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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Let's Talk CSA

Lemon cucumbers, one of the many heirloom veggies we offer our CSA members

No I am not referring to the Confederate States of America when I talk about CSA. I am talking about Community Supported Agriculture. Which is, in a nutshell, an investment in a local farm. You join the CSA farm which is essentially investing in the farm. And like the stock market there is risk in that the CSA members share the risk of farming with the farmers. in a good year your dividend is a weekly "share" of the harvest. In a bad year your dividend will also be a weekly share of the harvest but the share will not be as big or diverse as one from a great growing season. The other thing a CSA member gets is a unique experience in that they get the opportunity to visit and support a real working farm. This is something about 90% of the US population cannot do because fewer than 2% of the population farms in the US and even fewer of those farmers grow on a small human scale. There are far more people in US prisons than there are growing our food.

Now the Boulder Belt Eco-Farm CSA is going into its' 10th season with zero members. This is nothing new we have gone into the month of May before getting members but this does make me wonder if I should keep the CSA going any longer. I realize I have changed a lot of things about the CSA this year. I have pretty much done away with the conivence by charging for delivery (okay we still have conivence but it will cost). But I have done this because I feel if a person joins a CSA they should have regular contact with "their" farm and take the opportunity to learn about how food is grown and to see their food growing. I have found over the years that delivery pretty much prevents this from happening.

Folks, we do two farmers' markets a week in Oxford. OH. If you need our food but do not want to visit the farm to pick up your CSA share (though you may want to pay the membership fee so you can get the newsletter I publish weekly and also have the privilege of being allowed to tour the farm, getting invites to exciting and fun on-farm events such as farm tours, potluck dinners and the occasional bonfire by the pond). We also will be opening up a farm market in Mid May that will have for sale what we have harvested that day plus things other local farmers have grown (or that's the plan).

I was working on my Local Harvest listing to day and found that Local Harvest lists 103 CSA in Ohio alone. 10 years ago when I started my CSA I believe there were around 20 CSA in the state. So I can see this is an idea that is gaining steam and yet in the Preble county area I cannot seems to generate much interest in the CSA idea. I guess I am still ahead of my time with this idea. And I will probably keep on doing a CSA even if it means only 2 or 3 people become members this season.

The CSA is my labor of love so I guess it is not important that the CSA actually make the farm money (of course that sort of kills our economically sustainability now doesn't it?)


Gina said...

If I lived just a bit closer, Lucy, I would definitely sign up! I used to support a CSA farm over in central Indiana, btu then finally got my own little 'farm". I would like to do the CSA thing too someday (but Indiana is even worse thaan Ohio for pockets of interest/disinterest. I live in one of the disinterest pockets!)

Good luck with the growing season!

Tor said...

We have similar things in Maine. My mother once bought a farm-share, and darned if the farmer didn't call her up in the fall to remind her she'd better come get some stuff before it was all gone by! That's customer service for you.