CSA Is Rooted in Black History


We Cannot Grow Without Our Roots

The introduction of the Community Supported Agriculture concept - which has resulted in over 12,000 wildly popular CSA farms across the country today - is most often credited to European or Japanese models that were first adopted by farms in the U.S. in 1986. But, as with many dynamics of history, there is an overlooked story that tells us the credit belongs to someone else.

As early as the 1960s and 1970s, deep in the heart of Alabama, the concept of community supported agriculture was developing as the brainchild of a pioneer of sustainable agriculture who was raised on his family's farm and was passionately advocating for what he called "smaller and smarter" farming.

Booker T Whatley

Booker T. Whatley, born in 1915 in Anniston, Alabama, always knew his passion was in agriculture. Growing up on the farm as the oldest of twelve, he was raised during a time when black farmers were nearly one million strong. Whatley watched first hand as the number of black farms began to decline and family farms struggled to compete with the industrialization of agriculture. He decided to study agriculture at Alabama A&M University and, after serving in the Korean War where he was assigned to manage a 55-acre hydroponic farm providing food to the troops, he returned to get his doctorate in horticulture and began his career as an agricultural professor at Tuskegee University.  Dr. Whatley's legacy was his advocacy for regenerative farming, a sustainable and organic farming method that focuses on regenerating soil and maximizing biodiversity, and is a method that can be traced back to another Tuskegee legend, Dr. George Washington Carver. But Dr. Whatley also strongly believed in regenerating farmer livelihoods through direct marketing, and he began advocating for Pick Your Own farms and what he called Clientele Membership Clubs.

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