Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What is a "CSA"?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a system in which farmers offer shares (or weekly subscriptions) of their harvest – allowing CSA members to sample the season while helping to minimize farmers’ risks by paying up-front for the harvest. The farmer and CSA member are partners in a dynamic relationship: They share risks (of a crop failure, for example) and rewards of a fruitful farmer-consumer relationship.

The CSA model has been around and evolving for many years. One of the innovators behind the concept of CSA was Booker T. Whatley, a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In the 1960s and 1970s he advocated for a “Clientele Membership Club” in which people, mostly urban dwellers, paid an annual membership fee to “buy into” a local farm growing fresh produce. In a 1982 interview published in Mother Earth News, Whatley said that this system “enables the farmer to plan production, anticipate demand, and of course, have a guaranteed market.” He also emphasized the importance of creating an ongoing connection with customers, including sharing picking schedules and farm activities through newsletters, for example. Most CSA farms still do this today! Other sources of inspiration for the CSA model include the Teikei system in Japan and collective agriculture in Chile.

Today, many CSAs feature vegetables and fruits, while others offer meat, dairy, eggs, grains and more. Each CSA is a little different. MOFGA is proud to work closely with many certified organic farms that run CSA programs!

How CSAs work

CSA members pay for “shares” at the beginning of the season, either in full or in payments.
This funding helps the farmer pay early expenses, such as seeds, labor, and soil amendments.
During the season, the farmer harvests the food when it is ready.
CSA members pick up their share (usually weekly) at the farm or other pick-up site.

How to Find a MOFGA Certified Organic CSA Near You

MOFGA Certification Services maintains a publicly accessible database of all of its certified organic farms, including ones that offer CSA models in their marketing plans.
To search this database and find a CSA farm near you, go to MOFGA’s Certifications Find Organic Products Directory.
Select what county you live in, then type “CSA” into the Keyword box. Hit the “Search Database” button, and the page will re-set with the list of farms in your county that have CSA programs – scroll down the page to find their names, contacts, products, etc.

The Maine Harvest Bucks Program on Maine farms with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs

What is the Maine Harvest Bucks program?
This program helps SNAP/EBT shoppers stretch their food budgets by offering them “bonus” local fruits and vegetables. Shoppers receive $1 in Maine Harvest Bucks (to be spent on local fruits and vegetables) for every $1 they spend on local food using their SNAP/EBT card at participating farms, markets and stores. This allows these customers to access more healthy food while also supporting local farmers.

MOFGA manages this program on farms that offer CSAs, and partner organizations coordinate the Maine Harvest Bucks program at farmers’ markets, mobile markets and farm stands, as well as at local retail outlets, where the program is called Farm Fresh Rewards.

How does the Maine Harvest Bucks program work with CSAs?
Shoppers who sign up for a CSA share at a participating local farm and pay with SNAP/EBT receive a half-priced CSA share. The customer pays half the cost of the share in regular installments (monthly or weekly, depending on the arrangement with the farmer) and the other half of the share cost is paid to the farmer using grant funds.

Do you receive SNAP benefits and want to sign up for a CSA share? You can find a list of participating farms here.

Are you a farmer who is interested in participating? Please contact Madi Whaley at [email protected].

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