1. What is an organic CSA?
A Community Supported Agriculture farm (or CSA) is supported by its members, who pay for a ‘share’ of the farm’s produce at the beginning of the year, and receive a portion of whatever is harvested regularly throughout the year. This model assures the farmer a living, even if disaster strikes (flood, earthquake, locusts) and the farm is unable to produce. In most cases, members receive a weekly portion of produce for pennies on the dollar compared to what they would get at a supermarket, and are assured of local, fresh, and, typically organic produce. The model is so successful at creating community and providing a market niche for small farmers, that some credit it with the resurgence of small scale organic farming in the U.S., as a means of providing a competitive advantage over large scale agribusiness.
There are a variety of business models of CSA, ranging from small-scale operations to vertically integrated, and from farmer-driven (subscription) to consumer-driven (shareholder). If interested in starting a CSA, talk to a member of Green Business Village about your options.
2. What required knowledge or skills are necessary?
It is highly recommended that anyone wishing to start an organic farm CSA be knowledgeable in organic farming practices. If you are interested in this type of business but have no farming experience, start by volunteering for another organic farmer, either locally or as part of an experiential travel program like WWOOF’ing. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and at WWOOF.org, you’ll find a list of farmers looking for volunteers to help them grow, harvest, and market their goods. If the work suits your fancy and you decide to pursue this as a career, you may choose to enroll in a 6 month training program, like the apprenticeship program offered by the University of Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Or….just keep on WWOOF’ing!
3. How much money is required to start?
$$-$$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$). This is highly dependent on the nature of the land you plan to use and therefore extremely variable in terms of startup costs.
4. What is the income potential?
$$-$$$ (on a scale of $ to $$$$$). This also largely depends on the nature of the land you’re using. If you decide to purchase your farm, for example, you may be able to offer other services, such as education facilities and holistic health retreats.
5. What is the best location for an organic CSA?
Urban (fair), semi-urban (fair), suburbs (fair), rural (best).
6. Three best questions to ask yourself to find out if this business is right for you (if you can answer yes to all three, this business might be for you):
Are you knowledgeable of organic farming practices and methods? If no, see #2, above.
Do you enjoy working with your hands, working outside, physical labor, and working long hours?
Is there a fairly popular farmer’s market in your area where you could sell your goods (including subscriptions/shares, as well as extra produce)?
Interested in starting one in your community? Where do you begin? What permits do you need? Who is your target customer? How do you find them? What is the best use of your limited advertising dollars? What’s the best way to attract a great employee or volunteer? What does an average day look like? What strategic tips do veteran eco-entrepreneurs suggest for startups like you?
There’s a lot to think about. Rest easy. Our mission is to help you succeed, so drop us a line (Info@GreenBusinessVillage.com). We’ll get you a business planning document to get you on your way for ONLY $299! We also guarantee our work, so if you are not satisfied, you get your money back!*
Take a look at a sample table of contents and a few excerpts here. In essence, we’ll provide you the What, When, Where, and How…you provide the Who!
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