Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) – A Model for Artists?

On large farms, sometimes only one crop is grown. Many times these crops are corn or soy beans. These crops are more lucrative because they are used in many processed foods and may be subsidized.

Small farms, on the other hand, often have many crops that rotate and change over the course of a growing season. Smaller farms may have smaller quantities of a larger variety of food and other goods. This may be less lucrative but is more environmentally sustainable, for the farm and the planet.

One solution to help small farms run in a more sustainable way, at the same time providing food that is seasonal and locally grown, is Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA). Usually in a CSA, people subscribe to a farm or group of farms. Subscribers are often given a choice of receiving a small, medium or large box, and might be able to choose how often they receive a box (twice a week, once a week or once every two weeks). Each box contains a small portion of all the things the farm has harvested at that time. What you get in the box is a surprise. Most of what’s in the box are common ingredients, like tomatoes, garlic, herbs, onions, peppers, and similar food (this varies depending on your location, since the farm is local). Some amount of the food is always unusual, and may have you looking up recipes, wondering things like “Hmm, what can I make with three rutabagas?” It’s up to the CSA to get the mix of common and unusual foods right, so that people look forward to what might be in the next box, but still have plenty to use in common dishes. If people aren’t happy with the mix, obviously they will stop subscribing.

Some CSAs have delivery vans that drop off boxes to people’s doors. Others have drop off locations, where all the boxes are stacked. Subscribers know where their drop off location is and pick up their box on their scheduled day.

The subscription model lets farms support the ongoing growing season with less risk. This way they don’t have to worry about selling an entire harvest based solely on demand and weather. They also don’t have to worry about putting so much money into the start of a season since some of that money starts coming back in with new subscribers.

So what does this have to do with art?

Why couldn’t a group of artists form a Community Supported Art program? They could get subscriptions to their work, and deliver a box of artwork from the artists every few weeks. They could offer different sized boxes, maybe different quality levels (some work is quicker or cheaper to make than others), and possible different types. (Music or Dance? Traditional or Modern? Paintings or Sculptures? The grand mix of everything? The adventurous subscribers could choose to get all types. Who knows what art would be in their box? Can you imagine opening a box of original art delivered to your door, having no idea what was inside until you opened it? It would be lots of fun.) The actual artwork included at any time would depend on what the artists had made, what was completed at the time, with a mix of smaller, easier to make objects with bigger, more complex pieces. It would be up to the CSA to make sure the prices of the boxes and mix of art seemed of value to the subscribers and sustainable for the artists.

This way, the artists involved would have a steady stream of at least some income, and a way to have guaranteed distribution and sale of their work before the work was even created. It would also allow the benefits and value of known artists to assist up and coming artists to become better known. Subscribers would have the thrill of getting a box of art of their own, from a range of known and unknown artists, without even having to leave their house.

I know various artists over time have sent out periodic small works to friends and patrons. But I don’t know of any effort like this, on a paid subscription basis that gathers and distributes art from a pool of artists.

If you know of something like this, post in the comments! If there isn’t something like this, and this inspires you to start one, please let me know and if you don’t mind, mention us so we get some love ;)

I want this to happen!

posted by Trout Monfalco