More CSA Details

We’ve collected many names from folks potentially interested in the 2012 CSA, and will continue trying to hold on-farm events to build that connection. Meanwhile, we’ve roughly fleshed out more details on the CSA’s structure, though these are all open to discussion with interested parties. For information and reference, here’s what we’re leaning toward at the moment (also available on our website).

The CSA will be a single-farm CSA; everything distributed will come from this farm only, and customers will share in the risks and rewards of this single farm. As accurately puts it: “…implicit in the CSA concept is the idea that members share with the farmer the risk that some crops might do poorly due to bad weather, pest problems, and the like. With so many crops included in a CSA, it is expected that even if some languish, others will flourish and there will be plenty of food overall. Members pay the same whether it turns out to be a bumper year or a skinny one.” We strongly suggest potential customers, particularly those new to CSA, read through Localharvest’s excellent collection of information and guidance on defining and choosing a CSA.

Farm tours for prospective members
Starting in October, we’ll be hosting several on-farm events for prospective members interested in learning more about the farm and the CSA. The first two will be held on:
Saturday October 8, 2pm
Sunday October 9, 2pm
If you’re interested in attending any of these events, or to discuss the CSA, please contact us or call 474-0989.

Details While we haven’t settled on the exact structure of the CSA, partly to wait for input from potential members at fall on-farm events, here is a rough look at the structure we’re leaning toward:

Share sizes:
Full share, suitable for a family of four that uses some produce or a single/couple household that cooks regularly.

Partial share, intended for one-person households. In theory we’d like to do just one share size, but we know of interest from a number of one-person households. These may be limited in quantity, because the reality is that the work of administration, packing, delivery, etc. is the same for a full share as a partial share, and so it is less efficient overall.

Price: Not yet set in stone, but approximately $1100 for a full share, $700 for a partial share, plus sales tax.

Deposit: We generally want to wait until after Jan. 1 to accept full payment for accounting/tax purposes. But we will likely set up a system for households to guarantee a membership slot by putting down a small deposit in advance.

Payment plan? This can be a difficult single payment for customers, but part of the core value of CSA is financial & planning stability for the farm, which means up-front payment. We’re considering how to balance these needs and don’t want this to be a deal-breaker. Payment plans also mean more administrative time, so we’re likely to offer this option but charge a fee to offset the extra time that it takes us to track, request, and handle multiple payments.

Limited share customization: We intend to build an online system that allows members make limited requests to customize their shares. A day or two before each share distribution, we plan to post online what we anticipate to be the “standard share” for the week. Members will have the option to opt out of given items, and when available, request extras. This is a compromise between full customization, which is not practical on our end, and complete inflexibility in share content. A CSA should encourage members to try unusual produce, but some folks simply don’t like certain products; if certain products won’t be used or appreciated in one household, we’d rather be able to free those items up for a household that really likes them. Similarly, we want to share the bounty when it is available, but we don’t want to overwhelm a member’s kitchen with lots of extra product unless they are prepared to use it. Those who request a lot will get the best overall deal, but this allows others to take lesser amounts when desired.

Share splitting: We request that shares not be split among more than one household for several reasons. Customization of shares (described above) would be neither fair nor effective with multiple households drawing on one share. Membership also includes benefits such as on-farm events, and we cannot provide these benefits to multiple households for a single share price. Finally, we feel strongly that a core strength of CSA is the members’ connection to the farm and their understanding of the farm’s methods, and this is diluted by share-splitting.

Distribution pattern: Each household will receive a weekly share during the core growing season. Most shares will be distributed late week (probably Thursday?). There will also be an early week share-distribution day (Sunday/Monday?).

Distribution calendar: Weekly May-October/November, monthly or occasionally through winter and spring.

Share contents: Diverse seasonal produce and herbs May-November. Storage or off-season items through winter/spring (garlic, onions, root crops, mushrooms, possibly dried beans/corn, etc as available).

Disribution location: We’re leaning toward home delivery for those who live in central Columbia or along our route into/out of Columbia. There may be an extra fee for deliveries that require a lot of extra driving. This is a detail we’ll have to work out based on where member live &/or work. On-farm pick up could be a possibility for a small number of members, but we don’t want to do too much of this out of respect for neighbors’ privacy and the practicality of receiving regular visitors while running a farm.

Are work shifts required? No, we will not require paying members to take part in work shifts. While this is ideally a way to involve members more directly in the farm, it can also be hard to organize and manage effective work for very short-term and occasional visitors, and we don’t think the hassle will be worth the benefit.

Special benefits: Farm events like bird & nature walks, on-farm meal invitations, kids’ activities, newsletter with cooking/preservation advice & ideas, etc. Limited quantities of eggs and raw goat milk (for cooking or cheese/yogurt-making) may be offered for sale to members, depending on production and circumstances.

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