After a couple of days of intermittent drops here and there, we had a nice soaking this afternoon. I’d just returned from the gardens–picking ten boxes of cherry tomatoes for deliveries tomorrow and collecting heirloom Marvel of Venice bean seed to dry for next year’s crop.
I was talking to one of my CSA members at the farmers market this week, and she brought up an idea that I had entertained as well–a collective CSA in which several farmers contribute produce to the weekly shares of the members. This is not an uncommon set-up–I have read about a number of CSAs that pool together produce, meat, eggs, even flowers to fill weekly shares.
In the past four years, I have used some of the CSA members’ funds to purchase other local produce to put in the bags–produce I was not growing at all, or produce that I didn’t have enough of for all the deliveries (plus me). This week, I’ll be delivering produce from two other farms besides my own.
But that strategy has been informal for the most part–I picked up this week’s winter squash and red onions at the farmers market and without pre-arrangement. As I come to the realization that it’s really too much for me to teach full time and farm full time, I’m looking around at what other farmers grow well, and talking about next year’s crops.
I’ll be doing some research this winter about how other CSA collectives handle their business. I’ve thought of a “savings account” wherein a manager collects the membership money from shareholders at the beginning and then goes out and uses that money to buy produce in bulk from local farmers each week to fill the shares.
There’s the possibility, too, of contracting in advance with the farmers and paying for the promised produce ahead of time (in more typical CSA fashion). That would require the kind of surity that most small farmers might be a bit wary of providing.
This idea sort of flies in the face of my “housecleaning” approach of getting rid of excess projects this fall and winter, but I’d really hate to see Community Supported Agriculture go extinct in Vermillion. It seems there ought to be a way to make the load on my own shoulders a bit lighter while keeping the farm-consumer connection strong.