Community Supported Agriculture in Metro Area

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by dla, Sep 12, 2004.

  1. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    356
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    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    Damascus, Maryland
    I am interested in planning now for a subscription-type CSA, and am interested in input from folks who have been there.
    A little background -
    We live in a suburb of Washington D.C. called Damascus in Maryland on land which has been set aside for agricultural use. We have about 50 acres of cleared, rolling hills which have been farmed by a tenant farmer for years.
    Of course the D.C. suburbs are a sprawling mess, and we are not an easy drive from the District itself, but there are plenty of suburbanites nearby with relatively deep pockets. There are definitely people who are interested in knowing a bit more about where their food comes from and having a chance to feel connected with a "country" life.
    We have a bit of time to plan and get established, so I'm not in a hurry.
    But I would like a farm which works something like this:
    Next year we plant a row of blueberry bushes and get a tiller for the tractor or ATV, and try planting a row or two of something we like (sweet corn or green beans)
    The following year we set up some a row of raspberry vines and learn about a few more crops.
    In seven years or so, we have 10-15 families who pay up front for a share of whatever grows, come what may. My bumper crop or lost crop is theirs too. Their working contribution would stay very small, except that they would have to come harvest whatever part was theirs. They might have a day or two when we'd allow picnicing by the creek, or a get discount on horse-riding lessons (my daughter is starting this).
    Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give you an idea of what is flying through our heads.
    Any ideas?
    I would be so appreciative of any input,
    Thanks, Debbie
     
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Aug 13, 2003
    Those suburbanites might want to know where their food comes from and they might go for a csa, but they aren't going to come pick their own. They are too busy.

    I'd do the csa, with you doing the picking, then you can also have a u-pick in addition to that.

    Jena
     

  3. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    356
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    Damascus, Maryland
    My friend joined an organic food coop, and they had all sorts of wild and crazy veggies to eat all summer.
    I'm much more interested in berries and bumper crops, like tomatoes and green beans and varieties of peppers and corn.
    I'd rather deal with fewer families and supply more foods (like eggs).
    Any other thoughts?
     
  4. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Location:
    Indiana
    The CSA I know allows subscribers to pick up their food once a week at the farm or, for a small fee, will deliver boxes of food once a week to agreed-on drop-off points in the cities nearby, such as a natural foods market. Several times a year they organize farm tour and picnic days. They also offer subscribers a bulk foods buying coop, for foods they don't grow, like rice and oats.
     
  5. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

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    Aug 12, 2002
    We had real good luck with cukes this year; also lots of tomatoes, okra, melons, blackeyed peas, bell peppers, eggplant, strawberries, squash, onions, lettuce, chard. Find out what everyone likes the best and grow those things first.
     
  6. Laura Workman

    Laura Workman (formerly Laura Jensen) Supporter

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    Location:
    Lynnwood, Washington
    I've looked into this, and learned that U-pick arrangements are a real liability. City folks don't know what ripe food looks like, and they don't know how to get it off of the vine (or tree, or bush, etc.) without damaging the mother plant, thereby cutting your harvest by a significant measure. Just one reason picking your own produce is a good idea.
     
  7. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Maine
    Yup. Keep them out of your garden, unless you plant a special section just for that. A PYO strawberry place around here plants about an acre in peas. No trellises or anything, the plants just lie on the ground. They produce well and they provide a rotational crop to rest the land from the strawberries a bit. Like Jena said, the members won't find the time, and you'll be stuck coordinating work, etc. if they do. Work shares are great in theory, but they really suck in practice a lot of the time.

    Food for thought-rent out your tractor work until you're really sure of this and you're working at least 2 or 3 acres. At $30-50 an hour, it takes a lot of hours to equal one payment on a tractor, and the risk is all on the operator of the equipment. My tractor guy busted his PTO shaft last year when he hit some ledge in our field-I sent him home with his $200 for the work, and he had some major repairs to do on the tractor.

    Also, in our CSA, we feed six households (about 25 people) plus our family of 4 on 1/4 acre with plenty to spare, so that might give you an idea of how little space it can take with careful planning, rotation, and attention to your soil. Also consider starting with crops that are less labor intensive. Peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, and berries are time stealers. We do them all, but more because we love to eat them. Berries should also be an additional cost to the CSA member in my opinion, albeit at a reduced rate.