Community Supported Agriculture

Heather and I took one more step towards our desire to consume only locally grown produce by joining the Ambrose Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program or CSA. This membership allows us to receive one box of fresh, locally grown produce every week through the fall growing season. We should get our first box around the first of October and one weekly through the middle of December. Coupled with what we are growing in our own garden, we should not have to rely on any non-local produce through the growing season. In order to get through the winter, we will try to either freeze or can any excess produce.

How CSA works

The CSA program works in manner where local farmers sell “shares” in their expected harvested. In return, the members get a weekly box of fresh produce, flowers, honey, meat or whatever the farm is producing. Typically the shareholder pays upfront so that the farmer can easily fund the growing season. Sometimes, the farm requires that members work a certain number of hours on the farm.

History of CSA

The concept of the CSA has roots in Japan. 30 years ago, a group of women were alarmed by the continual growth of imported food and a steady decrease in the healthy, locally grown type. They developed a relationship between local farmers and their group. This relationship came to be known as teikei, which translates to putting the farmers face on the food. The concept spread throughout Europe and eventually found its way to the United States where the first CSA was formed in 1985 in Massachusetts. By 1990, there were 50 CSAs and today there are over 2000 in the U.S.

What CSA can accomplish

CSA allows the local farmer to get the most return on the harvest by cutting out the middlemen. In this system, there is no distributor taking a cut. The farmer is also typically paid upfront so he is able to spend time caring for the farm and producing high quality instead of the stressful pursuit of buyers. It also works as an insurance program for the farmers. Since they are being paid upfront, the rare event of a crop failure will not leave them financially strapped.

CSAs also support responsible farming practices. Since the consumer demands a wide variety of plants in the weekly box, the farmer plants a variety of crops with emphasis on companion planting. This avoids the soil nutrient depleting practice of mono cropping. Mono cropping is,as the name suggests, the practice of growing only one crop. This is seen a lot where farmers specialize in corn, wheat, tobacco, and today the soybean. The problem with this is that the crops are planted season after season with no crop rotation. These plants deplete the soil of nutrients so the farmer must look to chemical fertilizers to continue to be able to grow. These chemicals can cause a wide variety of problems. It can also lead to the propegation of certain disease species that feed on the associated crop. In the longterm, the diseases from nutrient depleted soil, could lead to total crop failures on a massive scale. It also does not help that the farmers are reducing biodiversity by relying on a single strain of crops and letting many other become virtually extinct. In the constant evolution of predator and prey, while the single crop evolves, so do the pathogens and insects that rely on it. Most Americans have become completely dependent upon two crops- the soybean and corn. As Barbara Kingsolver wrote in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “Our addiction to just two crops has made us the fattest people who have ever lived, dining just a few pathogens away from famine.” A quick review of the history of famine associated with peoples dependent upon only one or two crops shows that this scenario is all too possible.

Member Risks
The member or shareholder does incur a certain amount of risk in this program. Agriculture is completely dependent upon the whims of mother nature. Single and total crop failures are possible but rare. In the coastal region of South Carolina we are susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms that can ravage crops.

The Ambrose Family Farm

The Ambrose Family Farm is owned and operated by Pete and Babs Ambrose. Their 135 acre farm has been in operation since 1976 on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. The couple sell most of their produce through their market on Johns Island and through local distributors. They are still in their first year of being a CSA farm and are currently growing for for approximately 800 shareholders. Babs told Heather and I that Pete’s truck on delivery days often resembles the one the Clampett’s moved to California in. We chose this farm for their commitment to high quality produce that is grown in a responsible manner. This is an excerpt from their website:

It is our practice to grow as organically as possible and to continue with our sustainable agricultural practices until the farm can become a Certified Organic Farm.

We grow produce in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers whenever possible. We practice growing methods which build the fertility of the soil rather than “rob” it.
We grow quality produce at a reasonable price. We harvest and handle our produce so you get the freshest, most flavorful and nutritional vegetables available. We Keep It Local and Keep it Fresh.

We strive to be leaders and advocates for local sustainably grown produce through communication and education with our community members. It is critical that local communities re-establish a devout connection to our lands and those that tend it.

For more info on CSAs please visit


~ by Schwarvin on August 14, 2008.

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