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.
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.
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).
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?