South Carolina farmers and produce consumers both say they are benefiting from a national trend that is growing in South Carolina, known as CSA’s. “CSA’s are Consumer Supported Agriculture and parenthetical name that I give it is partners in produce and that if you as a consumer want to get a little closer to your supplier, your farmer, then you buy into a share of the produce for the summer,” says State Agricultural Commissioner Hugh Weathers.
A share is a weekly delivery of the harvest for that week. Here’s how it works: a farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public, which normally consists of a box of vegetables from the farmers’ harvest, and the consumer buys the level they want per week- the more people in a family, the higher the level. For example, Weathers says for a farmer that sold 200 shares, it means 200 families invested to receive their produce from that farmer. Generally, when a consumer forms a partnership with a farmer, both sides benefit. The consumer benefits because they receive weekly fresh produce from a direct source and the farmer benefits because they receive payment early, which helps their cash flow for future investments.
CSA’s have grown all across the United States, and Weathers explains why he thinks they are becoming more popular in the state.
“I think they want to get closer to who is growing their food, I think people have the interest to shop healthier when they can. Our research tell us that consumers in South Carolina want to support their state, their farmers, their economy, all the while giving them a benefit to them and their family,” says Weathers.
Like most business ventures, there are shared risks with CSA’s. Although they are not common, farmers may run into natural farming problems where certain crops may not grow as planned. Also, weather plays an important role in how fast the harvest grows. Since the consumer pays for the share at the beginning of the season, if something were to go wrong, they lose out.