Agrarian Commons: Community-Supported Agriculture's Role in Recovery



Among the cascade of changes the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed is a wave of interest in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In a time of insecurity, people like knowing where their food comes from. It's basic.

National Public Radio (NPR) caught wind of the phenomenon and headlined its story, As Food Supply Chain Breaks Down, Farm-To-Door CSAs Take Off. Civil Eats chimed in to report that people are signing up for CSAs in record numbers, and that community food coops are thriving. Meanwhile, in addition to the fresh wave of people joining existing CSAs, some small- and mid-sized farms are attempting to reckon with the economic blow of the pandemic, and the consequent loss of their usual markets in restaurants and schools, by starting up CSAs.

Even the USDA is jumping in with a box scheme. They're doling out $1.2 billion of our tax dollars in contracts for the Farmers-to-Families Food Box Program. The idea is to use web-based management systems to connect meat, dairy, and produce from farms with the multitude of families facing food insecurity. Let's call this GSA, Government Supported Agriculture. Because contracts for this program are already being given to some to dubious corporations, let us hope the program is not infested with epic corruption. It has that potential.

With this wave of interest and energy pouring to into CSA and various food-box schemes, questions arise. Where will the energy go? Will new CSAs follow a business model as many people advocate? With the desperate poverty and hunger now afflicting the nation and the world, that emphasis could become more challenging than usual.

Or will CSAs continue to develop as a range of creative community models? Will CSAs draw in, employ, and maintain the support of local communities so the farm keeps going even as the world turns upside down? Many people are now beginning to recognize the imperative value CSA farms can have in an era of global sickness, economic calamity, and climate catastrophe.

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