Information for CSAs

loodeanNovember 4, 2006

I visit ATTRAÂs website from time to time, but hadnÂt there in a while. (No, I donÂt know why their acronym  ATTRA  doesnÂt match their name National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service). This past week I found a new article (2006) that directly spoke to many of the issues we talked about in our past thread concerning CSAs.

Go to:

http://attra.ncat.org/new_pubs/attra-pub/csa.html?id=Minnesota

The article is a compilation of several surveys/studies of both CSA farmers and participants. One study found that the expectation of CSA farmers was different from that of the participants, particularly regarding the "community" part of the philosophy. In the articleÂs words: "Shareholders (members) did not find the social and aesthetic meaning in the CSA system that the investigator did, but viewed it primarily as a source of fresh produce." Moreover, most of the people who said before the season began that they wanted to get involved in the farm never actually made it out to the farm.

Three other interesting statements in the article peaked my interest:

a)"participants often feel that there is too much produce, too much food preparation time, and lack of product choice"

b) "share prices should be increased to provide a better return to the farmer."

c) hearing about the CSA through word-of-mouth increases membership probability, while posters and flyers have an insignificant impact.

Finally, the article offered two resources for software for CSA management. One seems to be defunct and the site cannot be accessed, but the other can: http://www.back40books.com/get_list_1054.htm

The description reads: Market Farm Forms by Marcie Rosenzweig. Contains computer spreadsheet templates for planning and organizing information on diversified market farms. This software program will help you in planning crops and budgets, order seed and soil amendments, grow transplants, project yields and income, and then track what really happens against your projections.

I think the price ($55.00) is a little steep, but I am toying with the idea of buying it  maybe as a Christmas present to myself. Has anybody out there seen or used it? Is it worthwhile? I play with Excel all the time and have set up some management stuff for my CSA in it, but am intrigued that there may be more or better stuff out there.

Luddene

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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

I have the market forms but have never figured out how to use them but than i am a spreadsheet moron, they make zero sense to me and because i have lost several harddrives and everything on them in the past I have decided to be a luddite when it comes to record keeping and use paper and pencil and it wirkls for me.

What you write about CSA just makes me firmer in my decision not to do a CSA again. If people want fresh produce they can buy it at either my farm store (and visit a working farm too boot!) or at one of the two farmers' markets I attend.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 7:09AM
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rehoboth

This dates me about 20 years, but memory is that ATTRA's original name was Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas or something close to that.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2006 at 6:35PM
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anniew(4-5/PA)

ohiorganic,
I didn't understand your comment about what had been written confirms your idea not to do a CSA again. What specifically were you referring to?
Ann

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 7:45PM
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rehoboth

I know a fellow vendor who uses Market Farm Forms and highly recommends them. His only question now is the one he has is old enough it came on a floppy. Don't know if it comes on CD now or not.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 4:45PM
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skagit_goat_man_(WA)

Ann, we came to the same conclusion on a CSA as Ohiorganic. Our concept of the CSA was member participation either in some work and also just in social get-togethers. We discovered our customers just wanted good local produce and did not want to be "burdened" with any other activities, work or social. So we just went to being a subscription farm, offered only the produce and meat people really knew and wanted, and had no other group activities. Maybe it's different other places but here that's what worked for us. We're starting a new market farm this summer and in '08 will try and re-establish the subscription service again. Tom

    Bookmark   December 14, 2006 at 11:57AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Anniew,

I am referring to this
"One study found that the expectation of CSA farmers was different from that of the participants, particularly regarding the "community" part of the philosophy. In the article�s words: "Shareholders (members) did not find the social and aesthetic meaning in the CSA system that the investigator did, but viewed it primarily as a source of fresh produce." Moreover, most of the people who said before the season began that they wanted to get involved in the farm never actually made it out to the farm."

That most CSA members want nothing to do with the CSA farm, that they seem to not care about their disconnection with their food (Which was one of the top reasons I did a CSA-to reconnect eaters with the farm). So CSA while supported monetarily by people are by no means supported by a community which implies the members interact with each other and the CSA farm has much more than mere money support from members.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 7:04AM
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anniew(4-5/PA)

Gotcha ohiorganic.
I too think my CSA is really just subscription farming. Actually, last year was my first year at CSAing and I didn't really want people involved, as it was bad enough organzing myself, let alone others who might work on the farm. I still feel the same way.
However, I feel that they are interested in good, fresh food, and I'm interesting in supply good, fresh food, so that is enough "community support" for my purposes. They appreciate it, and I get to produce for a local clientel. This in turn supports the larger community since the fee they pay is recycled at least one more time through me.
I'm sure several of them are also happy with the convenience as I deliver most shares during my normal trips to town (or at least coordinate the two). Everyone is less than a mile (most only a few hundred feet) off the main road, and others pick up where they work (the court house) at the end of the work day. Only 3 pick up at the farm and that usually takes up more of my time than all the rest combined.
Weather was terrible here this season (floods and weeks of rain), so I'm hoping for a better year in 2007.
Ann

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 6:22PM
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