It’s my second year taking part during a community supported agriculture program, and I am hooked!

Last year, I loved my CSA therefore abundant that I joined 2 this year! I’m splitting them with an admirer I apprehend who was additionally interested, and I’m glad I did, as a result of although I like vegetables, I am practically overwhelmed right currently, even once dividing each of my shares in half!

I’ve been interested in the CSA concept for years. It appears like such an amazingly commonsense, nonetheless innovative idea. You get fresh, healthy, domestically grown (and typically organic) foods, typically at a lower price than what you’d notice at the supermarket. The farmer gets a designed-in market, and typically they get paid at the start of the season, after they want it most. And you’re serving to out the surroundings by eating locally grown rather than having foods shipped in from different areas (or even other countries), plus supporting tiny farms that tend to control more sustainably and take better care of the soil & water they use.

The problem was, I did not understand how to search out a CSA, or if there even were any in my area. I searched online some times many years ago, however didn’t have abundant luck. But in the few years since then, the farming community has embraced the use of the web, and many farms currently have their own websites, that makes it abundant easier to seek out participating programs. There are a minimum of five or six CSAs that deliver regionally to my hometown now, and many others in outlying areas in the vicinity.

I’ve told several friends regarding it, and for the general public, the community supported agriculture concept sadly appears to be a well-kept secret.

For those that are unfamiliar with the thought, it is somewhat sort of a co-op. People subscribe by buying a “share” of a given farm’s (or group of farms) harvest for the year. Sometimes this can be done before the start of the season, thus you create a one-time payment, and then collect your shares weekly or monthly throughout the harvest season.

Historically the concept has been largely used with vegetables. However, there are all kinds of CSAs cropping up these days, from vegetables & fruits, to dairy and even meats. Here in Ohio, where the growing season is not that long, I subscribe to a vegetable CSA within the summer, and a meat CSA (with one among the same farms) in the winter months, thus at least I apprehend I’m eating locally in part throughout the year.

One among the farms I’m subscribed to is organic. The other has mostly naturally grown produce, aside from the fruit. One share I choose up at a local farmer’s market. The other is delivered right to my office!

Right currently I’m overwhelmed with the summer’s bounty. My refrigerator is stuffed to overflowing with amazing, recent vegetables (and my freezer still contains some organic meats from the winter share). It’s been years since I lived on a farm, and with all the years of looking at supermarkets and just choosing up whatever I felt like, I had forgotten what a bounty the summer really brings…. It makes me feel thus abundant a lot of connected to my atmosphere to solely be eating things that are in season. It also forces me to cook more creatively!

These days, in my fridge I’ve got turnips, turnip greens, sweet corn, inexperienced beans, red cabbage, white cabbage, red onions, white onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, 3 quite hot peppers, eggplant, summer squash, patty-pan squash, zucchini, broccoli, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon…and pasture-raised eggs that are included from one amongst the farms. And all of it is organic or naturally grown, and was picked among the last 2 days.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way for farmers and consumers to connect. The demand for fresh local food is growing steadily; there’s never been a better time to start market gardening. Learn how to start your own CSA and grow an income from your garden.

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

In the CSA model, customers support the farmer by buying a share of vegetables from her market garden. Customers often pay in advance for the season; this early cash flow provides start up capital for the farmer to buy seeds and supplies. In this model the CSA farmer can launch a market garden with little capital of her own.

What is the benefit to the consumer?

Customers of the CSA benefit by receiving a weekly share of fresh, natural food, often delivered right to their door. They also benefit from the knowledge they are supporting local food and local farmers, and reducing the ‘food miles’ that most produce travels before it reaches the consumer. Finally, the consumer is connecting back to the real source of all food, the soil. Many CSA customers feel a sense of ownership as they support their farm.

How to get started in Community Supported Agriculture

Step one is to set some goals for your CSA garden. How much money do you expect to make from your garden? Do you expect to make a part time income, or will your CSA be your main source of income for the season?

Once you have set an income target, you need to determine a price for your CSA shares, and the number of customers you will need to reach your target. For example, if you plan to make $10,000 from your garden, and you think that $500 per share is a fair price for your produce, then you will need to find 20 customers to meet your income goal. You can determine a price per share by surveying other CSA farms in your area, and comparing their offerings and prices. You can also estimate fair price by determining how much of each vegetable you plan to include in the share, and researching to find out an average price for each one.

Finding customers for your Community Supported Agriculture market garden

The first step in marketing your garden is to reach out to your warm market. Talk to your friends, family, co-workers, golf buddies, car poolers, in short everybody, and tell them you will be growing delicious, fresh vegetables in limited quantities, and if they hurry they can get on the list to get some. If they are interested, sign them up and accept a payment to help finance your garden.

If your warm market can’t fulfill your target for customers, then you have to find another source. Mail out flyers are a good way to target a specific area to find more customers. Find a neighborhood within your delivery distance, and send each home a flyer describing your garden and the benefits of your CSA program. If you write a good, compelling flyer, you can expect to receive about a 1% response rate. In other words, if you send out 1,000 flyers you will net about 10 customers. Repeat the mailing in other close neighborhoods until you reach your target.

Planning your Community Supported Agriculture market garden

Once you have confirmed how many customers you have, you now need to plan and schedule your garden to grow the vegetables for them. One of the big advantages of Community Supported Agriculture is that you know exactly how many customers you have, and therefore you can plan your market garden to be quite efficient. You will need to know your last spring frost date and your first fall frost date to plan your growing schedule. You also need to know how long each vegetable takes to mature, how much it yields, and how often you need to replant to keep a continuous harvest coming.

For example, if you have 20 customers, and each customer expects to receive one head of lettuce per week, then you know you need to harvest at least that many lettuces each week. If lettuce takes 50 days to grow to maturity, and needs one square foot of space to grow, you can figure out when to start the plants, and how much space in total you will need. You carry out this calculation for each crop you plan to grow.

Growing your Community Supported Agriculture market garden

A successful market garden requires regular attention to survive and thrive. You need to take all reasonable effort to grow and protect your crops; your customers are counting on you to bring them fresh vegetables each week. You should plant more than one variety of each vegetable, and make multiple plantings at short intervals to protect against crop failure. Grow disease resistant varieties whenever possible. Raised beds can protect against heavy rains and flooding, and drip irrigation will protect against drought. Floating row cover will provide a physical barrier against insects, and will protect young plants from cold and wind.

Starting a Community Supported Agriculture market garden is a great business you can start for very little cash. If you are successful you can grow from a part-time to a very good full time income with CSA.