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Starting a CSA

By Eric Gibson

Determine feasibility. Decide whether CSA would work in your area. Find out if land is available, what the population within a five-mile radius is, if labor is available, how much time and capital you can invest, about marketing.

Determine local interest. Find out how many families would join. Have them mark on a list of vegetables how many they want and to suggest additional items. Ask the number in the family and ages; days they want to pick up food (plan two days weekly); ask them to suggest other people. Invite people to call you for information and to attend an information meeting.

Spread the word. Word-of-mouth is the best way to let people know about the project. Take flyers to the media for free press coverage. Leave flyers at health food stores, co-op markets, alternative health facilities, medical clinics, day care centers, etc. Tell social and service groups about your CSA.

Set up a meeting. Explain the concept of CSA, give a farm tour and show slides. Emphasize benefits--nutritional value, superior taste of fresh produce, and saving grocery money, preserving farmland, and the need to keep food buying dollars in the community. Show the video "It's Not Just about Vegetables," available for rent or purchase from Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Assn., Inc., P.O. Box 550, Kimbeton, PA 19442.

Form a core group. A group of three to eight should set policy, solve problems, monitor distribution, collect payments, prepare a budget, pay the farmer, deal with legal issues, and find more consumers.

Draw up a proposal. This is an outline of the concept and philosophy, an estimate of capital and costs, a list of crops and yields. Distribute it to people who attend meetings and throughout the community.

Draw up the budget. The budget is a detailed expectation of costs and income. The farmer's salary should provide a decent living for him and his family.

Acquire land, buildings and equipment. Usually the farmer already has land. In some projects people in the consumer group have land. A community land trust might be set up. Or, you may lease land.

Obtain shareholders. The consumers' group includes everyone, including the farmer. Shareholder requirements vary.