One of the best ways to get food direct from a farmer is the idea of “Community Supported Agriculture,” or CSA. The boxes filled with farm-fresh food picked up weekly from early summer to early fall have become increasingly popular across the US in the past ten years, but the model itself is decades old.

The earliest iterations emerged in Japan in the 1960s and ’70s. Concerned with where their food was coming from and how it was being grown, Japanese families started funneling funds to local farmers in exchange for goods from the farm throughout the season. These models were called “teikei.” The word literally means “relationship” or “partnership.” CSA-like models started developing in Europe during the same time period, and by the mid-1980s, CSAs arrived in the United States.

Typically, CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront. This early bulk payment is needed to cover the anticipated costs to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.