Artisan Producers, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm

CSA – A Short History

Today, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a common concept embraced around the world. But when Robyn Van En launched the first CSA in the United States from her Massachusetts farm in 1985, it was a radical act.

Already established in Europe, the CSA concept was then a novelty to U.S. consumers. The beauty is in its simplicity. By agreeing to pay a small amount on a recurring basis in exchange for a scheduled supply of produce, flowers, and other farm-made comestibles, a CSA member supports the farmer in a very tangible way, guaranteeing a steady income stream even in the direst of times.

It’s the economy of shared risk. Being able to count on regular monies allows a farmer to make better decisions for the future. Being able to count on regular infusions of farm-fresh food allows the consumer to live a better life. The farmer wins; the CSA subscriber wins.

Robyn, who tragically passed away in 1997 at age 49, may not have known that her vision would change the face of small-scale farming in America — but her only interest in legacy was what the producer would gain over the long run.

The U.S. will, in 2020, commemorate a woman on the $10 bill, but Berkshares — a Slow Money currency in the Berkshires area of Massachusetts — is way ahead of Congress. Berkshares put Robyn on its own $10 bill some nine years ago.

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SHED is committed to supporting the small family farmer in many ways. The food for our cafe and produce retail area come almost exclusively from local farmers and ranchers, many of whom are within a 10-mile radius of our Healdsburg store. So does the produce and house-made treats we tuck into our monthly CSA box.

Our CSA is slightly different than the one that Robyn launched from her Indian Line Farm 30 years ago. We aggregate and curate the best items available in every part of our store — and our CSA is no different. We pull from our own HomeFarm as well as from Bernier Farms, Front Porch Farms, MIX Gardens, Foggy River Farm, Preston of Dry Creek, and others to create a CSA box that offers a representation of what’s freshest in the fields on pick-up day.

The beauty part? A subscription to our CSA supports all of those farmers, not just one. We hope that Robyn would approve.

Want to learn more? Local Harvest has a more detailed description of the CSA model. Writing for the Rodale Institute’s site, Steve McFadden offers a lengthy historical and political perspective on the CSA movement.

This month’s SHED CSA box includes:

Bernier strawberries, garlic, and basil

Foggy River conical cabbage, zucchini, speckled romaine, and Armenian cucumber

Front Porch red torpedo onion

HomeFarm peaches and herb bouquet

Preston Santa Rosa plums and purple haze carrots

SHED freshly ground polenta (made from Front Porch Farm’s Floriani flint corn) and creamy herbed buttermilk dressing

To become a subscriber, simply drop us an email and we’ll get you on the list!

This entry was posted in Artisan Producers, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm and tagged .
  1. Carolyn Mayta

    What is the cost of the monthly CSA Box and is it enough for two people?

    • SHED

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thanks for your interest! Yes, it’s emphatically enough for two. Here is the low-down:
      Choose to Sign Up for a 3, 6 or 12-Month Subscription
      • 3 Month = $210 Free Non-Alcoholic Drink on Day of Pickup and 10% off all SHED Events
      • 6 Month = $420 Free Non-Alcoholic Drink and 10% Storewide Discount on Day of Pickup, PLUS 10% off all SHED Events
      • 12 Month = $840 Free Non-Alcoholic Drink and 10% Storewide Discount on Day of Pickup, 10% off all SHED Events, PLUS Lunch and Tour at HomeFarm
      Email to get on the list.

  2. Aileen Suzara

    Just to add an interesting tidbit for readers – this isn’t meant to eclipse Robyn’s powerful, important legacy but too add to it. Just wanted to shed light on the role of farmers of color in launching US-based CSAs. This article by “Color of Food” author Natasha Bowens shares the story of African American farmers. I just felt the need to share as recognition often isn’t given where due:

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