csa

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by jackie c, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone here operate their place as a csa? I'm planning on doing this next year, so any thoughts on operating a csa would indeed be appreciated.
     
  2. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    I run a small CSA. There are several benefits and drawbacks:

    Benefits:
    Your seed, tractor rentals, amendments, etc. are paid up front, so the out-of-pocket outlay in the spring is definitely taken care of.
    If you have other products to offer as well (I have a catering/home food manufacturing business), you have instant access to a loyal customer base.
    Your crop is sold before it's grown, so you don't have to waste time at the farmer's market or running a stand all the time, although those are definite possibilities for bumper crops.
    The income from the shares pays for your food, any remainder of the crop that you wholesale or retail, and covers some of your labor, though I shudder to think of the hourly rate I'm earning.

    Drawbacks:
    It definitely puts the pressure on what, for most, is an enjoyable hobby before they undertake the CSA model.
    Your reputation is beholden to things like weather, insects, etc., which is always on your mind even if you're clear to your shareholders that they are sharing that risk with you.
    More of your time is taken up in the garden, which limits the time you probably would ordinarily spend putting up the food for your own family. I find that my personal canning and freezing is way down.

    I will probably continue to do it, even though this season was extremely stressful with the late start and lack of sunshine. We thought we might throw in the towel a few times this spring. Harvest is late this year for a lot of things, but the quality's there, so our members are happy. We get $300 for a full share.

    Check out the book "Sharing the Harvest" by Elizabeth Henderson and Robin VanEyn. It's a hard-core CSA model with boards, work shares, lease agreements, community equipment purchasing, etc. but you can water it down to make it more managable for you to handle.
     

  3. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    I have a friend who runs a CSA. She urged that one start quite small. She started with 10 subscribers, and has gradually raised it to about 35 over about 5 years. There is a comfort level which you will develop over time. There are a lot of things that you will learn initially such as succession planting. You'll also learn much about how you will want to organize things and systems in the first year or two. The first year or two had her occasionally buying produce from larger organic farmers in order to fill her bags with a good variety. You will also collect a lot of info from your customers on preferences. There are other good books by people who have done this, as well as articles from magazines. I recommend Growing for Market (growingformarket.com). This is an excellent journal about small scale farming. Even tho I am now off the farm, I still read it cover to cover the day it arrives.

    Best wishes in your endeavors.
     
  4. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Does anyone think it could be possible to rent land to grow veggies and have this type of operation? We have talked about doing this because we enjoy growing good produce and would like to make some money if possible. As has been said, it would be a lot more stressful than doing it as a hobby. If we had done it this year we would have had to buy tomatoes to supply our customers because our crop was dismal. It's the first time it ever happened, but it's something to think about when considering a financial venture. I'm not even sure where we'd find some land. It would almost have to be where there would be somebody close all of the time for security as well as to aid in maybe keeping four legged creatures away. We live in town, so it can't be us. I'm just thinking out loud. I'd be interested in hearing ideas from anyone who might have tried something similar or thought of doing it that way.

    Thanks,

    Nomad
     
  5. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    Where is Sharon of Upstate NY? - She runs a CSA (among other things) and seems to be having success with it.

    Nomad - I don't know if they offer the same in Ohio, but in NY if a person rents a portion of their land for agricultural use ( I think the minimum is 10 acres) they qualify for significant tax benefits. If it is the same in Ohio you might want to see if someone is interested in making an arrangement for you. Just remember, they can still toss you out if they decide the arrangement does not work and odds are you will have improved their land for them without compensation.
    Part II - The point of the CSA is that the public accepts the risks of the farmer - no tomatoes this year for the farmer means no tomatoes for the CSA member. Yes, you can lose people if you cannot deliver a good variety of produce at a fair price.

    Biggest CSA problems - people are used to one stop shopping, produce out of season and being able to buy small amounts of vegetables and fruits as they need them. It's hard to eat kale or turnips for weeks because that is what is being harvested. People also do not like to make special trips for anything - consider delivery door to door for an extra fee.

    Most People have no concept of farming or gardening. When I ran a CSA group years ago we asked for suggestions and got things like "please grow oranges" - we were located in zone 5 New York - and my personal favorite "we prefer brown rooster eggs" :confused: .

    Most CSA's I know also sell to restaurants, do specialty growing (ie:flowers for florists) and do at least one green market to make ends meet. Of the twelve CSA's that were started in my well populated area of NY in the last 10 years only three are still in operation.

    You might want to read the books "Stronger Than Dirt" and "On This Good Land" for some ideas.
     
  6. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks Diane,

    We aren't sure exactly what we want to do, but one thing is for sure...I'm tired of sitting in an office in front of a computer all day. We both prefer to be outside and be somewhat more active. Finding an opportunity that will provide those things isn't difficult. Finding an opportunity and starting from scratch at our age with little more than the desire to do it is a little bit harder. Maybe I'm just being unrealistic in what I'd like to do. Oh well, things generally end up the way they are meant to so we'll see.

    Nomad
     
  7. evilbunny

    evilbunny Well-Known Member

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    Iowa
    I had been looking at starting as a csa next year also. A few of the logistics have me going in circles. I cant seem to decide or determine exactly what would work best. I agree with the startin small and that might be the answer to most of my dilemas.

    I wonder if anyone knows of a resource for normal amounts of food per plant/row etc of veggetables. I was thinking along the lines of how many plants would I need for this vegetable to provide for a person.

    I also am not sure how to set the rules. I want any excess to be used as for sale from the farm to others or at farmers markets and any other excess donated. I just dont know how to make it clear that they will receive a certain amount if production is high and not ALL that is there and yet if things dont produce well that they wont receive very much if any.

    Jackie if you would like I'd love to chat with you and throw some ideas around. If there is anyone else that would like to discuss this on an idea share/help each other out basis, I'd love to hear from you. I think there are a lot of details-that-arent-right-in-front-of-you type things that more than one head might be able to consider and resolve.

    BTW: Thanks for the book ideas, I've been reading the websites of many csa's and found a lot of helpful ideas from what they are doing. I think some books on the subject will be very helpful.
     
  8. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member Supporter

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  9. anniew

    anniew keep it simple and honest Supporter

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    Johnny's catalog (commercial or market farmer) has a chart showing
    how much will be harvested from a 100 foot row of various crops.
    Ann
     
  10. evilbunny

    evilbunny Well-Known Member

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    anniew thanks, I knew I had seen something like that some place. I do have the johnny's catalog. I drool through it a lot. Sometimes something can be right in front of you and you dont realize it.

    :D
     
  11. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Yes evillbunny I'd love to bang around ideas with you! It's infinately better with two heads, the more the better! I've taken a few business courses, and brainstorming with others is a fantastic way to come up with fresh and innovative ideas. It's hard to do when the same business is being considered in the same area, you know, competiton. So I guess we shoud pm some. I wish this site could create a chat room, that would be the cat's butt :yeeha:
    Anyway, I've come across a place for women entreprenuers in my area, and they are going to help me create my business plan. So if you're interested, I could share what I learn there with you. So keep in touch, maybe we could find a chat room somewhere on the web. Any ideas?
     
  12. savingup

    savingup Active Member

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  13. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the input fin29. I know it will be stressful, but I can be stressed in town on the job just as easily as out here, diffence is, I'd rather be out here. I plan on starting small so I can stay on top of everything, and I've been planning this for quite a while. I still have a lot of planning to do, but that's what winters for anyway. I've heard a lot about "Sharing the Harvest" I intend on buying it. Thanks again for the input, and I hope if I have any specific questions, you could help me out, much appreciated :worship:
     
  14. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, saving up, I thought I was alone in my ignorance.
    ;)
     
  15. savingup

    savingup Active Member

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    No problem, I'll take the silly question lead anytime. Still waiting for an answer though. :)
     
  16. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Community Supported Agriculture. A breif description is a farmer offers shares for sale to the public, they in return receive a weekly supply of fresh produce. There are as many variations of this concept as there are farms.
     
  17. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    Okay, this really gets my attention because we are just setting up our farm and I have heard about something like this.
    I have a lot of questions, so I'll start a new thread. Thnks, folks!
    Debbie
     
  18. ponyexpress

    ponyexpress Well-Known Member

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    <<< If there is anyone else that would like to
    discuss this on an idea share/help each other out basis, I'd love to hear from you. >>>
    I would love to be in on your discussions. I don't know how much I can contribute, as the only thing we seem to be able to grow is potatoes!
    I definitely need some help in the money area, and would love to have a small CSA if I could figure things out.
     
  19. BooBoo

    BooBoo Member

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    idaho

    woukd you mind sharing thart with us?
    we live in Idaho
    thanks
     
  20. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I joined a group of friends in subscribing to an organic CSA last year, but it was not very satisfying. I enjoyed the variety of vegetables in the boxes every week, but there just wasn't enough of each. A friend and her husband (who subscribed for a 2-person bag) got just six green beans one week. Basil was represented by two small stems. I had a 4-person box and also got about half a dozen beans, not enough for a single meal for our family of three. This year, I'm able to plant my garden again, so I don't lack for fresh picked veggies. My friends decided just to shop at the farmer's markets.