What is a CSA?


Maybe you’ve heard people throwing this acronym around and wondered what on earth is a CSA? Carrot Soup Association? Canadian Space Agency? Not quite...CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is simple; you, the consumer, pay a bulk fee upfront and in exchange you get a weekly, or sometimes bi-weekly, share with produce of the farmer’s choosing throughout the season.

Your upfront investment (think pay-it-forward) provides much needed capital to the farmer at the beginning of their season where there is generally the highest investment in terms of input and also generally no income. Community members support agriculture by sharing and spreading the risk. You literally provide the “seed money” for your food.

The Roots of the Term “CSA”

The term CSA was born in the northeastern United States in the 1980’s when Jan Vader Tuin and Trauger Groh brought “biodynamic farming” to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Biodynamic farming, a European model developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th Century, stems from the idea that all living things are dependent upon one another.

Through this model of agriculture, Tuin and Groh began farming a diverse variety of crops and leaned on their communities to support that growth. The original goal of the CSA model was to bring producers and consumers together to make an equitable and fair exchange. Your money and support for their hard work and responsible stewardship of the land.

Did you know that much of the food that ends up on our plates has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get there? That is a lot a fossil fuel used just for your dinner. In fact, it takes about 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce and transport 1 calorie of food in the average American diet. Not to mention the ethical issues surrounding how so much of that food has been produced and transported.

CSAs are not only an excellent way to build connections with the place you live, the seasons and the people, it is also the best way to ensure that you are participating in an environmentally and ethically just food system. Your farmer needs financial support at the beginning of the season and you need food all season long. It’s a match made in very fertile soil.

Finding a CSA That’s Right For You

There are now many variations to the traditional CSA model. Sometimes it means you “pay-it-forward”, other times you pay each week. Sometimes your share is just produce, other times it’s a mix of produce and other value-added goods. There are many CSAs that now include bread, eggs, meat or preserved goods as part of the share. There is even aCSP (Community Supported Permaculture) in Tucson from Bean Tree Farm where participants buy-in to receive small-batch, solar-cooked sauces, ferments, chutneys, syrups, and more throughout the season.

While there is no one definitive way to CSA, one thing is for sure: CSAs are a direct connection to your food and the people who grow, harvest, and produce it.  

There are many CSAs throughout Arizona, some of which even allow you to pay with DoubleUp Food Bucks and SNAP benefits. Others, like Crooked Sky Farms in Phoenix, accept weekly payments in lieu of an up-front sum in order to make fresh produce more accessible to everyone. The seasons vary in length and when they begin and end, but with more than 30 CSAs listed on Good Food Finder AZ, you are sure to find one close to you. Here are just a few:

Southern AZ

  • Rattlebox Farm- a 4.5 acre family farm that raises organically grown vegetables, flowers, and melons. Farmers Dana and Paul offer a 9 month long CSA program with both weekly and bi-weekly shares available.

  • Tucson CSA- Members can sign up for 6 or 12 pickups at a time, and they pick up their produce once a week in the courtyard of The Historic Y, half a mile west of the University of Arizona campus. Members can also add on cheese, bread, sprout, and meat to their weekly pick-up.

Phoenix Metro

  • Maya’s Farm- a small family farm run by Maya herself, offering two 12 week CSA seasons per year. There are multiple pick-up days and locations making accessing local and sustainable produce even easier.

  • Recycled City- offers an organically grown farm box delivered straight to your door, and can coincide with your home food scrap pick-up! Start anytime!

Northern Arizona

  • Whipstone Farm- a 15-acre vegetable and flower farm offering a 27 week CSA shares for both vegetables and flowers.

  • Verde Valley CSA- an aggregation of produce and flowers from a few area farms with optional flower and egg shares available at an additional cost.

  • Flagstaff CSA & Local Market- located right in the heart of downtown Flagstaff, participants buy-in for a 20 week share picked up in the store where eggs, bread, tortillas, preserved goods, and coffee can be added on.

  • Flagstaff EcoRanch- run by students, this is a collaborative CSA between Flagstaff EcoRanch, Tree A’Lolly Farms, and WIC. Shares run $250 for a twenty week period.

  • The Sassy Lass Market Garden- a pay-as-you-go style CSA. Shares are $25 dollars per week.

  • YC Grown- an aggregated assortment of produce from certified area growers in Yavapai County offering weekly $25 full and $15 half shares.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are so many more wonderful farms for you to support throughout Arizona. Be sure to check out all the CSAs listed on Good Food Finder and find one near you today! If you are member of another CSA that you don’t see listed, please email us at goodfoodfinder@localfirstaz.com so we can help connect others to them.