Growing New CSA Farmers: Conference and Mini-School for Community Supported Agriculture

Final Report for FNC05-589

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $14,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


We are a community supported agriculture farm cultivating about ½ acre of mixed vegetables in intensively managed raised beds, currently serving 20 families, a modest wholesale business with a local chef and a cut flower account with a local restaurant.

We have been a CSA farm since 1994, using organic principles and practices, though we are not certified organic.

Project goals:
• CSA conference and mini-school were completed in fall, 2006.
• Training manual for new and prospective CSA growers completed in spring 2007
• Pilot mentoring program completed summer 2008

Process: Our experience with conferences specifically for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) practitioners and advocates in the NE U.S. and the CSA conference we coordinated in 2004 in Michigan convinced us of the value of providing an event of this nature. In part this is because other ag conferences, while often offering programs on CSA, rarely provide much depth or breadth on the topic. Given the complexity of the CSA model, and the need for much background information, specific conferences are badly needed, and rarely offered. Furthermore, the benefits of the networking that a major event of this nature offers (as with any conference specifically for a discreet group of practitioners) can not be over-emphasized.

The mini-school was given good evaluations and resulted in a series of one-day events around Michigan (ongoing, with support from other agencies).

The Training Manual is well received by mini-school participants and is being distributed widely via downloads from our web site as well as purchase of printed copies. It is being used in various workshop settings by others, and has been a companion to CSA training in Ohio and Missouri.

The mentoring program gave us the biggest surprises, and frustrations. While we still believe in the value of a mentoring relationship, a variety of changes need to be considered if we continue to foster mentor/mentee relationships. The mentoring program is also the reason this project needed an extension. Problems began in the first season, when two of the four mentor relationships fell apart. One was apparently because it was simply not an appropriate ‘fit’ between the ‘mentee’ and the farmers. The other did not materialize because the two ‘mentees’ that signed up decided not to start farming. As the reports in the last project report, and those provided at the end of this report (Appendix A) indicate, the relationship is considered important and valuable by mentor and ‘mentee’ alike. But we need a more effective process of making sure the ‘fit’ is good, and some assurance that we have selected those who will actually follow through with a farming operation.

If we tried a mentoring program again, I believe we would require a small payment on the part of a ‘mentee’ to assure all that the person was seriously interested. A modest $50 would go a long way to making it a more reliable relationship, and would be far below the value gained.

1. Jo Meller, Five Springs Farm
2. Mike and Phyliss Wells, Wells Family Farm
3. Jen Tutlis and Jon Watts, Meadowlark Farm
4. Bernie and Sandee Ware, Ware Farm
5. Laura B. DeLind, Michigan State University
6. Les Roggenbuck, East River Organic Farm
7. Cathy Zarkovich, then of Baker Farm
Many others offered assistance in planning, promoting and administering the conference and mini-school; still others provided assistance in writing and editing the training manual. Some of these include Lee Arboreal (Eater’s Guild CSA), Susan Smalley (MSU Extension) and William Willging (Performance Solutions, assisting with questionnaires and evaluations)

In addition to NC SARE, financial support was provided by: CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems, Michigan Farmers Union Foundation, Michigan Land Trustees, Madison Area CSA Coalition (MACSAC), Higher Grounds Trading Company, Michigan Farmers Union, The Community Farm newsletter, Michigan Catholic Rural Life Coalition and Crop Services International; in-kind support was provided by the Michigan Land Use Institute and the Manistee County Conservation District,

We asked participants in the conference and mini-school for evaluations of the experience and were rewarded with very favorable answers and comments. Evaluating the ways in which these experiences enhanced existing operations or resulted in new ones is more difficult to accomplish, and our hopes of doing so were not met in any specific way. Mentors and Mentees were asked to evaluate their experiences; the content was of variable detail and value.

We do know that the number of CSA growers in Michigan (which provided the largest percentage of participants) has grown. We continue to ‘log’ new farms on our website and many have passed through a mini-school, a CSA conference or both. We also had a satisfying number of people say that they were delaying startup until they were better prepared for this challenging model. We believe that this will result in continuing startups, of higher quality and enhanced success.

