Courtesy of SPIN farmer Linda B. Abundant Life Farm, Walker Valley NY
Here is a twist on the classic community supported agriculture (CSA) offering that might be worth a try, especially for new farmers who want to try a subscription model without the pressure of having to supply a set amount of produce each week: don't provide boxed shares. Instead, offer exclusive pickup hours at your farmstand each week. Here is how Victory Farms in Richmond VA did it.
Shareholders paid into the CSA at $500 and got $600 worth of buying credit. Most farmers markets in Richmond are open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. At the Victory Farms booth, only shareholders were allowed to buy produce until 11 a.m. After 11 a.m. the remaining produce goes on sale for anyone at the market. Shareholders purchases are deducted from their available credit and when they run out of credit, they simply pay out of pocket during shareholder hours for any produce they want. In essence, this is a "flexible CSA" that allows shareholders to choose what and how much produce they want each week without having to take any more. The window of purchasing time insures that shareholders have first access to weekly produce. And allowing a running credit relieves the farmer's worry about being short of produce for any one week.