Creating Steuben County CSAs
Lisa Chacon, Project Coordinator
Create a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization in Steuben
County to support local, organic farmers and facilitate the distribution
of their products to local consumers.
With petroleum and natural gas prices on the rise, the cost of food produced
by conventional agricultural practices is expected to increase in tandem.
This is due to the large quantities of fertilizer, pesticide and heavy
equipment used in the growing, as well as any processing and finally transportation
from the farm to the supermarket. This is especially a concern because
food in the US is shipped an average of 1,300 miles from its source to
By creating local networks of organic farmers and committed consumers,
we can create a more sustainable and secure food supply which uses fewer
fossil fuels, reduces pollution, and is more healthful, preserves the
land, and enriches local communities and economies.
This program will allow farmers to focus their efforts on growing food
and improving their yields, while freeing them from the stress of marketing
their products at scattered farmer’s markets. Having shares paid at the
beginning of the growing season will provide them with financial stability
at the beginning of the growing season, when it is most needed.
An extensive CSA website can be found at the USDA Alternative Farming
Systems Information Center. Here is their description of the concept:
“CSA is a relationship of mutual support and commitment between local
farmers and community members who pay the farmer an annual membership
fee to cover the production costs of the farm. In turn, members receive
a weekly share of the harvest during the local growing season. The arrangement
guarantees the farmer financial support and enables many small- to moderate-scale
organic family farms to remain in business. Ultimately, CSA creates "agriculture-supported
communities" where members receive a wide variety of foods harvested at
their peak of ripeness, flavor and vitamin and mineral content.
The goals of CSA support a sustainable agriculture system which . . .
- provides farmers with direct outlets for farm products and ensures
- encourages proper land stewardship by supporting farmers in transition
toward low or no chemical inputs
- strengthens local economies by keeping food dollars in local communities
- directly links producers with consumers allowing people to have a personal
connection with their food and the land on which it was produced
- makes nutritious, affordable, wholesome foods accessible and widely
available to community members.
There are many kinds of CSA. All include payment in advance at an agreed
upon price. In some, members of the community purchase a "share" of the
anticipated harvest, while in others they sign up for a predetermined
amount of produce over the course of the season. In most cases, this commitment
implies a willingness to share with the farmer both the bounty from the
land and at least some of the risks involved with production.
In return for fair and guaranteed compensation, consumers receive a variety
of freshly picked, (usually organic) vegetables grown and distributed
in an economically viable and ecologically responsible manner. Some farms
also offer fruit, herbs, flowers and other products. In this way, farmers
and members become partners in the production, distribution and consumption
of locally grown food.
One fact also to consider, organic food produced with local communities
is not the same as organic food transported over long distances. When
members obtain food from local farmers, environmental costs associated
with the transport, processing and distribution of organic food and the
consumption of fossil fuels are significantly reduced. Considering that
the organic food available to members was produced locally rather than
transported over long distances, the cost to the environment is significantly
1. Hold an initial, exploratory meeting of farmers, Steuben Greens, volunteers,
2. a. Assemble steering committee and working groups
b. Define roles and responsibilities
c. Set meeting timetable
3. Define CSA operating structure, principles and procedures (11/04-1/05)
a. Conduct research to understand common CSA practices
b. Select desired options.
4. Seek funding (11/04-12/04)
a. Assemble preliminary budget
b. Seek grants for start up and operation of Steuben-CSA
c. Seek grants for Steuben-CSA farmers
i. SARE Farmer/Grower grants to test new crops, practices and systems
through on-site experiments and share the results with other farmers.
Average grant: $5,200 (10,000 cap). Application deadline 12/7/04
ii. Partnership Grants are awarded for on-farm research and demonstration
projects developed by agricultural professionals who work directly with
farmers. Grants are capped at $10,000. 2005 Partnership Grant applications
are due November 30, 2004.
5. Identify, contact and recruit local organic farmers (12/04-1/05)
a. Assemble a list of participating farmers and products
b. Work with farmers to determine the cost and structure of their shares.
6. Prepare a brochure and catalog of products and share prices (2/05)
7. Community Education (3/05)
a. Raise awareness of the benefits of CSA within farming communities
and area towns and cities
b. Educational forum on peak fossil fuels and food security
8. Advertise and build subscriber base (3/05)
a. Direct advertising to Corning co-op, local listservs and word-of-mouth
b. Print, radio
9. Identify exchange location(s) and communicate with subscribers (4/05)
10. Distribution (5/05-10/05?)
11. Harvest Festival! (10/05)
a. USDA Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/
b. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) http://www.sare.org/index.htm
c. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) http://www.attra.org/,
d. Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources http://www.csacenter.org/
e. Cornell Cooperative Extension http://www.cce.cornell.edu/
a. Sharing the Harvest by Elizabeth Henderson with Robyn Van En.
This manual provides an overview and step-by-step description of CSA,including
history, philosophy, how to start and operate a CSA, management and production
issues, sample documents from working CSA farms, description of pitfalls,
outlook for the future, and extensive resource and materials list. Chelsea
Green. 1999, $25.
b. The NEW Farmers’ Market by Vance Corum, Marcie Rosenzweig & Eric Gibson
Farmfresh ideas for producers, managers, communities and CSAs interested
in expanding their marketing possibilities.
New World Publishing. 2001. $25.