On behalf of the Foodies:
How community supported agriculture works.
As an avid foodie, I support community supported agriculture. Most other avid foodies do as well. We do not bargain hunt like typical Wal-Mart shoppers. We look for the best food, and we want the best food to be sustainable agriculture. Community supported agriculture represents the partnership between the foodie community and the farmer to ensure the future of sustainable food. The community invests in the farmer.
Community supported agriculture represents a long-term investment. Every season, community members make an investment. When there is bounty, the farmer shares it with the community. In investment lingo, the community receives a “return” on their investment. But like all investments, nothing is guaranteed. The stock market is not always generous. Neither is nature. But community investors recognize that this is an inherent risk of investing, and the community gladly shares the risk of poor crop yields with the farmer.
The community takes this risk for several reasons. First, the community trusts the farmer. The community trusts that although one season is disappointing, over the long run, the farmer will make up for the loss of lousy seasons. Second, the community wants this relationship to work. We do not want to lose out to monoculture. Eating the same cavendish banana at the grocery store day after day gets boring. Discovering new fruits and the vegetables at the farmer’s market is exciting. I only discovered kohlrabi a few years ago. I am still amazed on what an underutilized vegetable this is. Finally, the community and the farmer are on the same team to fight for the future of sustainable farming.
It is precisely because we are on the same team that we need a written community supported agriculture agreement. The written contract is our game plan. It ensures that we have the same expectations, that we all understand the risk involved, and that we agree that everyone will share the risk. Written contracts help us foodies understand that we are major players in the local food movement, not just fans. Written contracts recognize the contributions of the community in ensuring the future of small farms.
A written contract that informs the customer that they are sharing business risks with you isn’t just a legal formality-it’s honest business. If a CSA member knows the impact their contribution is having on the sustainability of the farm, they will want to contribute and share the risk. To be sure CSA members are well informed, they should be advised, in writing, that they may not receive food in the event of crop failure. The written agreement represents community supported agriculture at its best.
Community supported agriculture constitutes more than an investment in you. It also is an important risk management tool. Insurance for diversified farming can be prohibitively expensive. With written community supported agriculture agreements, customers learn what they are getting themselves into, and you get peace of mind that even in a bad year, your community is supporting you.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not actually represent all foodies.