Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What is CSA?
CSAs are partnerships of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters that provide a direct link between the production and consumption of food. Supporters usually cover a farm’s yearly operating budget by purchasing a share of the season’s harvest and in some cases they assist with the farm work. In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce. (see IFOAM position paper on full diversity of OA)

URGENCI, the International Network of Community Supported Agriculture, describes CSA as follows: “Local solidarity-based partnerships between farmers and the people they feed are, in essence, a member-farmer cooperative, whoever initiates it and whatever legal form it takes. There is no fixed way of organising these partnerships, it is a framework to inspire communities to work together with their local farmers, provide mutual benefits and reconnect people to the land where their food is grown." (URGENCI)

Four Fundamental Ideas of CSA

  1. Partnership: This partnership is characterised by a mutual commitment to supply (by the peasants) and up-take (by the consumers) of the food produced during each season.
  2. Local: this means promoting local exchange. Local Solidarity-based Partnership between Producers and Consumers are part of an active approach to relocalising the economy.
  3. Solidarity: partnerships are based on solidarity between actors and involves: - Sharing both the risks and the benefits of healthy production that is adapted to the natural rhythm of the seasons and is respectful of the environment, natural and cultural heritage and health.
    1. Paying a sufficient fair price up-front to enable peasants and their families to live in a dignified manner.
  4. The Producer/Consumer Tandem: is based on direct person-to-person contact and trust, with no intermediaries or hierarchy and no subordination. (URGENCI

CSA Around the World
Community Supported Agriculture first developed in Japan and Switzerland in the 1970s. In the 1980s the idea became popular in the USA and also spread to several countries within Europe. Since the turn of the millennium CSA has received particularly great attention and is experiencing considerable growth in many countries around the world. In 2008, URGENCI – The International Network of Community Supported Agriculture was formed. URGENCI is the leading organization for networking and promotion of CSA worldwide.  

While CSA is the most common expression, the model has many different names in different languages. Visit the pages of the initiatives in the different countries to learn more about them:

  • AMAP (Association pour le Maintien de l’Agriculture Paysanne): France
  • ASC (Agriculture Soutenue par la Communauté): Québec/Canada
  • Asociația pentru Susținerea Agriculturii Țărănești (ASAT): Romania
  • Съпричастно земеделие: Bulgaria
  • CSA (Community Supported/Sponsored Agriculture): USA + UK
  • FRACP (Fédération romande d'agriculture contractuelle de proximité): Switzerland
  • GASAP (Groupes d'achat solidaire de l'Agriculture paysanne): Belgium
  • GAS (Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale): Italy
  • Grupa solidarne razmjene (GSR): Croatia
  • Reciproco: Portugal
  • Socio-Ecological Agriculture: China
  • Solidarische Landwirtschaft: Germany
  • TEIKEI: Japan

Contacts & Links:

Online Resources:

  1. European Handbook on CSA
  2. Soil Association Action Manual for CSA

Book Recommendations:

  1. Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to Community-Supported Agriculture. Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn VanEn.
  2. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A Farmers Manual. How to start up and run a CSA. Matthew Hayes, Milánkovics Kinga.

Other Short Supply Chain Models
Apart from CSA there are many other distribution models that are characterized by short distances between production and consumption. The most prominent ones are box schemes, cooperatives (COOPS), farmers markets and direct marketing.

IFOAM recognizes organic agriculture in its full diversity. This includes various distribution models for organic products. (See IFOAM position on the full diversity of OA) Direct farmer-consumer relationships, like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and other short supply chain distribution models offer possibilities, especially for small-scale farmers, and can support the development of local organic markets.

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