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Author Topic: Minimum number of shares required?
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  Vbrook
  Clarksville
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Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Tue, Oct 8 '13 at 03:15 UTC)

My family is finishing up our 5th season as a CSA. The numbers are not looking as good as hoped.
I recently spoke to a CSA farmer in WI that went from 10 shares to 1000 in 7 years.
Have any of you done an analysis to find the "minimum" number of shares required for your farm?
Thank you in advance for sharing.

Mike Brabo Vesterbrook Farm Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Ps 34:8
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Tue, Oct 8 '13 at 06:01 UTC)

Mike - If you keep careful records of what comes in from the field, you can get a dollar value and/or pound value to determine how many share equivalents (SE) you are producing. This may not be what you are considering, but it is a postmodern approach (try to sell as much as you can grow rather than the modernist marketing approach of growing what you can sell). For example, in 2013, I have produced $12,575 worth of food on .52 acres so far at $550 per share for an SE of 23. Since the season is not finished yet, an SE of 25 per half acre or 50 per acre is a good approximation. You will find 40 shares per acre quite common in anecdotal evidence and that was my measure in 2012 and 2011. My current research is into small-scale efficiency and it seems to be working. For example, producing my own bean and corn seed allows me to slack off on weeding because I concentrate on varieties that need less labor-intensive practices.

Disclaimer: These numbers do not reflect what I actually sell, but only what I produced. In your case, I assume you have multiple markets, but if you can analyze your production, it will tell you what your farm is capable of.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 Vbrook
 Clarksville
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Thu, Oct 10 '13 at 03:06 UTC)

Thanks for the info... will crunch more numbers.

Mike Brabo Vesterbrook Farm Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Ps 34:8
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Wed, Oct 23 '13 at 01:10 UTC)

This year I could have handled several more shares because the season was so great but how can I expect the same next year? I would love to believe my expertise was the reason but at the same time have to realistically assume some year's produce will come greatly short of expectations. Also market business swings. I hate waste but I tend to sell less shares than I think I can cover just in case I can't fill them and that is the worst feeling in the world! But I am not the breadwinner so it doesn't matter that I net less than $7500 for 40 hours of work all season. argh

Now on the other side of it, how many shares would I have to sell to make any money? That is where farms get into trouble and can't fill baskets (as so many people come here to complain about). That farm thinks to make $50000 gross they have to sell 1000 shares and heck $50000 gross isn't much for a full time business with lots of overhead. But filling 1000 shares is very difficult with just produce.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Wed, Oct 23 '13 at 04:29 UTC)

You seem to have an extra zero in your numbers. To gross $50k, you would only need 100 shares at $500 per share. Unless you meant a net of $50 per share.

Here is a number you might find interesting. I put in about 75 hours labor per share. At an average price of $486 per share in 2013, that is an average of $6.48 per hour - gross, not net.

You have a couple of strategies to break this conundrum. One is multiple markets. Another is to use lots of gas/diesel for tractors, transport, marketing, schmoozing, etc. Another is to limit yourself to a small CSA program that pays the costs of raising the food your family eats.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 Vbrook
 Clarksville
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Wed, Oct 23 '13 at 06:44 UTC)

This is an interesting discussion.
With the new rules coming in from FSMA it looks like we will no longer be able to add other items like meats or cheeses from other farms without huge infrastructure outlays.
Growing 25-50 shares after working a 40hr/week job in town doesn't sound feasible either.
Any of you know of any research about CSAs their sizes and profitability?
Thank you!

Mike Brabo Vesterbrook Farm Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Ps 34:8
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Minimum number of shares required?    (Posted Thu, Oct 24 '13 at 01:13 UTC)

LOL. I even used a calculator! Well that is a pleasant surprise.

Last year when I did some calculations I think I made less than $4 per hour. I work very hard for that but what is so funny is I am more tired after an 8 hour day in the pricing dept at the grocery store for more than $13 per hour. After a day of that I am spent, but after a day of farming I can bake and can and dehydrate and so on.

Adding a tractor, which would enable more space to be used and drastically more produce for the time would make a huge difference in my earnings. I spent the same amount of time planting, cultivating and a little more time harvesting my 900 feet of potatoes as the farmer next to me did for 10 acres. I had the production of 900 feet and he had 10 acres worth of potatoes to sell for roughly the same labor (not including sitting at market).

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
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