Many of the heavy tasks on the farm have slowed dramatically. I prepped some beds and planted garlic recently and we’re working on putting up some final cloches, but otherwise the tasks are fewer and further between. In our spare time we are working on a business plan for when we have our own farm.
Part of me dreads the marketing/business planning aspects of farming, but part of me is really excited about it. First off, I dread selling stuff. I hate having to convince people that they need to give me money in exchange for something I have produced. On the bright side, I don’t feel that I will be convincing people to buy something that they don’t need. People need to eat and I’m excited to provide quality food.
I have seen a lot of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) where they just don’t provide food that people use. For those who have been living under a rock, CSAs are arrangements where someone pays a farmer upfront for a years worth of produce so that the farmer can take care of the high costs at the beginning of the season and then the consumer takes on some of the risk of the farmer in producing crops. Sometimes CSA members will not get any tomatoes (or another crop) because of blight or other disease. Other times there will be a fantastic production of potatoes (or another crop) and the CSA member will share in the bounty.
The problem that I have seen with CSAs is that they have a high initial cost and then they don’t provide a whole lot of food. Or they provide a lot of food that people don’t know how to use. Most people just don’t know what to do with 5 bunches of collard greens, a turnip and an over-sized zucchini. To be fair, most CSAs come with potatoes, tomatoes and other foods that people use, but they also include loads of food that people just don’t know what to do with. And while CSAs are inexpensive for local organic produce, it is still fairly expensive produce.
I read recently about a farm in Upstate New York that had a CSA that produced menu plans. I want to figure out how to do that. I want to provide people with a lot of food that the recognize and some food that they can start trying. I want people to feel like they are getting a good deal, but also be able to support my family.
I have thought of using my nutrition background to do some menu planning and providing CSA shares with appropriate calories for the member. I would have to cooperate with someone who produced grain, beans and other staples in order to make it feasible. (We are not looking to have enough land to grow the quantities of grain it takes to feed people). I like the idea, but would have to look into zoning and other such regulations before I really dove into that. (And Emily, before you comment on why people should be eating meat instead of grain, you need to read The Paleo Diet AND The China Study for a balanced view.)
In short, we are spending our free time planning and preparing. Sometimes I get excited about animals (sheep and ducks) and sometimes I get excited about building and selling chicken coops and top bar hives. In reality, I know that we have to be focused on vegetable production, and I am excited about that too, but I really like all of the opportunities that come with farming. Now all we need is some property… and a house… and outbuildings… and farm equipment… and I’m going to stop now because my wife already made this list.