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CSA: "take as much as you need"

Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
If anyone hasn't read "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball, it is her telling of being a New York City writer who falls in love with a farmer. She and he begin Essex Farm in upstate NY, and start a CSA that supplies a whole diet (animal meat, fat, dairy, grains, veggies, fruit, maple syrup) and utilizes horses in the fields. Their members pay a few thousand dollars ($2800) for a full year, and in exchange, can take whatever they want, such as extra buckets of veggies to can for winter. Things are minimally processed and they have access to parts from the whole animal (organs and tongues etc). I really love their model (full description attached and definitely worth a look--2 short pages) and after reading about them, I really love them!

Here is theirown description, which gets into some pretty awesome community values as well

http://www.newenglandvfc.org/pdf_proceedings/2009/EssexGHPM.pdf


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5827
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  86
Nice set up.  But a family of 4 is looking at $215 per week.  Since it includes meat, eggs and dairy, it is a better deal, but I'm certain that it is over-budget for many.
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
I hear you, it may be.
Brice Moss


Joined: Jul 28, 2010
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
    
    1
if they can take food stamps its far less than food stamps pays in that area
Gord Welch


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
In the book they say $2,900 per person.

That's less than 56 dollars a week.


EDIT: I wrote "they", it should read "she"... the fella was not part of the book.
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1383
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    6
They also give a $400 (I think it was 400) discount per person for each person in the household - sounds like a fab deal to me.  I would sign up for sure!


1. my projects
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
They are also very open to working with whatever people can offer. In the book, she mentions that is a big part of his vision.
Marissa Little


Joined: Jun 27, 2011
Posts: 63
Wow, that's awesome.  I would definitely sign up if I were there and didn't grow my own food!

What I'm most impressed about though is that they can get that many people to join.  Looks like I need to read the book, but I don't see how they got to this point.  I imagine the first 5 years were a complete struggle and only got a few people involved.  But I guess if they did things really well, those 5 people would tell everyone they knew until they finally reached a sustainable number that they could live off the proceeds.  The reason I'm thinking of this is that we've had a heck of time getting people to sign up for 3 month long CSA shares.  We finally just backed down to one month long shares as the demand for that continued to grow.  Maybe we should have just stuck to our guns and kept the longer season (which, like is said in the pdf, means less advertising) and just waited for the right customers.

Hmmmm...and now I find myself pulling out our business plans with a big red pen in hand....!


Marissa
Sand Holler Farm
Dale TX
Gord Welch


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
The fella didn't seem to have much of a business plan if the book tells all. He had a vision, showed up in town and had 30 people signed up the first year.

30 x 2,900 = ________
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
They are really awesome and it's a great read! Synopsis of what I can recall: their first year, they had only 7-10 members and it was pretty hard work around the clock, but they had some pretty beautiful community help. I think the next year ran super smooth, hit some big bumps the third, and so it goes--never quite everything as planned with farming.

One thing worth mentioning was they started with very little money and got a free lease on the land. Mark insisted that he would be offerred something for free in that area within 9 months, and on the last day of month 9, sure enough, someone offerred the land they are currently on to them. Pretty cool I think. They both went in with a lot of faith and willingness to work hard for what they wanted.

gordwelch wrote:
The fella didn't seem to have much of a business plan if the book tells all. He had a vision, showed up in town and had 30 people signed up the first year.

30 x 2,900 = ________

You might be right it was more like 30. Can't remember
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5827
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  86
I have not read the book, but it sounds like a good model.  It shows that if you work hard, and do "it" right, you can be successful (in the right community).

It is interesting to note, that besides meat, dairy, eggs and fruit/veggies, they also include saurkraut, cereal, cut flowers and soap!  More power to them, and their community.

Also interesting is that while many items are seasonal, during the season they encourage people to take extra to "can" at home for the winter season.  To get full benefit of the program, they are encouraging their members learn how to preserve foods for winter use.  A win-win situation.
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN/1416551611/rs12-20

For those curious, here is the book.
Marissa Little


Joined: Jun 27, 2011
Posts: 63
I already have it ordered! 
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
Enjoy!
nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 281
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    2
I ditto Suzy's enthusiasm. It seems to provide wholesome community sustenance, i.e., real food!, AND farmer financial security - now I wonder if this could work permaculturally? (Although, the Kimballs are totally natural, without jumping through the organic certification hoops.)

Here's Kristin's summation of their purpose -
This is our wonky-but-useful mission statement: We strive to produce an abundance of high quality food while fostering the health and resiliency of the farm, the farmers, the members, and the community. Our desire is to build an agro-ecosystem that is sustainable economically, environmentally, and socially. We work to make a farm that is better tomorrow than it is today.


I wonder what our permacultural 'experts' would say about the economic feasibility if done permaculturally. Maybe permaculture only 'works' when it is on the individual level? With communal bartering filling in gaps?


It's time to get positive about negative thinking    -Art Donnelly
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 890
    
  17
gordwelch McCoy wrote:The fella didn't seem to have much of a business plan if the book tells all. He had a vision, showed up in town and had 30 people signed up the first year.
30 x 2,900 = ________
My only work is permaculture farming.


Hmm... Mine too. I farm full time, sustainably e.g., permaculture and it is our family's entire income.

The lack of a business plan is a bit of a worry. Perhaps they do have one but it isn't public. Hopefully they'll make it. Their butcher Courtney came to visit our farm in December to see how we do things and to see our butcher shop. She is about to branch off and startup her own farm which is why she was visiting. Thus I have gotten a few peaks behind the scenes from things she said as well as simply have experience on a similar farm...

Some people might think that 30 x $2,900 = $87,000 is a lot of money but it is not. That is the gross sales, the total income for the farm. It is not what the farmer is earning as take home pay.

