Thriving in many parts of the world, farmers' markets are now also being rediscovered and supported throughout industrial countries. These markets are ways of directly connecting consumers with local producers, often organic farmers, who can keep prices lower by avoiding distribution costs.
Another way of making these links is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In a typical CSA farm model, local community members purchase a share in a local farm's operation at the start of each growing season and in return receive a fresh, nutritious box of produce directly from their grower on a weekly basis. In this arrangement, members agree to pay the costs of production regardless of the actual harvest. This allows the farmer and consumer to share many of the financial burdens typically borne by the farmer alone and for both to bypass the conventional industrial agriculture marketing and retail system.
CSAs range from small gardens with five to twenty members to large farms serving nearly a thousand families. CSAs create direct and personal relationships with the farmer—and often the land on which the food is grown—offering a positive alternative to systems where consumers have no choice but to purchase days- or weeks-old produce from the supermarket shelf. They also provide farmers with a viable economic alternative, allowing them a greater percentage of the food dollar (close to or at 100 percent) and a stable revenue stream.
CSAs emerged in the mid-1960s in Germany, Switzerland, and Japan in response to concerns about food security and urbanization. They appeared in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, and today there are as many as 3,000 CSAs in the U.S. In Japan, millions of people are part of the CSA system, which is a major source of the country's fresh produce.
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