CSA or subscription Farming

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Reading a post below on CSA, or Subscription Farming ... how many acres does it take to "support" a 40 member co-op?

Also, how do you convince the potential customer that they will get their money's worth when local farmer's stores & flea markets are around that let the customer pick and choose the quantity they need? I have not seen anyone's site that even gives an approximate amount of produce that would be in each weekly box (IE: 2 tomatoes or 10) I know trust must be initiated somewhere, but how did the one's that do it get started? TIA

-- BRENT in 10-uh-C (bt@nospam.com), March 16, 2002


I can't answer your questions regarding amount of land or customer base. My only contribution can be as someone who used a CSA & totally loved it. The customers were all people who were looking for a healthy/holistic alternative to the farmers mkt/flea mkt offerings. In our area the farmers market vendors sell more produce that comes from the same warehouse place that the supermarkets' buy from rather than true locally grown products, so the local/non chemical option was a selling point for our CSA. Three years ago I paid $10wk for 1 share and usually got two of the large paper sacks full of produce,eggs & honey. As with everything farm related some weeks certain things were more prolific so there were more green items, then when the eggs became plentiful 2dz were included,fall brought apples & pumpkins, you get the idea anyway. If you have any 'health food' stores in your area you might ask to put up a notice for subscribers. That's where I found the one I used. Check out your competition,the farmers market vendors-see if they are truly growing there own produce,etc or just middlemen for the corporate farms. If they are not selling there own homegrown items, you can probably use that information in your argument as to why CSA is a better alternative. Just DON'T use names of your competitors, you might be setting yourself up for a slander lawsuit, just suggest they check where the produce from the farmers market vendors is really produced. If you don't mind it you could invite them out to see the gardens & your place. Our CSA held 2 potluck/tasting picnics each year. Each member used some of their subscription share to make up dishes to share with the other members. It was a great chance to meet others & exchange information/recipes for things you may be unfamiliar with; as well as see your food being grown. One other thing was by having these 'social' gatherings, the subscribers knew how the weather was affecting the crops and could see for themselves that although they may get less some weeks it was due to nature & not a rip-off. I wish you much luck, the years I used a CSA left some good friendships and memories. Now, I have to do ALL the work which I love but I do miss those get togethers. Blessings, Kathy

-- Kathy Aldridge (beckoningwinds@yahoo.com), March 16, 2002.


If you're interested in CSA's I'd suggest reading the book Sharing the Harvest by Elizabeth Henderson. It's a very informative book about CSA's. It goes into quite a lot of detail.

-- Murray in ME (lkdmfarm@megalink.net), March 16, 2002.

www.csacenter.org is a helpful site for the whys & wherefores of csa farming. & has a lot of links too.

in ca. 1.3 was in 4'wide beds seprated by 4'-3' wide paths and a truck access down the middle. there was 15-20 shares + schoolchildren & other poachers being well supplied off of that.

really depends on your crops grown-skill/local knowledge-ect.

i have seen several csa listing that give the produce available each week in #estimates. but really you need one years/seasons production to give a decent forecast for next year! love that catch 22!

you can do real rough estm. by getting #'s harvested of diff. crops from your local extension agent too.

at the educatioal csa we would post the organic co-ops & grocery store price on a chalk board so the shareholders could do a drect comparison. a share was always cheaper maybe by just $1 or $20 & definitely fresher!

um, you let the shareholders pick & choose the quantity they need. you take surveys of what veggies they love -hate-or use daily. you introduce 'new' things slowly,provide recipes & ask for feedback.

there is normally a trade-in or 'orphan' box at the pick-up place. this is where undersized & extra veggies go and where shareholders but their unwanted beets and take some one elses orphan broccolli.

-- bj pepper in C. MS. (pepper.pepper@excite.com), March 19, 2002.


We started our CSA this year and have grown to 10 members (we started the first week of March). We also started a produce delivery service as well (4 members joined the first week). Our CSA runs year round so it is non traditional. We provide first from our garden, then buy from other organic farms in the area and then fill in the blanks (esp fruit in the winter) with produce from an organic wholesaler. I try to give people at least 12 to 16 different items in their box each week. A small CSA box ($20)had 2 baby artichokes, 1 head leaf lettuce, 1 onion, 1 bunch baby carrots, 1 large carrot, fresh oregano, 1/2 lb green beans, 1 bunch celery, 2 hass avocados, 1lb fingerling potatoes, 3 yams, 1 baby bok choy, 1 pint strawberries, 2 orin apples, 2 tangerines, 2 fuji apples, 8 walnuts. We also deliver for $30 for the same box. The difference in price is because the CSA members commit for the season, help pack their boxes, and pick up their food.

I have heard that up to 20 members can be supported per acre depending on skill, soil conditions, etc.

Good luck, we have more info on our website: www.amysorganics.com


-- Amy Richards (amysgarden2@earthlink.net), March 31, 2002.

Also check the book, "Rebirth of the Small Family Farm". Excellent including seedlists and quantities per acre,etc. Go to the SARE site and request info. Contact your local extension agent and request info as well.

-- Anne (HealthyTouch101@wildmail.com), April 01, 2002.

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