CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farming is no longer a brand new business model. It’s in a growth phase. Farmers (and others) are trying new ideas and pushing the limits of what a CSA can be. Long established CSA farms are facing competition, and may or may not be those who thrive most going forward. This competition is pushing CSA farms to be more efficient, more effective, and more innovative.
CSAs are Growing
One simple and clear trend is that CSA farms are consistently offering more shares and average share prices are going up. In 2001, a group of university researchers surveyed 300 CSA farms. Average gross sales were around $33,500. However, more than 2/3 of the surveyed farms had gross CSA sales below $20,000.
You might guess this didn’t last. Given the direct cost of producing fruits and vegetables, including the cost of labor, the farms that grossed below $20,000 could not have profited by more than a few thousand dollars. With the customer service investment of CSA, it’s predictable that these farms would have either gotten bigger, quit, or found a different way to go about their marketing.
There’s no magic size threshold for a CSA. It all depends on your costs and prices, what else your farm is doing, and what your goals are for personal income and farm growth. The important thing is that you understand whether you are making money or not and how to move toward a successful model for you.