[Market-farming] CSA start-up

Brigette Leach avalonfarmshomegrown at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 25 21:40:18 EST 2007

Hi, Lu.

You're getting some good advice from others. In our experience, living 
near a good sized community is important. We live in a small community, 
just outside of the Village, population 800. No subscribers from town. 
We had 150 subscribers for the '07 season, all of them in the nearby 
communities with populations of 10,000, 50,000 and 80,000. 

For us, we are too far from those communities to expect subscribers to 
come to the farm to pick up their shares, so we deliver to them. Some 
drops are for 15-20 shares at a time, so we do not make 150 stops, but 
deliveries do have a cost and take time. We encourage people to act as 
coordinators for a reduction in their season price. If you go this 
route, do this with caution though because not everyone will be 
reliable, we've had a few problems when the coordinator couldn't keep 
payments straight. We do allow our subscribers to be invoiced weekly, 
monthly, quarterly.

Another reason we didn't want people at the farm, and especially didn't 
want subscribers working for part of their share is the liability 
situation in our state. We couldn't risk having someone get hurt...our 
worker's compensation laws consider them to be employed, even if they 
are not being paid. In addition, as much as we enjoy children, we didn't 
feel it would be safe to have subscribers bringing their children to our 
farm because the CSA isn't the only enterprise on the farm and we often 
have large equipment in and out.

My other advice is not to bite off more than you can chew. I get really 
ambitious in January looking at the seed catalogs. Even the first year 
of our CSA, when we only had 25 subscribers, we almost worked ourselves 
to death. We're more sensible now about what we can reasonably expect to 
grow and have enlisted a few neighbors to grow some items for us. For 
example, one raises all of our winter squash. He can do that part time 
with his kids...the kids learn and earn.

We started the first year at 26 weeks (too long on the November end), 
then 24, (still too long), and now this year 20. We charge $20 per share 
per week. A share is enough for one or two people, with 6-10 items. Now 
that we have the high tunnel we are considering doing a winter CSA, but 
because our bodies and minds need at least some down time, it will 
probably only be 8 weeks or so.

Our market garden is quite small, just over an acre, but we have two 
greenhouses and a high tunnel. The two greenhouses are just under 10,000 
square feet total and we raise hydroponic tomatoes (1660 plants) in one 
and salad greens in the other.

In addition to the CSA, we have commercial accounts with restaurants, 
caterers, and some of the local companies who provide in house food 
service for their employees. We also hit 3 farmers markets each week. 
All this takes a lot of time; we have 4 of us full time year around, and 
during the summer months about 4 part-time employees.

I do hope you'll keep asking questions...

Brigette Leach
Avalon Farms Homegrown
Share of the Farm

frshstrt at baldwin-telecom.net wrote:

>Hi Everyone,  I'm toying with the thought of starting a small CSA.  For 
>those of you who do this-  I need to know how many weeks,  how much cost 
>per share and about how much  per week in that share.  Any hints are 
>helpful.  Thanks,  Lu in Wisconsin
>Market-farming mailing list
>Market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org

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