Now that we are getting used to the lay of the land, we are already thinking about next season. We have many questions to answer; how many families to invite into the CSA, how many chickens can we process at one time, do we buy sheep for meat or fiber, what kind of breeding stock do we buy for beef, do we buy breeding pigs, where do we put the cattle barn, do we need facilities for the vegetable and fruit processing, how big of a walk in fridge do we buy, etc..
I have plenty of ideas myself. I think I can answer most of those questions, but I also need to find out what my customers might want. Perhaps what I want is not in line with what my customers need.
It is interesting that one of our current customers is also involved in a different CSA. They have told me that the other farm barely gives them any vegetables every week. A small handful of snap peas. A couple of small bunches of herbs. Maybe. And excuses. Oh, there wont be much this week. The heat is bad. The bugs are bad. I was told that they are getting more from us, and we arent charging anyone this summer!
I think we have a future.
Really, we need to be able to charge a premium for our produce and meats and eggs and fiber, but we also want to give our core customers not only a premium product, but also a greater quantity than they might get elsewhere. The benefit for us as a farm is to bring in the guaranteed income that a CSA provides. The model calls for the customer to pay up front. It lets us see our budget up front and helps mitigate some financial risk because the customer shares in the risk. Its not all on the farmer. In order to pay off on that insurance, I think it is a bit like paying a dividend on that policy by providing a bit extra for the customer. Like an extra helping of green beans, or a few more tomatoes than you might get from a traditional CSA. Or providing some extra produce if the customer wants to pick their own on any given day.
So please, feel free to post suggestions in the comments section. What do you want from your local farm? What is important to you? Is organic important? Or is knowing your farmer more important? Is USDA certified organic important or is simply knowing that your farmer isnt using pesticides or chemical fertilizers or herbicides the more important factor? Would you be interested in other farm fresh products like breads, jams, jellies, yogurt, cheese, dairy? Or other farm products like organic straw or hay? What about pond raised catfish? Do you want to pick your own produce? Would you prefer a work-share?
Oh, so many questions...
But hey, time to start planning!