Starting a CSA
A collection of books, websites and other must reads for those considering the community approach

By Cara Hungerford

 

Websites
Robyn VanEn Center
http://www.csacenter.org
One of the best sites on the web for farmers (or anyone) thinking about starting a CSA. Beyond the basics this site offers such unique benefits as a technical assistance and support page that provides contact information for extension agents and farmers willing and knowledgeable in all aspects CSA from production to marketing. There are promotional materials designed to help you recruit members for sale. Choose from brochures explaining the CSA concept that can be handed out to perspective members ($0.15/ea), slides shows, videos, clipart, t-shirts etc. Also check out the message boards for job opportunities and internships, information on upcoming courses, workshops, or just to ask or answer a question.
   
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa
This government supported site provides an overview of a basic CSA operation. Mainly a resource site they excel in collecting the CSA information scattered around the web. Highlights: A list of local, state and regional organizations that may be good resources for those interested in starting a CSA. There is an extensive resource list of print materials available on running a CSA operation. Another list includes sources on growing using sustainable agriculture techniques many with online editions available. Also check out the special section dedicated to eating seasonally and regionally—a concept that you and your new members will need to learn to embrace.
 
Biodynamics.com
http://www.biodynamics.com/csa.html
This spiritual approach makes you feel as if you are part of something larger. Site includes a nice overview of all the basics of running a CSA, touching on set-up, distribution options, deciding what to plant and how to set share prices. Also includes a sample expense budget, an example of a planting and quantity table for vegetables, and an online CSA locator for the US and Canada. Site is nice if you are in the what is CSA stages but if you are seriously considering starting a CSA you will want a site with more details.

For a hard copy of the locator call 1-888-516-7797 or 1-800-516-7797

Foodroutes.org
http://www.foodroutes.org
This is a consumer tailored site with a push to buy locally. Gives a basic overview of the CSA approach and includes a handy list of things to ask before joining a CSA. Foodroutes features an easily navigable farm-locator that will help you find CSA’s in your area. Also find local sources for farmer’s markets, farm stands, uPick farms and eggs/milk/meat.
   
Books
From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce
Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC)

This is a low-cost resource for anyone interested in using seasonal produce. This 200-page book contains more than 370 recipes and features 46 different vegetable and herb sections.

To order: contact Doug Wubben at 608-226-0300 or log onto www.macsac.org.

Sharing the Harvest
by Elizabeth Henderson with Robyn Van En. Chelsea Green. 1999.

This manual provides an overview and step-by-step description of CSA, including history, philosophy, how to start and operate a CSA, management and production issues, sample documents from working CSA farms, descriptions of pitfalls, outlook for the future, and an extensive resource and materials list.

To order: http://www.csacenter.org (select "Ordering")

The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing
by N Hamilton. Des Moines IA: Drake University Agricultural Law Center, 1999 Prepared under a grant from the USDA and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

This book outlines the legal concerns farmers and operators need to be aware of when selling directly to the consumer. However, this book is already somewhat dated. And according to our marketing guru, Michelle Frain, "The rules are different from state to state and even county to county sometimes--so it is difficult to have one national standard book on direct marketing." Our advice? Save the $20 and instead check out the business law section of sba.gov. Sba.gov is a great online reference for small businesses.

To order: Drake University Agricultural Law Center, 2507 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA, 50311, phone 515-271-2065; $20.00

   
Basic Formula to Create Community Supported Agriculture
by R Van En. Great Barrington, MA: R Van En, 1992. 80 pp. [HD9225 A2V35 1992]

One of the original manuals on CSA style farms by one of the pioneering forces of the movement this book has a lot of historical value but some of the information may be dated.

To order: http://www.csacenter.org (select "Ordering")

 
   
Magazine articles and research briefs
Managing a CSA Farm 1: Production, Labor and Land
Research Brief #40: Madison, WI, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, undated.

This research article, based on interviews with active CSA farmers, details some of the most common problems facing new CSA operators then offers field tested solutions.

Availability: http://www.wisc.edu/cias/pubs/briefs/040.html or CIAS UW-Madison, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison WI 53706, phone 608-262-5200, fax 608-265-3020, e-mail ramcnair@facstaff.wisc.edu; free publication.

 
Managing a CSA Farm 2: Community, Economics, Marketing and Training
Research Brief #41: Madison, WI, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, undated.

