A slow but steadily growing network of shareholders in farms across the US is transforming agriculture. Organized mainly on the Internet, this form of community-supported agriculture encourages sustainability and local food production.
The trend differs from forms of urban agriculture and community gardens, where disused or public land is transformed by locals, insofar as it involves working with real farms and real farmers.
An average share price ranges from $500 to $800 per growing season, and under this sponsored system the farmers receive their agreed fee in advance. This relieves their dependency on market volatility and the elements.
It is not obligatory for shareholders to work the land they invest in, however help is always welcome and many do become involved in seasonal farm duties.
The concept of community-sponsored farms reached the USA from Europe and Asia in the 1980s. It was intended as an alternative marketing and financing arrangement to minimize the costs sustained in small-scale farming.
The scheme initially counted 100 farms early in the 1990s, but was slow to catch on. According to observers of the trend, however, the number has now grown to around 1,500.
One farm involved in this program is Erehwon, 55 kilometers west of Chicago. It began with only two shareholders, but last year reached its target of 140, which they have now raised to about 200.
When asked about community-supported agriculture, Steve Trisko, a retired computer consultant who owns shares in the 1.6 hectare Erehwon Farm, said ‘We decided that it’s in our interest to have a small farm succeed and have them be able to have a sustainable farm producing good food.’
Sharecropping across the US has increased because of the benefits buying and selling locally can bring, such as the reduction of transportation costs and environmental damage usually connected to mass food production.
International Herald Tribune