[Market-farming] CSA Share Structure

Susan Houghton susangivingtree at earthlink.net
Tue Dec 25 14:06:19 EST 2007

I have been wondering about a fair way to do something like this - and this (with modifications) might work for us.  We have been selling one size of share, and charging aproximately $25/week/share.  Some people complain it is too much, others complain it is too expensive, or not enough, and some we can please no matter what we do.  So we were thinking that this year we would offer 1 share size about 1/2 the usual, and then if a couple wanted, they could purchase more than one share.  This would bring the products down to about 7 or 8 pounds a share, and a lot less work for us. 
   Since we take a majority of our shares to the farmer's market, the option of having a "choice" table just didn't  seem doable. But maybe the answer is to give share holders a "certificate" or an option at the farmer's market (no cost, just the option to choose from the "extras" that we plan on selling anyway. 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Fellenz 
To: Market Farming
Sent: 12/25/2007 11:17:10 AM 
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] CSA Share Structure

What I do is to have a choice table.  The choice table is set up like a market table with more of what is already in the shares plus lots of different fruits and vegetables.  Each week my members pick up their pre-packed basic share and go to the share table to pick up items to supplement the base share.  As an example if small shares are getting 8 things one week, they may have five items in their basic share and the opportunity to choose three additional items off of the choice table.  The choice table seems to work fairly well both as a way for members to get more of a particular item or to choose something unique.  It also works well for me for items which produce over a fairly long season, like eggplant, which people would not want to see in their shares every week. 

Watching how people approach the choice table can be fun also.  Some people have a real dollars and cents mindset and consistently choose items which cost the most in the store, like raspberries, while others go for size - choosing a watermelon rather than something smaller, while others, especially people who have been members for a few years seem to just look and choose based on what looks good to them for that week.  Having a choice table also prompts conversation as people look at what is available and, especially for the unfamiliar items, discuss how to prepare them and what they taste like.  

In stocking the choice table, my goal is to bring home at least one of everything on the table because then I will know that everyone got their first choices.  Practically speaking, I stock the table with 10-20% more than people will take with them.  I have also learned that the fruit will go first, followed quickly by potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas and the other US standards.  My members like the idea of having access to many different vegetables, but when offered a choice usually default to the tried and true.  

I also have a herb table with fresh cut herbs.  My members can take what they want from the herb table each week as a bonus to their shares.


David Booth wrote: 
I am sorry if the subject line is a little vague.  What we are hoping to do for our CSA shareholders next season is to structure the shares so that instead of us dictating one head lettuce, three beets, two turnips, etc.  shareholders might choose a specific number of units. depending on their share size.  Thus they might choose two units of lettuce, one unit of beets, and no turnips for example.  Or all beets if they want to make pickled beets.  From a shareholders perspective, I think this could significantly increase satisfaction.  I can also imagine the challenges on our end.  I am wondering if any of you use a similar system and what you have found to be the greatest benefits and challenges.  Would you recommend it?  Thank you and happy happy holidays to all.
David Booth & Norma Hernandez
Arcadia Brook Farm
North Ferrisburg, Vermont
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