COLCHESTER FARM COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE:
CSA OR SUBSCRIPTION FARM?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2005 there were 1,144 Community Supported Agriculture Projects in the U.S. supplying over 270,000 households nationwide. Also according to the U.S.D.A., these projects fall into two distinct categories, CSAs and subscription farms. CSAs tend to be founded by a core group of shareholders who make decisions collectively, often work on the farm themselves and hire a farmer to do what they cannot. Subscription farms tend to work the other way around; a farmer decides to grow vegetables, makes all the management decisions, then offers vegetables to his customers on an annual subscription basis. In our fourth year of operation, Colchester Farm seems to be operating somewhere in between these two models.
Colchester Farm Community Supported Agriculture has a Board of Directors that meets quarterly, most are CSA members and receive vegetables weekly. As you can see from the list to the left, they represent a wide variety of backgrounds. Day-to-day management decisions, however, are made by Theresa Mycek, our CSA Manager, who is in charge of all field and growing decisions, and Charlotte Staelin, who assists with organization building and marketing operations.
Then there are our members, 98 individuals and families who signed up to receive our pesticide-free vegetables in 2006. Some are active and enthusiastic participants in farm events, supplying food for parties, recruiting new members, asking questions and making suggestions at every pick-up. Some have working shares and harvest every week in return for their produce. Some come to the Farm regularly, and are gleaning in the fields as we prepare this report.
Other members don't have time to be involved. Many have little to do with decision-making and seem to prefer it that way. They either buy a subscription or not, and are happy others are doing the managing. Whichever path members choose, as of this writing, fifty have returned our annual survey telling us about what they like and don't like about our operation, (see page 2).
We need all of you. After four years we have established one thing. We are here to stay. What started out as a hopeful experiment has become an established program. Too many people love what we do and count on us for their produce for us to do anything but continue growing vegetables for our neighbors. The details may shift over time, and the way those details are decided is still open to discussion, but Colchester Farm CSA is continuing on, for as far as we can see into the future.