Friends of Farming

 San Diego County

Community Supported Agriculture - CSA

22 Jan 2016 4:53 PM | Deleted user

The phrase Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, describes less a farm as much as it describes a business model. Farms that operate a CSA are sometimes referred to by consumers as “subscription farms” because consumers buy a subscription from a farmer for a set price in exchange for an agreed delivery of fresh produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The result is a direct link between farmers and local consumers. Customers who subscribe to a CSA become “members” or “shareholders”.

For consumers, there are both tangible and intangible benefits to subscribing to a CSA program. Customers receive fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to a location convenient to them on a regular basis, which can save both time and gas. There is a reduced carbon footprint purchasing produce grown locally, and the money paid for the subscription goes directly to supporting farms often in their own community or region. These are benefits to the consumer, but what about the farmer? What makes a CSA business model attractive to a grower?

JR Organics of Valley Center is one of the more popular CSA’s in San Diego County, with a dedicated group of subscribers. JoanE Marrero is the CSA Director at the farm and she was glad to share what makes their CSA program valuable.

“The CSA makes everything easier to plan. We can avoid overbuying materials because we have a good sense of what our demand is. It’s easier to plan fields and plantings, and there is less waste. We financially benefit because there is no middle man and we are selling directly to the public. We can invest in the materials we need without going into debt, and plant and harvest only what we need.”

What about demand? Are there enough people willing to embrace this model of buying produce to make it worth it? “Initially yes,” says JoanE. “But then the term CSA got a lot traction and food peddlers came in calling themselves CSA’s who weren’t actually farmers. They were just buying produce from many different farms, aggregating the produce, and delivering it without actually farming themselves. The public needs more education on the benefits of getting produce from a real farm in their own neighborhood. That said, people are beginning to realize the difference and are coming back.”

Managing a changing membership, working directly with customers and coordinating regular deliveries takes a lot of time and effort. “The mechanics of putting together a CSA is less challenging than doing a farmers’ market, and we make twice the amount of money. Of course at bigger farmers’ markets you can do well, but you have just your packers for the CSA and one driver and delivery. Whereas for a farmers’ market you have a whole crew, stand setup, you might bring too much produce, and demand fluctuates a lot more at markets. The CSA is much more labor and cost efficient, absolutely. You can make deliveries within a couple hours; farmers markets are at least a 6 hour commitment.”

Is it difficult to consistently put together a good quality box? “Sometimes it is difficult to put together a nice box; our production has been cut by almost a third because of the bagrada bug in the hotter months. We do partner with other local farms to get more fruit; we partner with Stehly and other avocado growers in the area, and do some small amount of contracting with Smit farms for their apples. I think that if the public was more aware of what it really means to get this type of quality produce from a local farm and not be falsely led, if you will, by these unrestricted food peddlers there’d be room for more CSA’s to operate in San Diego County.”


J R Organics CSA (year round)

31030 Rodriguez Rd

Escondido, CA 92026

Manager: JoanE Marrero
Phone: (714) 235-3219


Be Wise Ranch Organic Farm (year round)

Santa Fe and San Pasqual Valley
20505 San Pasqual Road
Escondido, CA 92025

Bill and Marsanne Brammer
Phone: (760) 746-6006


Blue Sky Ranch (year round)

13743 Blue Sky Ranch Road
Lakeside, CA 92040
Manager: Taj Chaffin
Phone: (619) 715-7143


Eli's Farms (year round)

2929 East Mission Road
Fallbrook, CA 92028

Manager: Eli Hofshi & Daniel Hofshi 
Phone: (760) 468-0949

Offering weekly and every other week produce deliveries to homes or offices within San Diego County every Friday. 

Seabreeze Organic Farm (year round)

3909 Arroyo Sorrento Road
San Diego, CA 92130

Manager: Stephenie Caughlin
Phone: (858) 481-0209


Suzie's Farm (year round)

1856 Saturn Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92154

CSA subscriptions available, at Farmer's Markets, direct delivery to restaurants, buy direct at the farm. Farm tours available 2nd Saturday of the month.
Contact: Wyndellen Wilbur
Phone: (619) 662-1780

Stehly Farms Oganics

Sean Schumacher


Friends of Farming San Diego County            420 South Broadway, Suite 200, Escondido, CA 92025          760-745-3023   

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