When I started Winterfell Acres in 2013 the only way I could get my produce to people was with CSA. There was no other option for me, I wouldn't consider selling wholesale with such a small acreage, I didn't know any chefs to sell to and I had enough experience with farmers' markets that I knew I wouldn't be able to make enough with my limited time as a one-woman farm. I could only imagine selling to people who I knew and who were interested in support a fledging small farmer. I also had almost no start up capital so the influx of cash at the beginning of the season was (and still is) key to my success. Most farmers out there take out loans at the beginning of the season to purchase inputs and seeds and equipment, while paying it off (sometimes only some of it) when the harvest comes in. Farming has so many variables (net income being the late on the totem pole) and CSA is quite unique in that I can actually budget my income pretty well from year to year and that is only because of my supportive CSA members who are willing to pay ahead of time for veggies that come months later. Most farmers do not have that degree of stability and security when it comes to their annual income. I know that each year I can pay the land mortgage and my Kubota tractor loan if member continue to sign up. This is what makes CSA remarkable and quite an anomaly within the farming movement.
CSA members are what keeps the ball rolling at Winterfell Acres and you are a vital part of this partnership. Because that is essentially what CSA is: a partnership between farmers and eaters. The farm, in its current form, does not exist with YOU and your willingness to go out of your way to pay ahead of time for your organic veg, to stop by your local pick up site on your way home from work weekly and your excitement to come out to the farm.
I know that I there will always be someone out there who can market better than me and who can offer a more convenient product than me. So I try to offer something deeper and more meaningful than just organic veggies: a connection to the land where your veggies come from and a relationship with me, your farmer.
One of the veteran CSA farmers in WI, Dan Guenthner of Common Harvest Farm puts it perfectly, "The one thing that we [as CSA farmers] can consistently do better than almost any other type of orientation to organic food is based upon relationship, that we can connect, we can be connected, we can be vulnerable, we can offer this authentic, this really authentic connection and experience."
That is my goal with deepening my commitment to the CSA movement (because it's not just a marketing strategy for me). I want to be vulnerable and authentic with you, my CSA members. I want to share our land and the fruits of my labor with you. I want you to feel free to come out to the land where your veggies grow. Because all of this, my business, our land, my ability to continue to farm is because of you.
When people ask me why I pursued farming as a career choice, I always tell them: this was the one small thing I could do to help change the world and make it a better place.
Thanks for reading!