CSA is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States and Canada. A CSA equivalent, called teikei, which literally translated means "partnership" or "cooperation", was first developed in Japan by a group of women concerned with the use of pesticides, the increase in processed and imported foods and the corresponding decrease in the farm population. The more philosophical translation for teikei is "food with the farmer's face" (Van En 1992). In 1965, these women initiated a direct, cooperative relationship in which local farmers were supported by consumers on an annual basis.1

Around the same time, a similar model started in Europe. Instead of being formed by concerned consumers, however, in Europe the new model was an outgrowth of biodynamic farming, a process developed by Rudolph Steiner in the early 20th Century. Biodynamic farming is based on the idea that all living organisms—including land, plants, and animals—are dependant on one another. Cooperative farmers in Holland and Switzerland developed models similar to CSA as an economic and social component to these ideas of interdependence.2

In 1984, Jan Vander Tuin brought the concept of CSA to North America from Europe. Jan had co-founded a community-supported agricultural project named Topanimbur, located near Zurich, Switzerland. He introduced the idea to Robyn Van En at Indian Line Farm in S. Egremont, Massachusetts and the CSA concept in North America was born.

Robyn Van En, Jan Vander Tuin, John Root, Jr. and Charlotte Zanecchia formed a core group. They began the first season of their CSA with a small apple orchard operation, and gradually began introducing the "share the harvest" concept to the community. By spring of 1986, Hugh Ratcliffe had joined on as the farmer, and they began to offer shares in their vegetable harvest. Within four years, the Indian Line CSA expanded from 30 to 150 members. Today, the CSA concept has spread across the nation, where more than 1,000 CSA's feed around 150,000 people.

In New York City, the first CSA started in 1991 when Roxbury Farm began distributing shares out of a stand at the Union Square Greenmarket. This small effort eventually grew into the Roxbury Farm CSA site on the Upper West Side. Roxbury Farmer Jean-Paul Courtens helped Just Food use this initial model to start six additional CSA sites in 1996. Since then, Just Food has helped to start more than 100 CSA sites by matching city groups across the city with farmers and providing ongoing management and technical assistance. Just Food works with city groups to start new CSA projects every year.


1 Robyn Van En Center, www.csacenter.org

2 Roxbury Farm, www.roxburyfarm.org