Their expenses will eat up most if not almost all of that $87K.
If they have real start up costs like land and equipment all of that is almost certainly gone every year for many years - that's what starting a business is like.

Without startup expenses to be considered they might keep 10% of that.
Wanna be really optimistic? 20% or $17,400 a year for net income.

Let's assume that they do all the work themselves - no employees - just the two of them doing everything. (No Courtney or any other hired help.)
At 20% net with two people that's $8,700 per person per year of income.
That's $167 per week per person.
With an unreasonably short 40 hour work week it's $4.18/hour in pay. (How many full time farmers work only 40 hours a week?)

Then you still need to pay the governor. Social Security. Medicare. Land taxes (in the real world where land isn't free). Income taxes (except this is low enough that you're okay there.)

The only reason I bring this up is that some people are going to look at that 30 x $2,900 and think it's this whopping huge income of $87,000 and fail to take into account that there are a lot of expenses that go into farming, just like with most businesses. That's gross farm income, not individual net income. To make it sustainable they'll probably need to sell a lot more than 30 CSA shares. Note that one article says the farm grew from seven members to 100 members today so that makes it closer to sustainable - however, the same article talks about a lot more employees so that raises the costs.

In our farm's case, roughly half of our gross income (total sales) goes to processing our livestock (paying the slaughterer/butcher). This is why we're building our own on-farm USDA/State inspected slaughterhouse, butcher shop and smokehouse. Doing it ourselves will effectively double our income while keeping our farm the same size with the same customer base. The increased work load won't be much. In fact, we'll actually do a lot less of some things so it almost is a wash. Cutting outside expenses makes a huge difference. We only want to get so big.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa

nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 281
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    2
Essex Farm had a huge advantage.... the 500 acres were leased for free from a sympathetic owner. I believe they've bought some of that acreage now. I think Mark did have a very clear plan of what he wanted to do on the farm, and he had a lot of experience working/managing at least one CSA, and visit farms across the country.

Walter, are you offering an 'all you need' full diet, year round CSA? I wonder how many other 'busineses' of this kind are out there, as opposed to the specialized and seasonal CSA's.
Chris Fitt


Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 115
Location: Eastern Shore VA
I did read the book. I thought it was a pretty honest reflection from the wife's point of view. She had no farming experience before meeting him and from her perspective he had no plan, just belief. To get started they did get their farm and house for free from a friend of the family. So no rent. I believe there were also some equipment that was either on site or purchased by the land owner. The 30 people was just the first year and she discuss that they grew every year. The farm also wasn't the only income. She was a writer who had assignments. I can't remember if the CSA was their only outlet for their meat, dairy and produce or if they sold at markets or somewhere else. I think their take as much as you need concept is great. Mark Kimball is speaking at a conference I am going to in a few weeks. I haven't decided if I am going to one of his workshops or not.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 890
    
  17
Chris Fitt wrote:To get started they did get their farm and house for free from a friend of the family. So no rent.


That is sweet. Not having a mortgage would have made starting our farm a lot easier. We have been spending the vast majority of our income on the mortgage for about 25 years. Soon it will be paid off. Land is a huge cost in farming.
Chris Fitt


Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 115
Location: Eastern Shore VA
Walter Jeffries wrote:
Chris Fitt wrote:To get started they did get their farm and house for free from a friend of the family. So no rent.


That is sweet. Not having a mortgage would have made starting our farm a lot easier. We have been spending the vast majority of our income on the mortgage for about 25 years. Soon it will be paid off. Land is a huge cost in farming.


That is one of the things that holds me back from purchasing land. Right now we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to farm someone else's land and get paid to do it. The financial freedom that it offers comes with drawbacks as well. It is sobering though to think that every improvement we make stays here if we leave. Luckily we are of the trying to make the world a better place and not just the corner that we own. Besides this is our school. We have the opportunity to learn and make mistakes and figure things out and then move on.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 890
    
  17
The high price of land is a huge issue. The good news is land prices go in cycles. Now is the time to buy. Prices are low. I identified back as a teenager that I wanted to be doing what we're doing. I learned the cycles and bought in the dips.

But there is more too it than that. Don't buy where the prices are high. Draw circles on the map around your important things (e.g., family, markets, etc). Color the map by market pricing, zoning, etc. Now look at where the lapping are and let this help you pick. A weighted analysis takes it from there.

Then be patient. Wait for the right piece of land to come along at the right price. Be actively looking and watching but don't let emotions drive you to making an over priced decision.

Lastly, scrimp and save. The more you pay up front for the down payment the lower the interest rates and the lower the monthly mortgage payments.

As you say, in the mean time school yourself.
John Cabot


Joined: Dec 01, 2011
Posts: 12
Walter is definitely right. $90K to work that hard, hand milk, grow year round will likely put them at the poverty level when all their expenses (not including book royalties) are factored in. Still, love living off the land but there is nothing wrong to aspiring to a good white collar wage while growing food for others and improving the earth at the same time.

Dusty
http://www.farm-dreams.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-make-money-living-off-the-land-part-1-of-5
nancy sutton
volunteer

Joined: Feb 22, 2010
Posts: 281
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
    
    2
Note the Week 8 Farm Note - "Who can catch the most sunlight and keep it?" I'll be looking forward to Mark's exploration of this challenge, and, perhaps, the permie angle to it.

http://www.kristinkimball.com/blog/
David Livingston
pollinator

Joined: Apr 24, 2013
Posts: 613
    
  12
Here in France a similar idea is very popular its called an " amap" it works very well for farmers And consumers alike . In fact is so popular there is a shortage of farmers I am told.

David


Living in Angers , France
 
 
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