CSA—About Community Supported Agriculture

Peaches fresh from the farm

The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program at RTI is part of a national and international movement. Food found in a typical U.S. supermarket has traveled an average of 1,300 miles from where it was grown or raised. Community supported agriculture provides an alternative to this long-distance relationship.

Through CSA programs such as RTI's, a partnership of mutual commitment is forged between producers and consumers. CSA members make an up-front commitment to purchase a portion of a given season's harvest or catch. In return, they receive an ongoing supply of healthful, fresh produce and other local foods.

Partnership with North Carolina State University

In 2002, as part of a Golden LEAF Foundation initiative, NC State University's Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) teamed with the NC Cooperative Extension Service and RTI to organize a program for local farmers. Soon after, the program was turned over to RTI to host on an ongoing basis.

Benefits of CSAs

  • Fresh, wholesome, local food reaches the tables of consumers.
  • Farmers and fishermen receive a fair return on their labor.
  • Local economies are strengthened.
  • Farmers and fishermen develop an economically stable operation, preserving small and family-run operations and fishing boats owned by individuals instead of conglomerates.
  • Loss of local farmland and waterways producing quality seafood is slowed.
  • Young people gain incentives to enter or to remain in farming and small-scale commercial fishing.
  • Because CSA members like a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, integrated cropping and companion planting are encouraged.
  • Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, and commercial fishing practices receive a boost.
  • With a guaranteed market for their goods, farmers and fishermen can invest their time in doing the best job they can producing food rather than marketing those goods.
  • Consumers can meet their producers face to face and buy directly from them.


Community supported agriculture is a large, growing, and diverse movement, as any Web search on the term will show. Here are some sites that contain some of the best current information. They also provide additional links to CSA resources throughout the U.S. and other countries.

  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association – Supports and expands local and organic agriculture in the Carolinas by "inspiring, educating, and organizing farmers and consumers." Works to build a network of farmers and consumers as the key to accomplishing this mission. Headquartered in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
  • Local Harvest – Maintains a national Web site of farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food, searchable by local area. Sign up for newsletters, blogs, and member forums.
  • Alternative Farming Systems Information Center: CSA – A cooperative effort between the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service and the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • North Carolina Sea Grant Program – Responsible for research, education, and outreach opportunities relating to current issues affecting the North Carolina coast and its communities. Unbiased, scientifically sound information about the state's coastal ecosystems.
  • Goodness Grows in North Carolina and Freshness from North Carolina Waters – Marketing programs of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote in-state food production, processing, and consumption.