary. According to a testimonial on CSA California’s website, officials there use the proceeds in the following ways:
To maintain and enhance the Kindergarten Garden including purchasing plants and supplies to support the Kindergarten Gardening Project. (The Kindergarten Gardening Project is a rotating planting project done by the Kindergarten children to learn about seed germinating, planting, and growing vegetables).
To maintain several raised gardening beds enjoyed by the entire school to promote soil science and earth-to-table concepts.
The mission of CSA California is to re-connect the community to its agriculture and spread the principles of holistic health and wellness through sustainable individualism. Co-founder Sara Paul has made it her goal to provide the children of our future with the “skills and knowledge they need to live off the abundance of the land.” Its people and programs like this that make California a leader in the national food policy reform movement.