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30 years later... still connecting farmers & eaters through CSA

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Thirty years ago, a group of activists passionate about the possibilities of local food and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the Madison area came together and created an organization that was originally known as the Madison Eaters Revolutionary Front (MERF). Now known as FairShare CSA Coalition, we are excited to be celebrating three decades of supporting CSA as the backbone of a strong local food system in Madison, and beyond!

The world certainly looks different now than it did 30 years ago. And many of those changes are reflected in our work. Supporting the small-scale farmers that grow delicious food for our communities has always been, and continues to be, a key part of our mission. While originally farmers would have to drive, sometimes for hours, to meet in person in the off-season, technological advances have made it possible for farmers across the Midwest to connect on a daily basis, even in the rush of summer. FairShare’s farmer listserv is now a robust online space where producers can share growing tips, resources, supplies, and ask questions of one another, facilitating deep farmer-to-farmer connections and resource sharing, when it’s convenient for our farmers.

But sometimes there’s no substitution for being on the farm and in person with other growers! Events like the Organic Vegetable Production Conference, on-farm grower gatherings, and trainings like Becoming the Employer of Choice are places where farmers can continue to gather and build a community of support while sharing their knowledge and expertise with one another. Farming is tough work, but having a supportive community of peers can make all the difference in helping preserve that quality of life.

And it’s no surprise that the last few years in particular have made big changes to our world, especially for those with lower incomes. The challenge that has faced our farmers for years has been how to offer CSA shares to all households, not just those with substantial discretionary incomes. The Partner Shares Program was started in the early days of the organization with the understanding that while our farmers feel passionately about providing accessible food to all families, the financial burden cannot lie on farmers, who often are not making substantial amounts of money. Supported by donations, grant funding, and in recent years our annual Bike the Barns event, the Partner Shares Program now assists over 200 households across 74 cities, 34 counties, and 5 states in accessing fresh, local food through CSA from a farmer in their community.

From a volunteer-run organization funded by a cookbook and focused on the Madison area, to a fully staffed nonprofit that has a multi-state network, FairShare has changed more than just its name over the years. Still, many things have stayed constant. A focus on building a community of connection and camaraderie among farmers, supporting equity and access to fresh food for members of our community, and supporting the connection between farmers and eaters has always been, and will continue to be, at the core of FairShare’s mission. We’re so glad you’ve joined us on this journey, and we can’t wait to see what the next 30 years bring!

You can sustain our work as we embark on the next 30 years at

Want a deeper dive into the history of the organization? Check out our 30 year video on YouTube!


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