If you are a gardener, there's a great way generate some additional income; start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) market garden! This article will explain the how to start making money from your garden with a CSA.
The Community Supported Agriculture model
If you have heard of CSA, you are probably aware that it is a special form of market gardening. Here's what makes it special: rather than selling produce at a farm stand, or the local farmer's market, the CSA gardener grows food for a select group of people - the members of the CSA. This group of people has pledged to support the CSA by paying for a season's worth of vegetables, thus providing the gardener with a guaranteed cash flow.
Members often pay in advance for the season, allowing the gardener to get started without spending a lot of her own money for seed and supplies. And just as importantly, the gardener can plan in advance what to grow and how much to grow to satisfy the members.
How to start your own CSA
Like any business, you should follow a plan to start your CSA. Here's a structured process to follow to launch your own Community Supported Agriculture market garden.
Step 1: Evaluate your assets
Make an assessment of the your tools, equipment, available land and other resources you will need for your market garden. This will help you decide how ambitious your start-up year should be.
Step 2: Evaluate your market
Businesses need customers. You will need a pool of prospective customers within an easy commute to your location, say an hour or less. I would suggest a nearby town of at least a couple thousand people would be the minimum market size to consider.
Step 3: Set targets
Considering your assets, your skills, and the potential size of your market, set a target for your first year. This should be based on the number of families you think you can provide fresh food to each week. You also have to set a sales target, based on the price you charge per member share. Remember: you need to make a profit to stay in business, don't underprice your shares. A little research on the Web will tell you what other CSA'a charge.
Step 4: Get the word out
Tell your friends, family, neighbours, church members, scout troop, EVERYBODY, about your plans for your garden. This will accomplish two things; it will let you know if there is any interest in a CSA in your area, and will probably get you some customers.
Step 5: Market, Market, Market
If you didn't hit your target with friends and family, you will have to get the word out to other people. I suggest a mailout flyer as the most effective way to do that. You can make one up on your computer, and get it photocopied at your local print shop for pennies a copy. You can deliver them yourself, or through your local post office.
Step 6: Confirm your numbers
Once you have enough customers, run your numbers again; evaluate your projected income against expected costs i.e. seed, supplies, labour (including your own). If it looks good, i.e. you can make a profit, you are ready for
Step 7: Get growing! Congratulations, you are a market gardener!
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