iStock/Carlos Gawronski

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs play a vital role in bridging the gap between producers and consumers. Through CSAs, Missouri families can contribute to the state’s agricultural economy by investing in local farms through a membership fee, then receiving a portion of the farm’s harvest in return.

Heather and Buck Counts, owners of Buckeye Acres Produce in Warrensburg, started their CSA in 2009 after Buck completed his master’s degree in plant pathology at Michigan State University.

“When the opportunity came up for us to return home and take over his parents’ farm, we jumped at the chance,” Heather Counts says. “Buck had heard of the CSA concept through his work and felt it was something that we could add to the farm to provide an additional income source to our business and help us diversify our operation. In agriculture, diversification is so important to help keep the farm running in case of a problem with another aspect.”

She says CSAs also contribute to the sustainability of agriculture, particularly on smaller family farms.

“CSAs allow farmers to continue with or enter into the agriculture industry in a time where it is difficult to make a small-farm pay if you have a large financial input to get up and running. Farmers can do more on less acres with a CSA and can also partner with other farmers in their area to make it profitable for everyone,” she says.

Jim Thies, owner of the Veggie Patch in Boonville, says CSAs also offer multiple benefits to members, including knowing exactly where and how their food is grown.

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“Consumers learn quickly what seasonal means – no watermelons in May and no strawberries in August,” he says. “If we want to have a sustainable local food industry, we need to eat seasonally.

I also think it expands their eating habits and gives them a chance to explore the tastes of vegetables that they may not or would not normally purchase.”

Counts says the CSA concept allows producers and farmers to establish a personal relationship with consumers.

“We see them weekly and build a family-type relationship with them. It gives us a great opportunity to tell our customers the story of agriculture and how all aspects of agriculture are needed to feed a growing population, not only in our country, but the world,” she says.