Summary of Conference Evaluations is attached (Appendix B)

Press releases went to many ag publications, some of which printed it; many more put it in their calendars. It appeared on many online calendars. We developed a web site, which was heavily visited. Advertising was included in Growing for Market, The Community Farm, and Biodynamic Journal. Posters and brochures were provided to ag conferences, meetings and festivals around the state and region. Post card reminders were sent to a large mailing list two times. Samples of some of these materials are attached. Leading up to the conference, then following it, articles in The Community Farm newsletter featured commentary from speakers and participants.

Outstanding program, reasonable procedures. Don’t change a thing!

Appendix A –Mentoring reports

Mentoring Report – Jo Meller Mentor / Teri VanHall Mentee
Five Springs Farm, Summer 2008
Jo Meller:
Teri and I spent 3 months together at Five Springs Farm going over how to run a CSA Farm. We started in the greenhouse with production questions; types of veggies, selections of seeds, when to order, frequency of planting etc. Then we went into the actual greenhouse work of transplanting, caring, planting of seeds.

Field prep/ crop planting and harvesting were major parts of Teri’s instruction – with a CSA farm field prep, planting, harvesting is a constant. Post harvest care, cleaning, storing until distribution happened twice weekly. She was present for all harvesting and had many questions.

During her time here we put on events farm events, wrote weekly newsletters, did deliveries to wholesale accounts and worked with our members in the field. Incidental to the faming aspect, there was also some work on expanding and improving the renewable energy systems that provide all of the electrical needs for the farm and homestead.

After 3 months together I feel like Teri could run her own CSA Farm.

Reflections from a Mentored, Aspiring Farmer
Teri Vanhall:
Mentor Farm Five Springs Farm, Jim Sluyter and Jo Meller
This summer, I had the honor and pleasure of working alongside two organic farmers I have long admired: Jim Slyuter and Jo Meller of Five Springs Farm in Bear Lake, MI. I arrived with a year's experience of theoretical and practical knowledge gained from my participation in MSU's Organic Farming Certificate Program.

Working alongside Jim and Jo for the summer gave me the opportunity to apply my experience on a working farm, learn new skills, and discover new strengths and weaknesses. I was able to ask questions, test theories, and see results in our farming practices, in everything from pest management to irrigation, seeding, transplanting, and marketing, among others. I was able to observe and participate in the dynamic relationship organic farmers have with their land and crops, and gained insight into best practices that Jim and Jo have learned over several years of trial, error, and success. The experience of being mentored by seasoned farmers will forever help me to keep a keen eye, ask the right questions, and implement appropriate measures as I develop my own organic farming systems. Two (green) thumbs up for the lifelong value of this opportunity! 🙂

Mentoring Report Meadowlark Farm, Summer 2008
Jenny Tutlis:

November 25, 2008
To whom it may concern,
Meadowlark Farm has for many years, created a community of caring and hardworking folk who frame what we consider to be the “little community” within the larger community of over 200 local families who comprise our Meadowlark CSA. This is our 11th year of CSA in Leelanau County and we have had many wonderful interns and employees through the years. Many have gone on to have their own farms. We look to our local region for people to be a part of our farm crew. Many people think of an “intern” as someone who lives on farm and works closely with the farmers in a deeper way than a typical employee, we’ve actually found the opposite can be true.

As former “interns” ourselves, our experience enabled us to work on as many different farms as we could, learning and growing and framing what was to become our own farm in the future. We lived as volunteers in intentional community for 3 years and also were Peace Corps volunteers. In the early years, as our own farm started out, we invited people interested in becoming farmers to join with us and work together farming and living and in general sharing our lives. We worked for several years with “ interns” living with us in our home and then later in a trailer or granary. As wonderful as those experiences often were, we started asking ourselves, “how sustainable is it to attract people from far away, and then after a year, they go on to farm in another region or state?” Also, it seems to us that to be working and living on one farm for more than a season really allows a person to see cycles unfold and to understand more deeply the complexity of diversified farming. For a farm too, it is incredibly valuable to have a farmworker who has experience on your farm for more than one year. The relationships between the humans involved, as well as the relationships to the food and the inherent system are allowed to mature, flower and flourish with time. It makes sense to our community, region, family and farm to work with people in our own area for these reasons. Many of the longterm meadowlark farmworker folk say that they couldn’t imagine having the skills to start their own farm after just one season on a farm.

