By Sarah Fielder and Mayhah Suri
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized the Agriculture Law Education Initiative recently for participating in a joint project led by the University of Maryland Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Maryland Department of Agriculture, and Maryland Farm Bureau. The project developed a community supported agriculture (CSA) model contract and contracting guide to help farmers manage risks and improve communications with their customers.
As USDA noted, “The success of the guide reduced the need for regulation of Maryland’s CSA farms and has captured the interest of other state departments of agriculture.” The joint project began after some Maryland consumers, confused about the amount and types of produce received in their CSA shares, starting asking questions about CSA farms. The resulting program addressed this confusion through creation of a model membership contract and an accompanying guide, and subsequent workshops and webinars.
ALEI participated in the joint project with Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Farm Bureau, funded through a Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grant. FSMIP, part of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing service, works to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products.
CSA farms invert the traditional agricultural economic model by securing capital at the beginning of the season by selling CSA memberships rather than relying on sales at the end of the season to cover costs. The farmer receives a steady stream of income and CSA farm members receive part of the farm’s bounty, usually weekly, and enjoy a connection to the land and the food.
All materials created as a result of this project, including videos, publications, and presentations, are available on the ALEI website.