Whether you’ve looked into buying produce from a local farm, or you’ve decided to start a farm yourself, you’ve probably come across the term Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
But what exactly is CSA?
And why do so many farms start one?
In this article, you’ll learn all about Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture is an agreement between consumers and a farm.
In the agreement, consumers purchase a subscription from a local farm, getting a share of the harvests in return for regular payments.
The subscriptions are also referred to as shares or memberships.
CSAs can be established with a legal contract, as a verbal agreement, or done like a transaction.
A CSA is kind of like a partnership.
If the farm doesn’t do quite as well as expected, the subscriber receives less produce.
If the farm does better than expected, the subscriber receives more produce.
This gives the subscriber some investment in the success of the farm.
Some farms even band together to offer multiple-producer CSAs.
That way subscribers receive products from multiple farms rather than one, and the farms can share the profits.
A CSA benefits farmers in many ways.
For one, subscribers usually pay their fee up front, before the growing season begins.
This gives the farmer a bit of guaranteed money to cover operating costs, instead of hoping for good results at the end of the season.
But some farms, might offer a payment plan to help lower income patrons afford their products.
The annual cost for a CSA membership varies, but it’s usually between $400 and $700.
Plus, a CSA helps farmers build a customer base before it’s even time to sell.
If these customers enjoy what they get out of the agreement, they might spread the word and bring even more business with them.
Farms don’t have to grow crops to have CSAs either.
Dairy and chicken farms also often offer a CSA program.
Plus, some farms give subscribers extra goodies on top of the agreed upon produce.
Farms often lose 25-70% of their CSA customers every season.
But offering special gifts, fun events, or volunteer opportunities, has been shown to help farms retain subscribers.
So, what, and how much, a farmer offers their subscribers, really just depends on what they can, and are willing to give.
Usually, the farmers distribute their produce at the end of the season.
Some farms ask subscribers to pick up their produce at the farm, or a designated pick up spot, whereas others might deliver directly to the subscribers.
Again, it depends on the farmer’s ability and personal preference.
CSAs have also become more popular among consumers as food trends have moved toward organic, local foods.
Smaller, local farms offer more transparency in terms of where the food comes from and how it’s raised.
Especially because many farms welcome visitors and love the opportunity to educate others about their trade.
You don’t have to be a big operation to start a CSA.
Smaller farms also find success, just be sure to offer a variety of produce.
People will be less likely to be interested in a membership if you can only offer them one, or two, types of products each year.
If you’re interested in learning more about starting a farm, visit our website or call 602-753-3469.