Art CSA compared to Agriculture CSA

In our area, farmers have been connecting to consumers through a system called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA.  This system cuts out the middleman and creates a direct connection between the farmer and the family dinner table.  A customer who buys a share of an agricultural CSA will receive a shipment of farm produce consisting of what is ripe on the farm that particular week.  The produce that is provided varies with what is in season and what thrived in that particular growing season.   The shipments will continue as long as the harvest lasts.  Families get a steady supply of fresh produce and the farmers get a stable source of income.  

For the consumer who is used to arriving in a grocery with a staggering amount of choices it may seem to be limiting, but behind that choice are some ecologically unfriendly facts.  If one chooses to eat produce out of season, that food will need to be trucked in from a great distance and may not be as flavorful as one locally grown.  In fact foods such as tomatoes have been hybridized to make them stronger for the long trek to market at the expense of traits that make them tasty.   To eat food that varies with the seasons puts one in touch with the earth and its cycles.  For farmers who face pressures of weather, price fluctuations, cheap imported produce, GMOs and factory farming, the CSA is a means to face these obstacles on an equal footing.  An agriculture CSA brings consumers  organic, family farmed, locally grown produce.

In an art CSA artists connect directly with art buyers.  Like the agriculture CSA there are shares that are pre sold to the customer and there is a distribution party.  The artist is given a mandate to create a body of work using all their talents similar to the way the agriculture CSA gives the farmer a mandate to plant, cultivate and harvest what the land will best produce.  There is also a similarity between art and agriculture CSA in the effort to disrupt the assumptions that are baked into the traditional means of distribution.   In the same way that CSAs enable consumers to consider altering their diet to harmonize with the seasons, the art CSA can challenge the reliance on distant arbiters of taste to indicate what is trendy and new (constant search for innovation). So much reverence for innovation (godlike) in contrast to that, craftsmanship and master of technique.   Art that is a product of one’s community can touch the heart in a unique way.  

The features of an art CSA that make it different from an agriculture CSA revolve around the differences between the products of each.   When a farmer grows 15 bags of potatoes, each bag will be virtually indistinguishable and consumer will be happy with whatever bag they recieve.  With art, the question of how to distribute work that is varied presents a challenge.  In my case I include an element of choice into the distribution process.  The CSA shareholder will have their choice depending when their name is drawn from a hat.  Since there are 30 paintings and 15 shares even the last name drawn will have a wide choice.   For those who are set on a particular work, I offer a premium share that costs more and enables reservation of a particular painting.   This process of selection is enabled by the posting of all the works on my website and facebook.   I also created a website tool that allows art buyers to click and drag artworks into their order of preference.   Other artists create uniform work.  In that case each customer receives artwork that is the same as what every other customer receives.  Print portfolios  such as the Sesquicentennial portfolio organized by Andrew Balkan is a prime example.  Another way to appeal to the varied taste of art buyers is the inclusion of multiple artists as seen in the Arts + Literature Laboratory CSA.  The differences between each CSA is a product of tailoring the process to meet the needs of the producer and customer.  

This essay was written by artist Doug Haynes on the occasion of his second art CSA titled 30 Watercolors.  Half of the paintings in this CSA were created in Korea and half were painted in Wisconsin.  The CSA distribution took place on November 10th 2019.   His first art CSA, titled 30 paintings in 30 days took place in October and November of 2013.  

Doug Haynes is an artist living in Madison Wisconsin.  His work can be found at and To contact the artist or request permission to reproduce this image contact

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