COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA) PRICING AND IDEAS FOR 2014
By Jiff Martin, UConn Extension Educator, Sustainable Food Systems
For anyone offering a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or looking to offer a CSA next year, here are some facts to consider. As of 2013, there were at least 98 farms offering CSA shares of all sorts, including vegetable shares, fruit shares, flowers shares, egg and meat shares. Between August-September 2013, UConn Extension gathered pricing information on 83 farms that had offered a standard summer vegetable share. We found that the average price for a vegetable share in CT during the 2013 season was $30/week. The maximum was $50/week, and the minimum was $14/week. This data indicates a slight increase since 2012 when the average was $28/week. We did not attempt to compare the contents of CSA shares, nor did we analyze pricing for specialty CSA shares such as winter shares, flower shares, meat shares, etc. (UConn Extension is grateful to Amanda Freund for her assistance on this project. The data on 2013 CSA prices as well as the latest compilation of CSAs in Connecticut are both available at: http://www.extension.uconn.edu/csa)
Ideas on revising your CSA contract:
Define ‘CSA’ – It’s important to be clear with your shareholders how your farm defines the term ‘CSA’. Your own definition will probably highlight why you have decided to offer a CSA. For example, you could discuss the importance of having capital funds early in the season, or the benefits of eating seasonally, or the way a CSA helps build community, or the role CSAs play in supporting local agriculture.
Explain the risk – As the farmer, you must decide whether or not your shareholders will share the risk of crop failure with you or not. If so, you must specify in your contract that all shares are non-refundable. However, it is oftentimes helpful to go beyond simply stating your policy. Note: Although this type of risk is different, consider including in your contract that your farm is not responsible for any injury that the shareholder and their party may incur upon pickup of their share at your farm.
Educate shareholders about your CSA share contents – In order to guide expectations, include in your contract a harvest calendar, or chart that shows typical CSA contents throughout the season. This should include information such as timing and varieties of vegetables, as well as quantities.
Clarify to shareholders what agricultural methods you use – CSA businesses are built on reliable and enthusiastic shareholders who implicitly trust the farmer to provide fresh, healthy products in each weekly share. Whatever production methods you use, it is helpful to educate shareholders about the methods you use and your rationale. Keep in mind there is a lot of confusion among consumers about the difference between local, organic, sustainable, biodynamic, agro-ecological, IPM, etc. A clear explanation of how you navigate production decisions and set goals can deepen customer commitment to your operation.
2013 CSAs in Connecticut
Fairfield Co. 9
Hartford Co. 24
Litchfield Co. 20
Middlesex Co. 6
New Haven Co. 18
New London Co. 11
Tolland Co. 3
Windham Co. 7
Average weekly price of 2013 Summer Vegetable CSA* = $30
Maximum price = $50
Minimum price = $14
*Average weekly price of 2012 Summer Vegetable CSA was $28
CSA PRICING AND IDEAS (CONTINUED)
Ideas for growing your CSA business:
Update your online profile – Be sure to create or update your farm listing on any of the high traffic websites including buyc-tgrown.com, localharvest.org, eatwild.com, farmfresh.org, and farmigo.com
Explore offering a workplace CSA – Imagine the benefit of one convenient drop-off point, where employees spread the word to others about your terrific produce. Look for businesses with wellness or sustainability initiatives, then ask for the business to have at least five employees (or whatever number works for you) to sign up for a box. Deliver food straight to the business each week. Don’t overlook opportunities at daycare centers and afterschool programs where parents can be invited to sign up to create a group drop off.
Explore offering a restaurant/cafeteria CSA – Your produce can be provided to restaurants and or cafeterias (hospitals, schools, etc). However, make sure the staff can cook from scratch, and they are open and willing to change their menu weekly based on what’s in season. Also, be sure that your farm business will be indicated on the menu, and then removed as soon as the product is out of season or no longer an ingredient. Could there be a special arrangement for CSA shareholders to attend a cooking class that features how to prepare their CSA share?
Community Supported Markets (CSM) – If you are in a challenging farmers market, but hope to stay there another season, can the market coordinator assemble product from a few farmer vendors for CSA distribution? (See this model in New Haven – http://cityseed.org/ )
Include low-income families – It may be possible to partner with a third party funder to have subsidized share prices for food pantry clients or other food insecure families. Would you consider offering a ‘Senior Share’ for low-income seniors who might prefer smaller shares? In order to accept payments from SNAP beneficiaries, find out if your CSA meets the Retail Store Eligibility criteria at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/store-eligibility.htm
For more information, you can also visit www.ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu