Community Supported Agriculture – often called a CSA – is a partnership between farmers and their customers. At the start of the growing season, customers buy a membership at the farm and pay fees to help cover the season’s operating expenses. As shareholders in the farm, they receive a share of the harvest usually distributed in weekly amounts. Amounts depend on the harvest: good years produce larger quantities than poorer years. It’s an intimate relationship that benefits the farmers by helping subsidize seasonal expenses and creating a guaranteed outlet for products. Consumers benefit by connecting directly with growers for a continuous supply of fresh, local foods.
Is a CSA right for you? You’ll need:
- Experience farming. Members are willing to take a risk with you; they want to know that you know what you’re doing.
- Good communication skills for marketing, updating members on harvest. Members want relationships with those who grow their foods. Many CSAs distribute newsletters that include information about harvests, recipes and more.
- Organization/planning. CSA farmers must plan the whole season’s production before planting. It requires a steady, season-long production of diverse foods for weekly deliveries.
- Excellent recordkeeping. You’ll need to estimate all costs for the season including seeds, production costs, salaries, insurance, etc. Mistakes could either shortchange your profits, or your customer’s share.