An interesting way to run a CSA

I like the idea of community-supported-agriculture programs. The idea is that consumers pay farmers up front in exchange for a cut of the farmer’s harvest. It’s supposed to reduce the risk local producers face by spreading it out among customers. Perfect growing weather? Eaters share in the plenty and abundance. Crappy growing season and deer infestation? There’s a lot less to go around.

Part of the fun is that it’s a way to be forced to figure out what to do with food I wouldn’t usually buy. Like two years ago I swear we got nothing but kohlrabi all summer. And that fucking kohlrabi — a vegetable that even the deer didn’t want — was the beginning and ending of my CSA participation.

But I’m going to try it again this year and here’s why:
Salt Fork Farms has set up their CSA program differently. It requires an initial $200 buy-in, but instead of being loaded up with weird vegetables that I have no interest in cooking all summer long (or canning for the winter), I have the privilege of shopping at their farmers’ market stand with my $200-worth of punch cards (with a 10 percent discount). I can get a gazillion eggs and a few chickens. Or only greens in the spring. Or whatever else they’ve got.

I’m just happy that I won’t be forced to deal with kohlrabi again.

7 thoughts on “An interesting way to run a CSA”

  1. I'm intrigued by CSA but am leery of the "kohlrabi factor" (even though I love kohlrabi). The Salt Fork Farms model seems much more attractive. Too bad their site stinks and doesn't have any info it. The only link I can find is self-referential.

  2. I love kohlrabi! Delicious! Throw it in a stir fry and you've got water chestnut texture but with attitude of a radish.

  3. Disappointingly, Laura has been purchasing — BY CHOICE — tons of kohlrabi from our CSA guy.

  4. Am I missing something here? To me these doesent sounds like a CSA at all but more like a $200 gift certificate. Part of the idea of a CSA is that the consumer is able to collect more during a good growing season, or less in a bad one for that matter. That sort of connection to the land seems to be taken out in this equation and replaced with a 10% discount. And is visiting all the different venders not part of the fun of the farmers market. Just my first thought, let me know if I’m wrong.

  5. Mike, as I'm sure you know, the main problem community-supported agriculture attempts to solve is that farmers take on all of risk of providing us food. Often, farmers have to take out loans to buy seeds, fertilizers and whatnot, and in a bad year are left with no way to recoup those initial costs.

    Many CSAs offer the benefit exactly as you describe: a good growing season means lots of food for CSA members, a bad one can mean nothing. Reconnecting consumers with the growing conditions is a secondary concern.

    Additionally, the way this is set up, if the growing season is bad and Eric has little to sell at market, I might not spend my full $200 this year since normal market shoppers could beat me to what little there is. (It hasn't turned out this way this year.) Nor have we been locked in to a single farmers' market vendor this year. Salt Fork can't possibly offer the full assortment of the market, let alone my beloved tamales, or pork, or beef, or potatoes, or tomatoes, or squashes, or …

    That said, I also wondered if this setup spread the risk as the more traditional CSA arrangement. However, it's possible that not having to divide up the produce and arrange deliveries could make that trade off worth it for the farmer.

  6. My CSA (Waltham Fields Community Farm) had the "kohlrabi problem" but then solved it by branching out and adding more choice- of the 12 veggies on offer each week- we could choose the 8 we wanted. As a result, we got plenty of the things we liked (beets, carrots, collard greens, lettuce), and I didn't have to eat any eggplant, or kale.
    Since they have been doing this for 2 years now, I think it has worked out well for the farm. I don't think they have been "stuck" with stuff no one wanted, and there were few, if any days when we went that popular things (like the garlic or the carrots) were running out.

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