If you've ever considered community supported agriculture or CSA as a way of farming, here's your chance to learn more about it. Registration is still open for Practical Farmers of Iowa's CSA Mini School to be held December 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and December 3, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Des Moines Y Camp, 1192 166th Dr. near Boone in central Iowa. PFI is bringing together three CSA experts to share their experiences farming under this model, in which the shareholders shoulder part of the operating expenses upfront and then share in the harvest later.
This proven and popular farm model provides some benefits that selling exclusively at Farmers Markets does not, according to workshop coordinator and PFI's director of horticulture, Sally Worley. Using the CSA model, shareholders become "guaranteed" customers. This reduces the risk of unsold product and provides steady income. Health conscious and environmentally conscious consumers like the CSAs as well because they know the source of their food and how it is being grown.
CSA approach connects producers and consumers
The first day of PFI's CSA Mini School will be geared toward beginning farmers, although all are welcome. Programming on the second day is appropriate for both beginners and seasoned CSA farmers.
This workshop is free for PFI members and $35 for non-members. Meals and lodging are provided. (Attendees will stay in bunk-style cabins with restroom facilities.) Register by contacting Sally Worley, firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-419-9551. Worley encourages farmers to join Practical Farmers of Iowa for just $35 and attend the workshop for free.
"This workshop is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about CSAs, to see if community supported agriculture could be right for you and to gain ideas for making your operation more efficient and profitable," says Worley. "This workshop will be invaluable to both new and seasoned CSA farmers."
Speakers for the workshop include: Chris Blanchard, Rock Spring Farm, Decorah, Ia.; Rebecca Graff, Fair Share Farm, Kearney, Mo.; Margaret Marshall, Featherstone Farm, Rushford, Minn.
Information on guest speakers and workshop topics
Blanchard owns and operates Rock Spring Farm, on the state line between Decorah, Iowa and Spring Grove, Minnesota. Rock Spring Farm offers CSA shares to 200 shareholders, and provides herbs and vegetables to natural foods grocers and a wholesale distributor in the Twin Cities, Rochester and Decorah. In 2009, Rock Spring Farm celebrated its 10th anniversary. He also co-directs the Organic Farming Conference, and provides consulting and education to farmers and others. Blanchard credits much of the farm's success to planning and careful attention to the numbers. He attributes most of the farm's failures to those times when the planning and attention weren't careful enough.
Graff and her partner, Tom Ruggieri, grow a diverse array of vegetables, fruits and herbs for a 120-member CSA in Northwest Missouri. Fair Share Farm is working toward the goal of sustainability by using organic growing practices and solar-powered machinery. This farm's CSA builds community through member participation in the production and distribution of produce.
Marshall is CSA manager at Featherstone Farm, Rushford Village, Minnesota. Her involvement with this farm began in 2007 when she joined a core group of shareholders in supporting the farm in its recovery from that year's floods. In 2009, Margaret began working fulltime for Featherstone managing the Farm's CSA program and leading efforts to solidify the farm's organizational structure. Located in southeast Minnesota, this farm has grown its membership every year since its inception 14 years ago. It now has 860 summer shares and 270 winter shares. It also sells produce to grocery stores and restaurants in the region.