A farmshare is another term for CSA—Community Supported Agriculture, which is a relationship-based alternative for farmers to sell and consumers to buy local food.
CSA shareholders (also called members) provide the farmer with payment at the beginning of the season, and in exchange, the farmer provides its shareholders with a share of the harvest over the course of the growing season.
As a CSA member, your investment in a local farm allows you to:
Paying ahead for your share benefits the farm directly—not only because it guarantees sales for the season, but also because it provides a source of income when farmers need it most to get ready for the coming season.
Most CSAs offer vegetables, but other types of CSAs are becoming more common (meat, bread, fish, etc.). Many vegetable CSAs also offer “add-on” options of other products (eggs, fruit, honey, etc).
CSAs began around the same time in Germany, Switzerland and Japan as a consumer-driven approach to food production that addressed concerns regarding food security and the urbanization of agricultural land.
During the 1960s, groups of consumers and farmers in Europe joined forces to cooperatively own and fund farming operations that were both healthy for the environment and socially equitable. In Japan, a similar movement occurred. A group of mothers, concerned about rising prices of imported food and the loss of arable land, formed CSA projects called “Teikei,” which translates to “seeing the farmer’s face on the vegetables.”
In the 1980s the CSA model entered the North American market. Two farms started offering CSA programs in the northeastern United States, and the idea has since spread across the continent. Robyn Van En, one of the Americans credited with introducing the concept, described CSAs as a simple equation with great potential: “food producers + food consumers + annual commitment to one another = CSA + untold possibilities.”
Although CSAs have existed for more than 20 years in North America, it was not until recently that the concept caught on in Atlantic Canada. Over the last five years, more than 40 CSAs have been created in the region, bringing the total number close to eighty.
You can read more about CSAs in the region in ACORN’s CSA Trend Report, which is based on three years of ACORN's annual efforts in surveying CSA producers and members (2010–2012).
"The best part of being a CSA member is meeting with the people who produce the food face-to-face, and not having to step foot in a supermarket to buy produce. I like that I know where my food is coming from...and I'm challenged to find new ways to use vegetables that I may not have cooked with before."
"I love getting our box each week and then getting to figure out how I can turn it into appropriate meals for us. We eat way healthier this way and we eat things that we otherwise never would have!"
"I never thought I would hear a 9-year-old say, 'Yes, brussel sprouts with squash sauce!' They know where their food comes from and they really feel like they are a part of it."