Portage River Farm

  (Pinckney, Michigan)
Notes on our struggles and successes on our family farm in rural Michigan.
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Getting The Word Out

We are very excited about starting our CSA farm this coming spring and are trying to get the word out to folks who might be interested in participating. We have decided to hold a Farm Open House and CSA Formation Meeting on Saturday, November 21st. You can read more of the details here. We want to hold the meeting now so I can figure out how many members to plan for and get a jump on preparing for ordering seeds and sowing seedlings in January.

We want to start small and grow slowly, but we also want to find enough people interested in joining us to make it economically worth the effort. I emailed the announcement to some of my coworkers who have purchased eggs and vegetables from us in the past and am now fretting over how to get enough people involved. Janet is also planning to distribute the information to her network of friends and I've got my fingers crossed that some of them will decide to come. I have heard back from one coworker who indicated strong interest which calmed my fears a little.

By scheduling an open house, I have now created a deadline for myself to get a bunch of things done around here! Most evenings this week have been spent at the sewing machine making a Halloween costume for our son Aidan. He headed off to school this morning in a flowing green wizard's robe and pointy hat. Now that it is done, I need to really focus in finishing up my projects and making things look presentable for our guests. It's going to be a busy weekend!


Taking The CSA Plunge!

I had thought that it would take a few more years before I would be ready to announce this, but we have decided to take the plunge and open our farm as a commercial operation beginning in January 2010. We had been discussing the idea of turning the farm into a "CSA" for some time now and I have done a fair amount of research. On a recent weekend retreat, a bunch of Janet's friends tipped the scales by saying that they were all willing to sign up as our first customers and things have been falling into place ever since.

"CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a relative newcomer on the American agriculture scene since being imported from Europe to two east coast farms in the mid-1980's. This system of operation involves a partnership between customers and farmers wherein the land's produce is sold in advance to CSA members or shareholders. In return for prepaying for their share at the beginning of the year, each customer is entitled to a weekly share of produce.

What I find particularly appealing about the CSA concept is the need to produce a wide variety of different foodstuffs. A typical operation will plant over 100 varieties of vegetables and fruit to ensure that each week's food share will contain at least 7 or 8 different items. It also requires careful planning to provide a steady stream of produce from early spring to late fall. This type of farming seems to me to be merely an expansion of what I have already done this year and is far more appealing to me than producing a single crop such as soybeans or feed corn.

When thinking of taking on this commitment in the past, I had been intimidated by the fear of a crop failure leaving me in a position of disappointing customers who have already pre-paid. After quite a bit of reading, I now understand that the risk of such problems isn't merely on the back of the farmer but is instead shared by the whole community. From the start everyone will be aware of the vagaries of extreme weather and crop losses and share in the risks and benefits together.

Another of the benefits to the customer of this approach is the sense of being more intimately involved in the production of their food. Philosophically, the farm becomes the community farm and they can be directly involved to the degree that they wish by participating in community decision-making and on-farm volunteer activities. As well, the CSA provides social events such as harvest celebrations and social gatherings to the benefit of farmer and consumer alike.

Janet and I are very excited about this idea and are looking forward to setting it all in motion. We are planning a farm open-house and organization meeting for the CSA sometime in the next month (contact us if you are interested in attending through
www.portageriverfarm.com). We hope to encourage many of our current customers and friends to come see the farm and learn about the CSA. Our intention is to start out small and build things up over time but the only way to get started is to roll up our sleeves, take our courage in both hands and...get started!




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