Ask Dan: Why We’re Not a CSA

By September 16, 2010Ask Dan

According to Wikipedia, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),  “is a socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution.  A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit….”.  Sounds pretty close to the Terra Organics business model, right?  The difference, and the reason we’ve never used the term CSA to describe what it is that we do, is that we are an intermediary between several farming operations – even though we do have a farm operation of our own – and that the definitive aspect of a CSA is the shared risks and benefits.

For instance, this year our farm has no corn.  We planted close to an acre at the end of May, a typically reliable time of the year to plant corn.  Then the cold and wet weather of June came, and all of the corn seed rotted in the field.  We tried a smaller, later planting, but it’s not looking good.  So this year our Tahoma Farms CSA subscribers won’t see any corn (which we feel really bad about).

But this is only one type of risk that is associated with a traditional CSA.  Another is where an entire growing season is adversely impacted, and all of the crops are affected by weather, disease, pests, etc.  Under that scenario, the CSA members would actually lose (at least a portion of ) their investment for the year in the form of a reduction in the quantity of food available.

Our decision back in 2004 was that we would trade some of the uncertainties and risks of farming – and, in turn, reduce some of the risk for our subscribers as well – for a guaranteed “harvest”, a year-round source of income and a more flexible program that we thought would appeal to more individuals and families.  We review these assumptions from time to time and adjust our policies and practices to make sure our farm and distribution business is meeting your needs and our own.  (And we do have some changes that we will be implementing over the next 3 to 6 months, all of which are intended to increase the viability of our operation and your overall experience.)

But we think you should know that the most important reason for our existence, the reason all of us come to work every day to grow and distribute food, is that we are serving a community of individuals (you) and that you are supporting a farming operation (Tahoma Farms), and that is the real definition of community supported agriculture.

So… we hope you find a way to enjoy our farm’s tomatillos this week; we hope you also enjoy the corn that was grown by another farming operation in Lynden, WA; and we sincerely hope that you’ll come out to see us at HarvestFest 2010, October 2nd, at the farm.


All of us at Terra Organics and Tahoma Farms

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