CSA

The “new” greenhouse in January 2011:  who said there’s nothing growing in a Michigan winter?

I run an informal CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with some of my friends as subscribers.  It’s basically a weekly farm share:  you give me money, I give you homegrown organic food.  If you’re unfamiliar with CSAs (and how you too can support a local farmer) please see Local Harvest for details and where to find a CSA near you.

Sourdough whole-wheat bread fresh out of Loven

Let me please first state that selling my food was never a goal.  No.  In point of fact, my initial goals were much more modest, like how can I grow enough tomatoes to last me all year?  How much jam and applesauce do we need?  How hard would it be to grow salad stuff in the wintertime?  I hate sorting the veggies in my root cellar:  is there an alternative method of preserving fresh carrots, celeriac, rutabagas, turnips and beets?  Once I mastered these things (especially greenhouse growing), it was obvious even to me that I grew a surplus.  So I gave stuff away.

Then I got a milk goat and became a cheese-making fool, and my friends began to balk.  Money began to change hands.  I had an informal a la carte group who bought things weekly.  But because I worried about the sale of raw-milk products, I shut it down…I wasn’t sure who, exactly, was consuming my products as word started to spread about the Chevre Lady.

Camembert on ciabatta with coffee:  perfect breakfast

So, now it’s a group of only friends who get a big pile of goods from me every week, year-round.  It’s not just veggies, however.  It’s what I call a “value-added community share.”  Because the harvests change with the seasons, the share changes too:  as I type this in late August, more fresh veggies crowd the boxes than not…though in the dead of winter stored, canned and/or fermented veggies will rule.  There are the “always” list of things (eggs, sourdough bread, chevre, quart of yogurt, vegetables and herbs), the “mostly” list (gallon-sized bag of salad, another of stir-fry greens) and the “seasonal” list (elderflower syrup, quarts of soup, herbed vinegars).

Cash munny

Like I said, it’s never been about the money.  But if you’re curious, I tend to make around $1,200. a month with my scheme (with six shares and a few extra I-can’t-refuse customers).  If I make more than $15,000 a year on this, it puts me into a commercial category according to Michigan law, and I’d rather be a rank amateur.  The money makes my farming more than a mere money-sucking hobby…the goats and chickens and turkeys pay for themselves.  And I am doing my part to see that a small slice of the world is well fed.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

3 responses to “CSA

  1. It sure is what it’s all about. Your work feeds your soul and feeds others as well. Thank you!

  2. Way to grow!

  3. I really appreciate the progression that your CSA started as making enough for yourself year-round and then progressing naturally when there was a surplus. In our first year we produced just enough for the growing season + a couple months but I have hopes of something more substantial. Thanks for the realistic inspiration!

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