The Direct-to-Consumer MarketThe direct-to-consumer market is currently the most established sector of local food distribution. Direct-to-consumer means that all middlemen are cut out of the food distribution equation – farmers sell their products directly to consumers, rather than through third parties, such as grocery stores. Common direct-to-consumer operations include:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are direct-to-consumer programs in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest. Consumers are often required to pay for their share of the harvest up front; this arrangement distributes the risks and rewards of farming amongst both consumers and the farmer. CSA participants often pick up their CSA shares in a communal location, or the shares may be delivered directly to customers. The USDA estimates that there may be as many as 2,500 CSAs currently operating in the US. F
A much smaller proportion of the direct-to-consumer market are options such as pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands and stores, and gleaning programs, in which consumers are invited to harvest crops that are left in fields, usually after harvest.