By Mike Pomranz
Updated January 13, 2017
Credit: Tim Graham

CSAs (that’s “community-supported agriculture” for those of you who aren’t sure what site you clicked through to) offer plenty of amazing upsides for both farmers and buyers. But alright, deep breath, let’s all be adults for a second here: Sometimes you just don’t need that much eggplant. Yes, if CSAs have a downside, it’s the typical “you get what you get” policy that can occasionally leave you with produce that wouldn’t be your ideal selections. But according to Munchies, a company in Brazil is taking a novel approach to the CSA concept – one that allows subscribers to unleash their inner Farmville fan. Instead of getting a share of the farm’s overall haul, subscribers get a specific piece of land; then they get to help choose what’s planted there, and whatever grows is theirs to keep.

Mandala da Montanha is a 6,400-square-meter organic farm in the city of Santo Antonio do Pinhal, about 100 miles northeast of Sao Paulo. Though founded in 2015, this past November the owners came up with their unique plot-based subscription service to help ramp up production. For the equivalent of about $80 per month, customers in the Sao Paulo area get their own ten-square-meter section of the farm, and with help from the Mandala team, can pick which crops they want planted, choosing from a list of available seedlings that’s currently 50 varieties strong, from the obvious – lettuces and cauliflower – to the more indigenous – scarlet eggplant and okra

“We wanted to be ‘co-producers,’ more than just ‘producers,’ by allowing people who can’t produce their own food – whether they live in the city, or because they don’t have enough space, or because they don’t have time, or simply because they don’t know how to do it – to actively participate in the production of their own food,” Alexandre Yokoyama, one of the company’s two founders, told Munchies.

Another cool feature of Mandala’s system is that subscribers can actually visit their tiny plot, and the farm offers classes to help better explain what’s happening on the land. So you could think of it as a CSA that you help control. Or a community garden where you don’t actually have to do any work. Either way, if they can just turn it into an app where you can check in on your plot throughout the day, this idea could turn into the healthy eating alternative to all those dumb virtual pet games.