-START A low-cost csa-
An example of the High Country CSA’s weekly box. The CSA model helps farmers, the local economy, and the environment. CSA members receive fresh food straight from the farm, learn more about where their food comes from, and get to know the person growing their food.
The High Country CSA Cost Share
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs give people direct access to fresh, high quality produce grown by local farmers. CSA participants purchase a “share” of produce from a farm or group of farmers at the beginning of the season, and then receive a weekly box of fruits and vegetables for a set amount of time. The High Country CSA (HCCSA), run by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, brings together four local farms and 90 community members through a CSA that runs from May through October of each year.
To make their program accessible to everyone, HCCSA also offers a cost share program. The Cost Share provides lower-priced shares for low-income members, and allows those members to pay weekly with SNAP/EBT (formerly food stamps), cash, check, or card. The only requirement for joining the Cost Share Program is that they receive some form of government aid (SNAP, WIC, or income-based medical services). Donations and fundraisers determine the percentage of cost subsidized each year. In 2017, Cost Share members paid $15/week for a share, compared to $25/week paid by full-paying members.
HCCSA funds the Cost Share through fundraisers and donations. When full-paying members sign up for their CSA, they are invited to donate to the Cost Share program. HCCSA also holds raffles, percent nights at local restaurants, where a percentage of the restaurant’s proceeds from that night go to the cost share, and receives donations from an annual film festival in town.
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Here are some things to consider if you’d like to start a low-cost CSA program:
Funding: How will you raise money to cover the subsidized CSA boxes and compensate growers fairly?
Growing the Food: Will you have enough produce and variety? Although the size of CSA shares varies, this guide suggests that each box weigh 10-20 lbs and contain 5-12 types of produce. One way to increase your variety is to partner with other gardeners or farmers who grow different kinds of fruits or vegetables.
Choosing a Location: When and where will people pick up their boxes each week? Try to find a place that is easy to get to, or a place that people visit already, such as a community center or church.
Finding Members: How will you advertise your program? You need to find participants who can commit to the full CSA season, otherwise you may end up with produce that doesn’t get picked up.
Education: Will your CSA members know how to cook the produce you grow? If not, consider including recipes or hosting cooking demos during pick-up.
Check out this video from the High Country CSA to learn more about their program:
People talking and eating at the dinner table
Squash in baskets at the Farmers Market
People stand behind newly harvested vegetables