Buying shares is no longer just a term for the national stock exchange, and food-purchasing contracts are one of Clark County’s popular new trends in household grocery buying.
A growing number of farmers and householders in Southwest Washington, as in communities throughout North America, Europe and Japan, are entering into yearly food harvest contracts. For a contracted sum of money, the farmer supplies households in his network with a percentage of his weekly harvests throughout the growing season. Instead of just hoping to sell their produce at a roadside stand or at a farmers’ market, many farmers are organizing sales through Community Supported Agriculture, better known as CSA’s.
A CSA is a group of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation in exchange for a share of the farm’s food production. Shareholders typically pledge support in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm’s operation for the year, and in return, they receive shares of the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season. Most CSA’s offer a diversity of vegetables, fruits and herbs, with some also offering shares in eggs, meat or dairy products. According to the USDA, the concept of community-supported agriculture, or “subscription farming”, began in Switzerland in the 1960’s, and by 1993, the United States had 400 member CSA’s.
According to Southwest Washington’s SWWA CSA Farms website 16 subscription farms in Clark County have shares to offer interested individuals for the 2012 growing season.