Not logged in, login or create an account

There are 10 replies To this message.

Author Topic: Beginner CSA
Click to reply to this message
  Frugal Hen
  Lawrenceville
Click to reply to this message
Beginner CSA    (Posted Mon, Dec 17 '12 at 06:49 UTC)

Hello all!
I am in Georgia and am interested in beginning a CSA for my area.

I am NOT a farm. I'm a backyard gardener in my 3rd year of growing vegetables. Had quite a successful year this past spring and summer with most of my crops.

I am NOT certified in any growing practices. However, I do NOT use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. I practice companion planting, composting, worms and other natural methods of pest control.

I am NOT looking to start out on a big scale. I'm thinking I would perhaps offer 3-5 shares and see how it goes for this season. I would also price my shares low, and only offer and guarantee the crops I've had continued success with. I would fully disclose any "new" crops I'm trying and do my best to thoroughly convey the risk involved.

That's the overview of what I'm hoping to do. My big question is are there any rules or regulations that I have to meet before offering the shares? For example, will I need an actual business license and an inspection by the DOA? Will I have to be "certified" before I can sell shares?

I've researched the requirements for the local farmers markets and such, and the requirements just seem to be all over the place as to what you have to have in order to sell produce. It's all very confusing as to what you can and cannot do and what "heading" a backyard gardener would fit into.

Any advice or suggestions would be very helpful!

Thank you!

 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Mon, Dec 17 '12 at 08:54 UTC)

It seems in the over 50 years I have gardened that all policies are geared to force people to get big or get out and eliminate any competition from small growers . It seems that the RIGHT to sell what you grow or create should be a constitutional right (The right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness), I think should include livelihood . Now if you are selling in towns or at a farm market, then I think that is fine for there to be rules but for things you grow and sell from your home, I think there should be an excemption, espesially if you do not make a lot of money .
These are tight times for those on the bottom. It makes sense when you can't find a job to be able to support yourself by what you grow and make . I have no idea what the laws are however. you will have to ask a lawyer or your state and town officials . They probably vary from State to State and even city to city. I have always heard that a grower can sell what he/she grows as long as it is not processed from their farms . :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 Frugal Hen
 Lawrenceville
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Mon, Dec 17 '12 at 09:24 UTC)

"Get big or get out".
That seems so sad! Even worse, because it seems true! :-(

It just seems that the little backyard gardener falls under a lot of the same rules as the big production farms, which makes it so the little backyard gardener can't afford to sell anything. :-(
I had looked into selling pickles, and jams and such, BUT you need a "commercial kitchen" to comply with the regulations. I'm ok with that - botulism is nothing to play around with.

Thank you for your advice. I just thought of maybe contacting my county extension service to see if they may be able to answer the question or prossibly steer me in the right direction.

I'll certainly post what I find out. It may help others asking the same kind of questions I am.

 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Mon, Dec 17 '12 at 11:09 UTC)

I also checked into the regs on canned goods . I do see your point as It IS important that whoever is selling home canned goods does it right . I found out one personat a local farmers market was water bathing vegetables... a real no- no. I made sugerless jellies for my husband without artifical sweeteners(not allowed ) I grew up on a farm canning and consuming our home canned foods all my life. . The regs were ridiculous and designed to eliminate small growers. Some areas of the country are more reasonable or have more cooperative communities that would let you use a local kitchen . I actually think the community itself should invest in a center to sell local veggies including a value added kitchen that the growers could use . That way everyone is involved in the investment and it is not on the backs of the small grower.IT directly supports local agriculture diversity and if grown organically the ecology of the land.
There is nothing wrong with my kitchen but It was not allowed because it was an open space with the pantry/ dining room and living room. SO what???There are many open restaurants where you can watch the chefs cook.
I think a short course on safe canning and food prep is also reasonable .I was forced to drive 100 miles round trip , rent a kitchen from a university at $50.00/day that was NOT very clean and used aluminum pots.... so I would have to pack in my stainless pots . It would put the cost out of sight so I could not sell my goods . It was already a struggle growing on a small scale and buying everything retail.I gave up anything value added. .

