FairShare CSA Coalition Records, 1983-2012 (bulk 1992-2012)


Inspired by community supported agriculture (CSA) farms in Europe, Japan, and the northeastern United States, a group called the Madison Eaters Revolutionary Front (MERF) began planning a network of CSA farms in the Madison, Wisconsin, area in 1992. Under the CSA system, shareholders pay at the beginning of the growing season for weekly shares of food they receive throughout the season, thereby assuming some of the financial risks small farmers accept. The first year, participants bought around 275 shares from eight farms for the 1993 growing season. That year, the resulting organization, named the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC), became a chapter organization of the existing Wisconsin Rural Development Corporation (WRDC), which operated from 1983 to 2002 and acted as the fiscal agent for MACSAC. After WRDC dissolved in 2002, MACSAC became an independent, non-profit organization (501(c)(4)), and obtained status as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2011.

Programs to promote the CSA concept included a Foodbook project to encourage members to make optimal use of their produce with the first edition of From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh, Seasonal Produce, published in 1996. After second (2003) and third (2004) editions, a new companion cookbook, Farm-Fresh and Fast: Easy Recipes and Tips for Making the Most of Fresh, Seasonal Foods, came out in the spring of 2013. Foodbook sales also supported other initiatives of the organization, such as the Partner Shares Program. From its beginnings, a significant concern of the organization was accessibility of the CSA concept to all, regardless of income or other barriers. The Partner Shares Program began in 1997 and offers lower-income or special needs households partial funding toward the cost of a CSA share, with monthly co-payments contributed by the CSA shareholder. The Madison Home Garden Project (1999-2001) offered assistance in building vegetable gardens for low-income people and those with developmental disabilities. In 2005, area health maintenance organizations (HMOs) started offering cash rebates toward the cost of CSA produce shares, creating the first such wellness partnership in the nation and providing financial incentive for participation in community supported agriculture. Grants and donations, as well as various public events, provide funding for the Partner Shares Program and other activities. Empty Bowls, a ticketed event in many communities worldwide, offers participants a meal of soup and bread plus a souvenir handmade bowl made by a local potter in exchange for a donation that benefits a number of non-profit organizations. Bike the Barns, an annual bicycle tour between area farms, began in 2007. Other fundraising efforts include Farm-a-thons, workdays at member farms where participants enlisted financial sponsors or otherwise helped to raise funds; specialty cheese sales; and staffing at events of other organizations.

In 2008, the organization required that member farms have organic certification or be in the process of obtaining certification. As of 2010, the USDA Food and Nutrition Services approved use of food stamp payments to CSA Coalition farms, further extending the coalition's goal of increasing access to quality food to a wider segment of the population. In 2012, the organization changed its name to FairShare CSA Coalition, reflecting the organization's commitment to social and economic justice for farmers and consumers. For the 2013 season, participants bought 9,500 shares. As of the 2014 farm season, 50 farms participate in the coalition.

For further information, see the FairShare CSA Coalition website.