Is a CSA Farm the Right Choice for You?

Is a CSA Farm the Right Choice for You?

 

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a popular option for many small hobby farms. In most CSAs, several members pledge support and pay membership fees in exchange for a share of the crop. In an ideal world, this gives farmers a ready-made market for their produce, crafts and other farm products. 

The farmer has the capital to invest in seed, equipment and other necessities, rather than waiting to recoop expenses after products are sold.

The idea is appealing to many new or would-be farmers. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to it than just selling shares and working the farm. Before you venture out into the world of CSA farming, there are some serious questions to ask yourself.

  1. What do you know about the business of farming? Do you know how to market a CSA? How to manage it? What laws apply to selling produce or other ag products in your state, county or municipality? You don't want to have shares sold, only to find out you can't deliver because your area regulates your particular product.

  1. What types of farm products sell best in your area? What do customers look for most – fresh eggs and everyday produce, organic salad mixes, exotic fruits, grass-fed beef? It's great if you want to raise organic, low-carbon cattle, but if your primary market is looking for everyday veggies like green beans, carrots and corn, you'll find it hard to sell what you produce.

  1. How much experience do you have with farming? Are you still struggling to get the most out of your garden tomatoes? Do you know how many pounds of asparagus you can get out of a 10 foot row? If you don't know much about farming yet, starting a CSA with the promise of delivering anything to shareholders is setting yourself up for failure and upset customers.

  1. Have you done a SWOT analysis on your proposed CSA operation? SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Analyze your proposed venture from all angles. Make lists of the good, the bad and the undecided, then determine if it's within your power to affect a change for the better or to mitigate possible issues.