Saturday, May 30, 2015

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

I've been asked numerous times over the years about setting up my farm as a CSA. While it is tempting to have a steady income from the farm, a CSA just doesn't suit me. In fact, CSAs haven't been all that successful in my area. Why? The primary reason is the difficulty to maintain variety from week to week. In the tropics it is far too easy for a disease or pest to wipe out a crop. Zap, all gone! Thus a CSA farmer seems to be faced with a choice-- grow an abundance of extra crops so that if one or two get wiped out, you can still offer a variety. Or two, take the risk and hope that you don't get hit and lose crops. If you do, then you lose variety resulting in a loss of subscribers. 

If I would opt for the first (grow extra), then I would have a dilemma. What to do with that extra if it isn't needed for the CSA. One could pack it into the CSA boxes anyway, essentially giving it away for free but also conditioning your customers to expect more (and possibly later on even demand it!) Or hustle to find buyers via stores and restaurants. Or spend a day set up at a farmers market and hopefully sell it. But that's a day tied up where I could be doing something else that was needed to get done. De

So if I can't sell my excess, what else? I could attempt to give it away, possibly via the seniors community center.  Most care homes in my area would require me to be a registered supplier, so simply dropping off boxes of free fresh veggies wouldn't work. Churches might take some, maybe, but I was told by two churches that they couldn't handle perishable foods. Then I could just give it away to people, but I would surely end up with surly customers who were paying for the same stuff. Like most commercial farmers, I could just dig it back into the soil. Personally I couldn't bring myself to bury edible food. Lastly, I could feed it to my livestock. I suppose that would be the route I would take. That, and giving some away to my friends. 

Basically here are my reasons for not operating a CSA: 

... Tried to a schedule. I'd have deadlines to get things picked, cleaned, packed, and distributed. Now that I'm "retired" I shy away from deadlines. 
... Stress of having to maintain production. 
... Tied to pick up times or deliveries. 
... Couldn't take a week off to relax whenever I felt I needed it. 
... Have to deal with unhappy customers and complaints. Learned long ago that no matter what you do you can't keep everybody happy. Example ...I hear people complain that thy get too much greens, while someone else bitches that they don't get enough greens. 
... Too much CSA food goes wasted. That would irk me to death. I hear of CSA customers wasting food all the time. It goes into the trash. I know that's once they pay for it, it's their food. But CSAs are incredibly food wasteful. 
... Having to instruct people how to eat the foods they pick up. That's a complaint I hear from CSA operators. Subscribers want recipes. Many have never seen a turnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or daikon and haven't the foggiest idea what I do with it. In this day and age, just google it! But apparently that's not what happens. Customers want the CSA operator to teach them how to eat food. 

1 comment:

  1. We belonged to Full Belly CSA out if Guinda, CA for years. I don't know how they did it. Maybe all the volunteer labor helped (unpaid interns). Flat arable land even though in drought stricken CA. Probably had good wells, dunno. Maybe being near foodie Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley and Alice Waters helped. I'm not sure but I think they sold to Chez Panisse and of course big huge farmers markets in addition to the subscribers. Being close to Bay Area metropolitan totally helps. Maybe CSA works better on Oahu. Big Island? Hmmmmm. I'm totally with ya on semi-retired. There just gets to be a point in life where ya don't wanna work that hard. Can't work that hard.