The Stress of Community Supported Agriculture

This week marks our first week of deliveries for our vegetable community supported agriculture (CSA) program and only fitting, we made all four drops in sopping, pouring, downright miserable rain.

We decided not to do Farmer's Market this year, which is both sad and totally liberating. We're sad to miss out on the festive feel of early Saturday mornings, the smell of kettle corn and grilling kebabs mingling with coffee and bedding plants. We'll certainly miss the camaraderie we felt with other vendors and the feeling of community standing there under a canopy watching the town walk up to our little stand for vegetables, gardening advice or just a little chit chat. For these reasons, before Saturday came -- which would have been the first market -- I was feeling a little glum about not being there.

But when we woke up that morning at 6:30 instead of 3:30, I knew we'd made the right decision.

The market is an hour's drive and it ends up being a 10-12 hour day for us. Also, we've expanded our CSA -- doubled membership actually -- and more and more, we think doing exclusively CSA sales is  maybe the way we'd like to run the farm. We still sell wholesale to markets, restaurants and grocers (You can get our produce at Mountain Front Market in Choteau and at Gary and Leo's IGA in Conrad), but CSA is where it's at for us for direct sales. (We offer CSAs for vegetables, grains, turkeys and bread now.)


The CSA model is just a great way of doing business. It gives us much-needed capital to get going in the spring, it connects customers with the source of their food, it keeps local economies strong and most of all, it creates an important bond between eater and farmer -- a bond that benefits the health and wellbeing of the food, the community, the farmer and the eater.

But, this time of year, it's also really stressful for the farmer. When shareholders sign up, they know they are getting into something bigger than just buying vegetables. They know -- and if they don't, we tell them -- that they are signing up for both the bounty and risk of farming.

But that doesn't make it any less nerve wracking for us when the chard just isn't flourishing and the lettuce isn't growing the way we'd like it to. Or, when the weather isn't quite cooperating or worse yet, when a river threatens its banks or a hail storm moves through.

Our shareholders put their trust in us and although they and we know we can't control the weather or, well, much of anything on the farm, we do work hard to mitigate whatever we can whenever we can to make our customers happy that they did put their trust in us.

So, it's all a dance -- like always -- of trying your best to manage the chaos that is farming.

And as we watch streams swell across the state and friends' fields flood, or hear about another hail storm ripping through, we feel simultaneously sick and relieved, knowing that in farming, no matter how much you study or experiment or plan or care, sometimes, it all comes down to luck.

This is also posted on Life, Cultivated.

2 comments:

  1. Also, I think I'll be thinking about this post when I'm getting up at 4 for the market this summer. NOT looking forward to that....

    ReplyDelete

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