Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Indiana Farmer Links Organic Food with Community Support

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ventures are relatively new in the United States, and not much is known about designing them for rural areas.
Thanks to a North Central Region – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) grant, Michael Hollcraft of New Carlisle, Indiana plans to test develop an organic CSA marketing model that is convenient for rural consumers and profitable for farmers.

CSAs allow members of the community to become shareholders in a farming operation in return for fresh produce. This provides fresh local food for the shareholder and helps the farmer cover the upfront production expenses. Shareholders also help share the risks of farming when weather or other difficulties arise.

Hollcraft will use his sustainable agriculture grant to explore the best way to operate an organic CSA in a rural community. He will conduct market research to determine consumer food preferences and price points, which membership options work best, and customers’ willingness to use the Internet for membership payments and placing orders.

Hollcraft plans to look at other CSA operations to determine which practices work well, and how he can improve upon them. He also plans to do a literature search to uncover Best Practices for creating a profitable, organic CSA. Hollcraft explains that a Best Practice is a technique or practice that, through experience and research, has been proven to reliably lead to a desired result.

Once the research is done, Hollcraft will put together fact sheets that can be used by other producers who are facing the same marketing problems he faces. He will also offer to share his expertise on the subject through workshops and Extension events.

For more information or to participate in his upcoming CSA Marketing Survey, you may contact Michael Hollcraft at sundancefarmscsa@live.com and/or (574) 993-3008.

Research results of all past NCR-SARE funded projects can be reviewed on the national SARE web site http://www.sare.org/projects/.

Supporters of the project: From left Diane Kuhl, Elsa Littman, Hollcraft with wife Adriana Don-Hollcraft, Jorge Bourzac, and seated on the tractor is Gene Baughman. – photo by Marcy Dailey

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