A follow up to Managing a CSA Farm 1, this article focuses on the community and support elements of CSA, including: building memberships, fostering reciprocating relationships, communicating effectively, establishing a core-group and the trade offs of running a community-based enterprise. Also reviews outside marketing opportunities, watching out for conflicting interests, running a profitable operation and training opportunities available.

Availability: http://www.wisc.edu/cias/pubs/briefs/041.html or CIAS UW-Madison, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison WI 53706, phone 608-262-5200, fax 608-265-3020, e-mail ramcnair@facstaff.wisc.edu; free publication.

   
Maximizing Shareholder Retention in Southeastern CSAs: A Step Toward Long Term Stability
DJ Kane and L Lohr. Portland OR: D. Kane, 1997 ("This study is supported by a grant from the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) in Santa Cruz, CA"). [NAL Call No.: HD1484 K36 1997]
Availability: Organic Farming Research Foundation, P.O. Box 440, Santa Cruz CA 95061, phone 831-426-6606, fax 831-426-6670, e-mail research@ofrf.org; $2.00.
   
"Community Shared Agriculture: Putting the Culture Back Into Agriculture"
R Samson. Sustainable Farming: The Magazine of Resource Efficient Agriculture Production (1994) [NAL Call No.: HD9225 A2V35 1992]

This article, an interview with Dan Wiens, gets off to a bit of a rocky start but it ends with some valuable information from one of the pioneering forces of CSA's in Canada.

Availability: Ecological Agriculture Projects, McGill University http://www.eap.mcgill.ca/MagRack/SF/Spring%2094%20E.htm

   

Community Supported Agriculture: Business Management Series
Katherine Adam. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) (2002)

The most interesting section of this one page document is the second and third paragraphs. Here the document assesses the job skills a CSA operator should possess, location and community requirements and other elements that factor into a successful CSA operation.

Availability: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/csa.html pdf available online

   
1997 CSA Farm Network
S Gilman. Stillwater NY: CSA Farm Network, 1997. 96 pp.

The project began by gathering a list of all the CSAs in the Northeast. For three years, these CSAs were surveyed annually as to their practices, programs and experiences. The project combined their findings, along with pertinent research, essays, profiles, articles and resources—the results, a valuable resource for CSA's everywhere.

Availability:CSA Farm Network Publications, 130 Ruckytucks Road, Still water NY 12170, phone 518-583-4613; Volume I (1996), $6.00 plus $2.00 mailing; Volume II (1997), $10.00 plus $2.00 mailing; both Volumes I & II, $14.00 plus $2.50 mailing ($16.50)

   
"Alternative Financing in Agriculture: A Case for the CSA Method"
SF Sabih and LBB Baker. (Proceedings of the XXV International Horticultural Congress. Part 14. Horticultural Economics at Micro and Macro Level, International Trade and Marketing, International Cooperative Programs, Relations Between Research, Development, Extension and Education, Brussels, Belgium, 2-7 August, 1998) Acta Horticulturae (2000) 524: pp. 141-148. [NAL Call No.: 80 Ac82]

This case study of a Canadian CSA operation studied the economic advantages of a CSA style financial plan compared to that of traditional debt financing in agriculture. Results show through detailed budget analysis that the CSA plan increased revenues by 34% while eliminating financing costs between 1.1 and 3.4%.

Availability: Find the complete study at http://www.actahort.org/books/524/524_16.htm. Available online for $5.00.

   
Newsletter
The Community Farm
Edited by Jim Sluyter and Jo Meller
Subscriptions: $20/yr in the U.S. Newfarm.org visitors can subscribe for $15. Email attachment is $7/yr. Contact us for Canadian or overseas prices.

This quarterly newsletter edited by two Michigan CSA-farmers, begins with a feature article that gives a well-rounded, in-depth look at one aspect of CSA life. A recent issue featured tips on effective print communication specifically related to promoting the CSA and writing the newsletter. Another explored the pros and cons of the many available share distribution options. The newsletter also includes industry news, book reviews and recommended websites. Well worth the $15/year subscription price (special to New Farm readers), better yet get the email version for a fraction of the price.

Availability: To subscribe send a check to The Community Farm, 3480 Potter Rd., Bear Lake, MI 49614. 231/889-3216, email fivespringsfarm@yahoo.com on the web at http://tcf.itgo.com/. Sample available on request.

   
Other
The Land Stewardship Project Congregational Tool Kit

The Tool Kit contains videos, resource materials and activities for small and large group gatherings with a focus on building healthy communities by linking people with their food, the land and each other.

Availability: To rent or purchase a Tool Kit, call 651-653-0618.