Lexicon of Sustainability
Watchword: Community Supported Agriculture

Watchword: Community Supported Agriculture

To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

“A mutually sustaining relationship between the consumer (shareholder) and the farmer whereby each looks out for the other’s needs and well-being. The Consumer and Producer join hands and stand face-to-face in a flux of self-interest and empathy.” – John Peterson


The idea behind the community supported agriculture (CSA) model is simple: you get the best food directly from the hard-working people who are harvesting it. Subscribers commit to buy what producers are working hard to provide and, in turn, producers commit to sticking to their principles.

What this model has meant to small producers, and what it has done to disrupt our broken food system, goes far beyond this simple agreement. 

Title: CSA: Community Supported Agriculture
Location: Cure Organic Farms, Boulder, CO
Featuring: Anne Cure, co-founder of Cure Organic Farm

Buying a CSA membership means entering into a partnership with a local farm. The member buys a subscription at the beginning of the season. This cash infusion allows the farmer to pay for seed, water, equipment and labor during the early season when farm expenses are high and farm income is low. In return, the farm provides its members with a box of fresh picked seasonal produce each week. A CSA builds community by reconnecting its members to the seasons, and fostering relationships between members and the people who grow their food.

At Anne Cure’s farm in Boulder, Colorado, CSA subscribers can choose from three box sizes, choose and exchange their produce, and directly engage with farmers.

“Our goal is not to grow food for the whole world. It’s to grow really good food for 175 families,” says Anne Cure. “There’s nothing better than knowing whom you’re growing your food for: that Alicia and Quentin love the fava beans, Mark and Anne can’t wait for the San Marzanos, or Oliver and Eli will eat these carrots before they leave the farm. We want to share the farm’s stories and create a place people feel a part of. When people learn about their food, how vegetables and animals are raised, they form a deeper relationship with the land. We commit to feeding as many families as our land can healthily provide for. This includes over a hundred varieties of vegetables and flowers grown during the year.”

Title: CSF: Community Supported Fishery
Location: Siren Sea SA, at Mission PIE pick-up location, San Francisco, CA
Featuring: Anna Larsen, founder of Siren Fish Co.

A community supported fishery (CSF) allows consumers to directly support small fishing operations. Subscribers get scheduled deliveries of fresh fish—the contents vary each week, depending on what’s available—while fishermen get a better price on small batches and added stability when the market fluctuates. This symbiosis encourages fishermen to use sustainable methods, while educating both fishermen and the community about issues in marine conservation.

Anna Larsen, founder of Siren Fish Company, says a CSF is immune to the two greatest challenges facing the fishing industry: fraud and lack of accountability. Lack of transparency in supply chains and multiple trade names or single species make it very easy to market “trawl fish” as “hook and line,” or fish from a dirty farm as “wild caught.” On the contrary, in the CSF there is no middle man and, therefore, no room for misinformation to spread. When you see the Fish and Game tab and then inspect the fish straight from the dock, you know exactly what you are getting. Nothing beats from the sea to you.

Video: "CSA" by Know Your Food 

What if you could buy fresh fruit and vegetables each week, grown by a local farmer? Learn how CSAs allow consumers to receive weekly boxes of fresh produce, while getting to know the people who grow their food.

Three things you can do now

Do you support a CSA?



For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at www.lexiconofsustainability.com.

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