Community Supported Agriculture
A lot of people asked us this question and sometimes we felt like we were the last farm at the Carrboro farmers’ market or in the Triangle without a CSA.
There are many reasons why farmers start or add a CSA component to their marketing mix. Community Supported Agriculture started out as just that, a group of community members would get together for the purpose of accessing high quality local food and to support the person that they “contracted” with to grow that food. In many cases the group actually owned the land and found a “farmer” to grow the crops. Further support came in prepaying for the food so that the farmer would have operating capital early in the year and in some cases other support including working on the farm, helping in managing the business of the enterprise, etc
At its core, a CSA should revolve around a meaningful relationship involving a farmer, a set of farm members and a piece of farmland. Our efforts for four decades to create “Food with a face, a place and a taste” was focused on creating that meaningful relationship with our customers, without the formality or complications of taking the money up front.
Maybe because we farmed and marketed our products where we did, we were extra fortunate to have a very supportive community. We knew we had a core set of customers that we built meaningful relationships with. We visited at farmers’ market, in the aisles of Weaver Street Market, in the kitchens of their restaurants, at food events and more. We knew what they do for a living, who their kids are, even where they go on vacation. Through our e-newsletter, the farm tours, discussions at market and now this website they knew who we were and what we strived to do. In turn they rewarded us with their moral support and they bought our goods. It could not have been more simple, direct, communal or supportive.
Don’t get me wrong, I think CSA’s are a valuable part of the small/local farm landscape. They have forged new and better relationships between farmers and eaters, but kind of like speed dating. It has allowed some farms to get up and running and others to stay in business. It has given other farms an additional way to access customers who don’t have time to come to farmers’ market. That’s all good. I guess because we were some of the older rats in the barn, we slowly and comfortably settled into our relationships and didn’t feel the need to formally change the nature of those exchanges.
Yes we took special orders for pick up at Wednesday and Saturday Markets, we used to take deposits and pre-orders for turkeys, both sort of CSA type activities. Of course our e-newsletter and the occasional recipe are also key parts of a well run CSA. So what we decided to do was use what we think were the some of the best parts of the community building side of CSA’s without the added complication of keeping up with share payments, filling boxes, delivery and pick up, growing crops we don’t grow well just because they are viewed as essential to a good CSA mix as well as other details needed to run a CSA.
Instead, we preferred the quality and flexibility of individual customer service. We also preferred to grow the crops that our customers really wanted and did best on this piece of land. For us it is all about a better quality of life, for us and our customers. But that’s just us.