The concept has existed for decades, but with the rising interest these days in growing and eating healthy and organic foods, an example can now even be found in Houston.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA (sometimes called Community Shared Agriculture), is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. The term also refers to a group of people who have pledged to support a local farm and share in both benefits and risks of food production.
A CSA project has recently been started in Houston, sponsored by local resident and businessman Caleb Arthur, founder and CEO of Missouri Sun Solar. The benefits to people who join in on the project are largely health-related, Arthur said.
“It will provide affordable organic grown fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Organic food isn’t grown with toxic chemicals, so it’s good for people with health problems and food allergies.”
The “Houston Harvest CSA” is being managed by Houston resident Dustin Blackmon, who also works for Missouri Sun Solar. He met Arthur while volunteering with the organic and hydroponic farming operation at the New Life USA rehabilitation ministry at Bado.
The Houston Harvest CSA’s 1.5-acre farm is on Arthur’s property north of Houston, just west of U.S. 63.
“This is about helping people eat better, but it’s also for bringing the community together,” Blackmon said. “People who sign up get to be a part of our farm, and it’s like you get a share of the farm. It creates a sense of ownership.”
Beginning next year, local CSA “members” will be expected to do 12 hours of work at the farm during the growing season. Different levels of membership determine how much food they get from the farm.
Numerous types of crops are currently growing at the farm, including corn, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and more. Eggs produced by free-range chickens are also in the mix.
Arthur has been planning to launch a CSA for several years. His passion for the idea is born of experience.
“I’ve been growing and eating organic food for eight years,” he said. “I lost 100 pounds after high school through a organic diet and exercise. I figured it was time to grow enough to start feeding other people around Houston.
“I had a bunch of Sun Solar employees interested in buying the food, so I took one of my employees with farming experience and had them help me launch the farm.”
Arthur envisions significant community involvement with the CSA, and a youth education element.
“We will continue to offer our ‘farm-to-table’ services but will grow more food so we can start donating extra to the local food pantry and also hopefully get local school kids involved,” he said. “I have a passion to show young kids life-long skills they can use forever. It should be a requirement for school-aged kids to learn how to grow their own food. I figured since we have a good food-growing model that uses one-fourth the amount of water, we should start showing others how to do it.
“I feel very blessed to be in a position to really help others around me. We need to start buying and consuming locally made products. Money spent locally and given to other locals stays in the economy and isn’t sent to investors out of state.”
“This is about helping people eat better, but it’s also for bringing the community together.”
– HOUSTON HARVEST CSA MANAGER DUSTIN BLACKMON