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November 19, 2008

Grow local, eat local – the power of food

Food plays such a fundamental part in our lives. In recent years the global market has transformed where our food comes from, how it is manufactured and processed and where we buy it. The growth of local food networks is being seen as an alternative to the global model and a response to the basic need we have for a closer connection with what we eat. One type of local food network which is on the increase is known as Community Supported Agriculture


What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

CSAs are only one method of distributing local food, and integrate with other local circumstances. Typically many CSA farmers will also sell extra produce at farmers’ markets or to local shops. CSAs are also part of a wider range of community food and diet activities which include healthy eating campaigns, food access projects for health risk groups and low income families; school food growing projects; community gardens, etc.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new form of direct marketing of food, enabling small farms to remain in business through supplying a range of fresh produce to local households. The ‘member’ families commit to take a ‘share’ of the food produced on ‘their’ farm and to meet the real costs of having their food grown for them. The exact nature of CSAs depend on local individuals and conditions.


A number of models are possible including:

• Producer-led

A farmer grows one or more crops, and markets them to the members.
An example in the Highlands & Islands is Wester Lawrenceton Farm

• Consumer-led

A group of people find land, and employ a farmer to grow for them.
An example in the Highlands& Islands is Earthshare

• Network CSA

Several small producers get together to supply a range of produce.
An example in the Highlands & Islands is the Skye and Lochalsh Horticultural Development Association


The CSA model lends itself to any number of products – indeed anything that is produced locally. Vegetable and fruit are the most common, but CSAs also exist for meat, eggs, dairy products, processed foods, firewood etc. The demand exists for locally reared meat, but regulations on butchering and the relatively few rural abattoirs have made it much more difficult to link producer and consumer directly.

Participation in CSAs

Some CSAs encourage members to help, e.g. with weeding or administration or distribution, in return for discounts. Some have special events, such as Harvest Day Celebrations. In most CSAs, the members have some say in what is grown. Many have educational materials as well, e.g. regular newsletters or recipes.

Production Methods

In some CSAs, the producer chooses, while in others the methods are open to negotiation. Some CSAs are organic, while others use organic techniques but without certification, and rely on trust without regulation.


This depends entirely on local circumstances. Some CSAs require members to come to the farm, while others link to box schemes or rely on a limited number of pick up points.


On most CSAs the costs are agreed at the beginning of the year, so both consumer and producer know what to expect. Usually the consumers will pay in advance, or at stated regular intervals by standing order.