Sharon Carson
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Tue, Dec 25 '12 at 10:44 UTC)

Well I will say this but even though I might not to someone's face.
I grew up growing and selling vegetables on a 200 acre farm. I gardened on my own for 15 years, growing as much of what we ate as possible, before I started a gardening business. Then I realized that I still had plenty to learn about growing on that scale and dealing with the produce (plus the business side!) So when I hear people say they have gardened for 2-4 years and it has gone pretty well and they want to do it as a business I am appalled. If I had only baked for 2 years how in the world could I start a bakery? And believe me I have had several people online or email me about it. You just cannot have enough experience in 2 years of doing anything to start a business and I am just going to say it honestly.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Ohiorganic
 Eaton
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Wed, Dec 26 '12 at 10:01 UTC)

I agree with you wholeheartedly Minnie.

A CSA is a huge responsibility, much more than doing a farmers market as you have people who have contracted with you to grow food for them and while there is the whole thing about sharing the risk I do think it is unfair fir CSA members to share the risk with someone with zero experience and 2 years of home gardening is not market farming/CSA farming experience.

I know I had around 15 years home gardening exp and than another 4 years doing farmers markets before I started my first CSA group and even with 4 years of market growing experience I still made tons of mistakes and for 5 years would loose around 90% of my membership each year mainly due to big mistakes on my part, though probably 20% moved out of the area and quit for that reason.

Lucy Goodman Boulder Belt Eco-Farm Eaton, OH http://boulderbelt.blogspot.com http://www.boulderbeltfarm.com
 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Wed, Dec 26 '12 at 02:16 UTC)

I don't want to rile anyone but .... I think that CSA has come to mean production growing and do not think it is JUST for the large grower. I know several young start up farmers who worked at larger farms, learned the system and put it in place on their own small farms with just a couple of years experience AND a lot of work!
However, I also believe that a smaller groweras in gardener can have a supportive group of customers buy from them from the local community. THE CSA term just means money up frount. It has become some sort of gauranteed box of items which is why I don't want to do it that way --- too much pressure and stress,especially if you have to deliver and put out a newsletter.It seems better designed for larger farms where you need that volume to make it work.
I suggest you try something like " friends of Such and Such garden" where you ask for a small fee to join and keep in touch with your members. You can send out a price list in the spring on all the things you plan to grow .You can list what you have available each week and have a pick up day .Much of the foods from our gardens are perenial fruits&nuts&herbs.I never know what kind of production there will be . I grew up on a diverse farm where we had a large garden. I have gardened all my life and now grow many unusual herbs and vegetables. I never have been into production agriculture although I did get a taste of it when we planted fields of peppers and tomatoes or when I worked in the fields and packing houses as a child along with Phillipino migrant workers. It in not my thing. I find gardening joyfull and interesting and want to keep what I find interesting as well as share the fruits with others . A small circle of friends seems another way to approach this .You do want to be certain they will buy from you weekly or it won't work and the food and your time will be wasted. This may be a good test of your skills at gardening so in the future they may just pay up frount. Your friends may find that they are hooked on truely fresh foods as well. Do not price things too cheaply.Farmers market prices are fair. :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Wed, Dec 26 '12 at 05:30 UTC)

I don't see 3-5 shares as a problem. However, you need some predictive ability to know if you are going to have enough food each week. The future will require all of us to grow more food than we need anyway. The real key is whether your neighbors/shareholders appreciate what you are doing. If they think it is just a cheap alternative to the grocery store, you are in for trouble from the beginning.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 rosysage
 Delmar
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Wed, Dec 26 '12 at 05:54 UTC)

He is absolutely right. It IS important that you find people that understand the Value of locally grown real food not only in pricing but in how polished and perfect it looks as opposed to how flavorfull and nutritious it is . :)Sharon

Sharon Carson
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Sat, Dec 29 '12 at 03:17 UTC)

I was behind someone the other day with a rude bumper sticker about foreign cars. I wanted to get to them and ask if they buy food local too. Very few people think of getting food anywhere but Walmart.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 MaryAnn
 Plympton
Re: Beginner CSA    (Posted Mon, Dec 31 '12 at 01:24 UTC)

Hi Frugal Hen - I am also planning to do a very tiny CSA this season. I wanted to reply to you to say do not be discouraged by all the "rules and regulations", though small growers ( when I say this I consider anyone who is not mono-crop hundred acre+ small) are facing difficult times. I believe this will change for the better. The current food system can not continue the way it is infinitely. I say go for it. I think the advice to try and start with people you know, keep their expectations realistic and so forth is good advice. Farming even on a small scale can be so unpredictable even to the most experienced of growers. I have been on farms where we lost our whole crop of pumpkins to powder mildew despite doing everying right, or our lettuce to torrential rains just after transplanting. In any case it is always a learning experience whether you have 3 years experience or 30! Good Luck!

MaryAnn
Click to reply to this message