Community Supported Agriculture


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks, and benefits of agriculture are shared. 

The origin of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) came from Japan in the late 1960s, but the same ideas “were articulated in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), and then actively cultivated in post-WW II Europe in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.” 

“The modern CSA originated in Japan. In 1971, Teruo Ichiraku (1906–1994), a philosopher and a leader of agricultural cooperatives, alerted consumers to the dangers of the chemicals used in agriculture and set off the movement for an organic agriculture. Three years later, concerned housewives joined with farmers to form the first Teikei projects. That same year, Yoshinori Kaneko realized that his family farm, besides providing for the subsistence of his own family, could also supply other people. He calculated that the farm produced enough rice for ten more families. To recruit local housewives, he invited them to join a reading circle, where they discussed such themes as ‘Oneness of Body and Environment’, the value of whole foods, and the healthfulness of the traditional Japanese diet.” 

These women created the ‘Teikei’ group – Teikei means “cooperation” in Japanese. 

CSA includes two essential aspects: food sovereignty and the solidarity economy. CSA engages consumers with producers, the sharing of risks and benefits, and an agroecological model of localized production and consumption. The solidarity economy is one of the pillars of CSA in terms of systemic economic change. 

In a traditional CSA model: 

  • members share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmer; they pay a fee each year and in return receive regular distributions of the company's products throughout the season. 
  • with these fees, farmers receive upfront working capital, gain financial security, earn better crop prices and benefit from the direct marketing plan. 

CSA and sustainability are strongly connected to each other, the members follow the principles of agroecology, farmers respect agricultural production cycles, risks and benefits are equally shared, the community guarantees support to both producers and consumers, with mutual assistance. 

In Italy, the CSA model has inspired the creation of Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (GAS) - Solidarity Purchasing Groups. GAS have very often a strong collaboration with Worldshop – proximity shops, in which farmers’ products are sold in the same shops where customers can find fashion products of fair trade.  

In Italy, the GAS network developed very rapidly between 1994 and 2004, and continues to grow, currently consisting of about 1000 groups, with other GAS not officially registered. 

GASs are very close to the common definition of CSA, they are associations or cooperatives that select producers and products to offer to consumers through a specific network (such as an online platform or through proximity stores). GAS members organize the logistics for order-taking and distribution, which usually takes place once a week or a month depending on the consumer community. GAS guarantees prices and product quality. 

“The core vision of GAS refers to the principles of solidarity, mutuality and sustainability. The financial support is reflected in fixing fair prices (that meet both the farmers’ needs and are affordable for the consumers) and, in many cases, in various forms of advance payments and funding. In the last two decades, GAS has contributed to the spread of a different approach in the production–consumption relationship.”

“Italian CSA and GAS do not have an umbrella organisation, but there are synergies with the local networks (i.e. inter-GAS), or with other local actors within the solidarity economy movement, for example Distretto di Economia Solidale (DES – District of Solidarity Economy) or Rete di Economia Solidale (RES – Network of Solidarity Economy). All DES have converged in a national structure called Tavolo RES Italia (Italian network of solidarity economy). There are 14 DES registered and more than 20 networks that are formally linked to Tavolo Res and its charter”