When describing our farm shares and how Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) works, we are asked this question all the time: “Is that like Bountiful Baskets?” Well, yes and no. There are similarities and differences between the two methods of getting food to eaters, so we’re taking the time to clarify some of those.
For starters, CSA shares are similar to BB in that eaters receive a ‘basket’ of veggies for the week they ‘subscribe’. Both of these models rely on community involvement in some fashion, and both want to promote healthy communities.
What makes CSA distinct from BB, however, is the original source of the food. BB states on their website that “it’s the same food you get in the grocery store”. Most CSAs distribute the food that they themselves grow, or sometimes food that they source locally and distribute cooperatively with other farms. Almost all of the food that Groundworks Farm distributes is grow by us at this point. (We had a few local apples in the CSA share last year.) Because the food is grown locally, it doesn’t have to travel from other regions and is, therefore, fresh.
From what I understand, BB distributes this food to pick up points where it is the responsibility of volunteers (BB patrons) to package and hand out the baskets of food. This is the community involvement side of the agreement. What does the “community” in CSA translate to? It communicates a mutual understanding between farmer and eater that for the duration of the growing season, each will commit to either providing or purchasing farm produce. Eaters understand where their food is coming from, how it is grown, and that they play an important role in the operation of the farm. The farmer understands that they need to provide each ‘member’ with a share of the harvest, with the goal and incentive to provide the absolute freshest and best share they can. Now, in farming, there is always risk. In the CSA model each party also understands that it’s more that just a consumer relationship, it’s a supportive role and some weeks and seasons may be better than others. In the end, what the community receives is more than their, weekly ‘basket’ of food, but supporting an element of agriculture and local economy that benefits their neighbors as well.
Obviously, as a CSA operator, I have much more knowledge and experience with how this model works, and a great passion for seeing it succeed. Hopefully though, this note might communicate how uniquely special CSA is, even though it shares some similarities with BB. How to decide which is a better fit for your family? Maybe both! Twenty weeks of fresh homegrown produce through the growing season, with Bountiful Baskets to get through the winter (: