[Market-farming] how to set up a CSA program
mhcsa at verizon.net
Thu Jan 28 12:03:18 EST 2010
There is no 'correct' way. Successful yes, but not correct.
I would recommend finding a small group of people from your area to work
with in setting it up. The essence of CSA is that there is a mutually agreed
and transparent relationship between the two parties to the agreement; that
is what forms the basis of the community in Csa. That is hard to do if you
don't have at least some representation of the consumers of the food that
you are producing. All the other arrangements, pre payment etc etc are, in
my opinion, optional and negotiable .
If you are not in a position to call on a few of your existing customers to
co create the CSA then I suggest you sell by the pound until you have
created enough local goodwill that can form the basis of a CSA enterprise.
If you set it up as a marketing 'scheme', especially if you do not have much
experience growing, then it may be difficult. If you sell a overripe lettuce
it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for a week. If you launch an ill
conceived CSA model without consultation on a unfamiliar public that then
falls short of [often unrealistic] expectations it will leave a bitter taste
in the mouth for a lot longer than a week. The most common way 'new growers
deal with this is to offer the CSA shares at a very low price thus
dramatically lowering expectations. This too is not wise because it is hard
to raise prices once a precedent is set. CSA share cost should be based on
real costs including a decent margin. If this share cost does not compare
favorably to local price points then the solution is NOT to lower prices,
which only means you will be subsidizing your customers, but to go back and
examine your production system to improve productivity.
There are a lot of additional pressures for the grower that come with CSA,
mostly in the category of 'consumer expectation'.
Having said all that I myself would not grow for anything other than a CSA
at this point [surpluses apart]
In summary you should:
1. Become the best grower you can
2. find a local CSA mentor
3. establish a loyal customer base
4. work with representatives of that base to form the CSA
5. remember a CSA may be many other things but it is also a business
6. Csa's become easier and more productive at larger scales with 220
being the usual dynamic threshold. Small can work too based on special
conditions but do not be afraid to grow, it makes things easier as long as
you pay attention to #7
7. work your production system up to +/- 80% of its capacity
8. think about working with other growers to exchange surpluses to
cover for crop failures. This will make your system more robust.
9. once successful mentor other CSA's in your area. The more of you
there are the better.
All the above is true no matter if you are a back yard gardener or plan your
cops in thousands of row feet.
Best of luck.
Massachusetts I have only a few years experience but I absolutley love
growing food. I'm going to start a CSA in my neighborhood this season. I'm
in need of info on how to correctly set one up. Would really appreciate the
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