Our Farm CSA
For 11 years, the International Institute ran a Community Supported Agriculuture Program call "OUR FARM" in Woodside, CA. Our Farm was a collaboration between eaters and farmers in which the farmers raised produce for a limited number of eaters (sharers) at a fixed price, rather than for the general market. The sharers received the farm's produce, at or near the cost of production, throughout the year. There were no middlemen between farmer and consumer.
Our Farm was a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project of the non-profit International Institute for Ecological Agriculture. Unfortunately, Our Farm is not in operation any longer. We lost our lease in 2001. We are currently looking for new land. In the meantime, the information about CSAs in general may be interesting to you.
CSAs are a collaboration between eaters and farmers in which the farmers raise produce for a limited number of eaters (shares) at a fixed price rather than at the general market price. The share owners receive the farm's produce at or near the cost of production, throughout the year. There are no middlemen and no extra costs between farmer and consumer.
Consumers share both the bounty and the risk with the farmer. For instance three years ago, winter floods drove the price of lettuce up to $2.50 per head in the markets. But Our Farm's share owners paid not a penny extra for their "green gold." As a balance, though, a few of Our Farm's other crops did drown in the deluge, so a few weeks were pretty slim.
The farmers work closely with the share owners to tailor production to the requests of the share owners. The kinds of vegetables grown are often heirloom varieties prized for their flavor and nutritional value, rather than shipping quality and shelf life. When a share owner wants more broccoli than might be considered average, they'll get it. Are the share owner's family members big salad eaters who want to receive their salad as a mix? How about herbs; lots of oregano or more basil? Does a share owner want to have seeds from her aunt in India grown out? The farmers try to accommodate as many wishes as they can.
CSA-style farming has been practiced for a long time in Europe and Japan but is relatively new in the US. The first American CSA was established in 1989 and in the last few years the number has grown to over 1500! CSAs are now considered one of the prime methods to save the family farm. Here is more information about CSAs.