The business of community supported agriculture

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Last Thursday we picked up our first box of produce from Vermont Valley Community Farm, the CSA that J and I joined this year. The cold spring briefly delayed the start of our subscription, but as you can see in the photo, we’re off and running now. The box included spring greens, spinach, a beautiful and enormous head of butter lettuce, scallions, radishes, turnips, a whole lot of rhubarb, potatoes that had been stored at 38 degrees all winter, and even a small potted basil plant.

With the start of our CSA subscription, I thought I’d share a recent report from Luke Runyon of Harvest Public Media that considers the ways that running a CSA can be a tough business. As he describes,

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture model is praised. CSAs, as they’re commonly known, are often considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat.

The model is simple: Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But running a CSA can bring with it some tricky business decisions.

Farmers, some of whom have limited business experience, must quickly learn how to market products, build customer loyalty, advertise, manage risk and diversify their revenue sources. CSAs, depending on their member involvement, often force farmers to turn a portion of their operation into a customer service business.

It’s an informative piece, so check out the full story in audio or text format here. And for more on CSAs, head to my earlier post on the subject.

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