A CSA Plan with a New Twist
A new kind of community-supported agriculture (CSA) plan debuted last month in the South Bronx. The new CSA plan gives members more than a share in a farm’s summer harvest. It also gives them a chance to own a share of the farm itself.
The new CSA plan, described in this New York Times article, is the work of Dennis Derryck, a 70-year-old professor, mathematician and Harlem resident who wanted to make it easier and more affordable for low-income individuals to get fresh produce directly from local farmers. According to the article, Derryck sold CSA shares to local residents as well nonprofit groups for their employees and members. The South Bronx Food Co-op, for example, bought 25 shares of the CSA plan for its members.
Unlike traditional CSA plans where members are required to pay upfront for an entire season’s worth of produce, members in the South Bronx plan pay for two weeks’ supply at a time. And the prices are cheaper, ranging from $3.75 to $20 a week, depending on income, subsidies and share size, according to the article.
Corbin Hills Farm, the 92-acre farm supplying the CSA members, is located in Schoharie County in upstate New York. The farm was purchased by Derryck, who took out a $300,000 loan and collected $562,000 from nonprofit groups in the South Bronx. He hired a farm manager and bought two essentials to launch the CSA: a tractor and a refrigerated truck to make deliveries at drop-off sites in the South Bronx.
Once Derryck pays off the debt on the farm, ownership will pass to CSA members, giving them more control over what’s grown and share prices paid. “They can collectively decide to use their shares to reduce their weekly take, and make other decisions about how the farm is run and what’s grown,” explains the reporter in the article.
CSA plans have long been criticized as being elitist, despite efforts to make them more affordable for low-income people through subsidized sliding-scale payment arrangements, which I blogged about here, and other means. The new commercial CSA plan and farm cooperative that Derryck has envisioned provides yet another arrow in the quiver of those committed to bringing fresh produce to all Americans.