First, what is community supported agriculture? The simplest way to explain this might be to consider CSA as ‘subscription farming’. In other words, a group of people agree to pay the gardener for a season’s worth of fresh produce, often paying in advance for the season. The gardener then grows the veggies for the group.
So rather than growing for just anybody, the CSA market gardener has a select clientele she that she provides with fresh delicious goodies from her garden.
Why is this a great business?
There are many advantages to this business; it’s a good model for the gardener because she has a guaranteed market for her produce. It’s good for the customers because they are getting a share of fresh, locally-grown veggies from a known source.
And there are very specific business advantages as well.
Business advantage 1: Customers are ‘locked-in’.
This is a great advantage for the CSA market gardener. Once you have ‘signed up’ your customers, they are yours for the season! You don’t have to worry about losing sales to some other grower who undercuts your prices.
Business advantage 2: Early cash flow.
Since you will be meeting with your prospective customers before the season starts, you can collect advance payments from them to finance your start-up. So you can actually start this business with very little money out of your pocket. The advance payment from customers will pay for seed and equipment and other start-up costs.
Business advantage 3: Planned production.
This is probably the single most powerful advantage of the Community Supported Agriculture model; you can actually plan in advance how much you need to grow to satisfy your market! Since you will meet all your customers well in advance of the growing season, you can find out their likes and dislikes; e.g. if nobody you meet likes eggplant, don’t grow it! Since you know exactly what you will be growing, and in what quantity (based on the number of customers you have), you can plan for costs, space in your greenhouse and garden, how much labour you will need, etc. This is a very powerful advantage over the poor guy who brings his produce to the farmer’s market, never knowing what will sell and what will be wasted.
Business advantage 4: The opportunity to sell more.
Because you have meet and talk with your customers, you can find out about other products they might be interested in. Do you (or a friend) bake delicious bread? Maybe your customers would like a loaf or two with their order (at a price, of course). How about pickles and preserves, or pies and pastries? The possibilities are limitless.
The demand for fresh, local produce is growing every year (at least 20% annually). If you have ever thought about tapping into that demand, and making money from your garden, CSA is the way to go!