The pre-history of the CSA is not well documented but according to journalist, Steven McFadden, it came from Europe and the biodynamic agricultural tradition. The ideas were formed from Austrian Philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). They crossed the Atlantic and came to life simultaneously but independently in 1986 at both Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts and Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, the first American CSAs.
Indian Line Farm
Indian Line Farm started with Robyn Van En and Jan Vander Tuin who brought the concept from Europe in 1984. One of the ideas was to produce locally what is consumed locally.
They began to see CSA as a way to bring key ideas together. Robyn Van En founded CSA North America (CSANA), a non-profit clearinghouse to support CSA development.
Robyn Van En
In 1997 at age 49, Robyn died of an asthma attack. After her death, her son was forced to sell the farm. But with the help of the Schumacher Society they partnered with a community land trust and The Nature Conservancy to buy Indian Line Farm in 1999. The partnership serves as a model for other CSAs.
The Temple-Wilton Community Farm
Anthony Graham was among the founders of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm, along with Trauger Groh and Lincoln Geiger. Trauger had just moved to New Hampshire from Germany and he and others started making plans for a CSA. The inspiration for the farm came from Trauger and what he knew from Germany.
Lincoln Greiger, Anthony Graham & Trauger Groh
Today, the Temple-Wilton Farm has found a permanent home on good land having received funding from state, federal and local sources
Reflecting on the start of CSA in America 21 years ago, Trauger said, “As with all great ideas, the idea of CSA had arrived. It just needed to emerge and develop. There is now a base for other people to carry forward.”
In 1990 there were approximately 60 CSAs in the U.S. In 2004 there were around 1700. Clearly, it is a movement that is growing. There is a strong potential for the number of CSAs to triple or quadruple over the next few years and also raise the importance of these farms in their communities.
Meanwhile, the United States is drastically cutting back on spending for sustainable agriculture and has no clearly defined strategy for steering us toward a sustainable future.
Rural America as we know it, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. There is a real, volatile sense of urgency in the countryside.
With tightening federal and state budgets, the government may not be in a position to help. But CSA does not need the government or outside funding. All it requires is good land, a good farmer and a community willing to care for the land so it can feed them.
After 18 years, CSA has proven itself. People know for a fact that they are worthwhile. There is a tremendous potential. CSA can play a substantial part in a sustainable future. Thousands of environmental cities, suburbs and countryside can be established and can connect people who make up these communities in a healthy way.
As we know from its beginnings, CSA is not just a clever, new approach to marketing. Community farming is about the necessary renewal of agriculture through its healthy connection with the human community that depends upon farming for survival.