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The mega-CSA

(article, Culinate staff)

Sure, the idea of community-supported agriculture — better known by its acronym, CSA — has been around for a while. Those weekly deliveries of locally grown veggies have grown to include meat and fish CSAs and urban-sourced CSAs, among other models. Now, as Twilight Greenaway writes on Grist, comes the next iteration: the scaled-up CSA.

Greenaway profiles one West Coast CSA, Full Circle, that's trying to offer more products to a wider geographic range. She calls it "one of many companies looking to fill the so-called 'middle space' between small-scale local farming and the big industrial stuff." But is it still really a CSA? 

bq. It began as a tiny organic farm with a CSA program serving eaters in the Seattle area and grew to occupy three Washington state farms totaling 450 acres. Winter produce in the cool, wet Pacific Northwest can be pretty limited, so the service added foods from California, Mexico, and elsewhere, as well as organic groceries from around the country. Full Circle expanded to serve customers in Alaska, Eastern Washington, Idaho, and — as of this summer — the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the way, the company, which has reached over 15,000 members and works with 400 farms, dropped the term CSA from its marketing material and began calling itself an “organic produce delivery service.”

As Greenaway points out, when given the choice between supporting a tiny local farm that can grow only a small range of produce and supporting a larger company that can source a wider range of edibles, most consumers will pick variety over local. "My hope for these big CSAs," she concludes, "is that they can forge ahead without putting the small farms that want to stay small out of business."