We have found that this system has really created a framework of consistency, reliability, sustainability and in short, a real and true community. These people are our friends; our kids are friends together, and some of them have been a part of meadowlark for 9 years, 7 years, 4 years. We always make space for new folk to join in and this way, the mix stays fresh. New energies blend with old energies and the work is shared across this spectrum. To nurture each other as individuals as well as this farm organism into success, growth and sustainability is a goal not just held by Jon and I, but it is a commonly held and truly heartfelt goal held by many who work here. We have a community of people who love each other, who care about food, our region and who spend much of our time dreaming of a world that works. Many of the longterm meadowlarks have dreams of their own farms, their own “products”(like miso and tamari, sourdough bread and cheese, milk, butter and yogurt). We encourage their dreams to grow while working together here.

A few of those people really stand out, and Jennifer Lucas is one of them. Jennifer has been a part of meadowlark for 3 full seasons and for her place in this farm and community, we are most grateful. She is a member of the flower crew and she also is in charge of boxes on harvest and distribution days. In the farming off season, she is the cook and food educator for the Leelanau Children’s Center preschool program. She carries her passion forward into this role and weaves together threads of connection and continuity between our farm and the kids and families that are a part of the Center. She cooks with local foods and shares her love of good food with families through evening meals in which she teaches busy parents how to happily cook fresh food. She and her partner Berkeley, who also works here, own 10 acres of land and they plan to some day farm there together. We talk a lot about taking the CSA model and allowing it grow beyond the established model of vegetables. Their intention is to start a small dairy operation with pastured animals. We strongly support and encourage their dreams and we’ve spent literally years together in deep conversation about how their farm and ours could be working together toward the goal of trying to feed our local region as fully as possible. Encouraging the CSA model into new realms takes some courageous and idealistic dreamers and we hope that we’ve played a role in supporting the possibility of new local farms and businesses. We like to imagine a foodshed, where literally all of our food needs could be met locally!
Jennifer Tutlis
Meadowlark Farm

Jennifer Lucas:
Nourish: to feed or sustain with substances necessary to life and growth
Encourage: to give courage, hope, or confidence to; hearten

With an interest in farming and growing food that far exceeded my knowledge, I was invited joined the Meadowlark community 3 ½ years ago. I loved the work immediately and knew I had been led to the right place. I had considered other, more formal pathways for learning about the gritty details of this type of work, but none seemed rooted, none felt right. When I came to this farm, I could immediately sense that there are very different types of responsibilities and opportunities here. I was prepared for a job working the soil; I fell into a community dedicated to nurturing and encouraging one another, including the earth, on a very deep level. There is no strict heirarchy, there is plenty of room for new ideas and an expectation that you will involve more than your body in your work. It is, I strongly believe, the ideal type of setting to properly learn about Community Supported Agriculture and the relationships that should develop out of it.

At the center of my experience at the farm is my relationship with Jenny Tutlis. She is a loving friend, my boss, my mentor in so many ways, a natural leader who has shown me how to be strong and unapologetic about your blessings and weaknesses. There has always been a great deal of open space left for experimentation and error in the ways she has taught me and I have learned from her. At the same time, she has imparted an unwavering and uncompromising appreciation of the sacred around us and insisted that we culture respect for the needs of the plants we grow. Reflecting on our relationship, I believe it exemplifies what a sincere mentorship should be: a connection designed to facilitate the transfer of knowledge with trust and respect and an open heart and mind. It should accomplish for us folks who are unrelated and seeking a place to send down roots what bloodlines used to do for traditional knowledge in other cultures. We support each other so that we can support our own families, so we can be free to give to our communities and give courage to one another. The result of this type of apprenticeship is not always starting another CSA or making a living growing food or flowers. As a community, we only need so many Diva cucumbers, so much crookneck. We only need so many vegetable farms competing with one another. At some point, it falls on those of us who have learned what it means to nurture and encourage to be honest and innovative in how we choose to give back to our communities. Jenny has taught me that belonging to a community means knowing yourself and sharing your gifts with others in a spirit of abundance. She encourages all of us to keep an open mind and to really know the needs of our communities when deciding how to contribute.

As a result of my relationship with Jenny and my relationship to the farm, I have become a member of an actual, breathing community, not an objective idea of one. I have learned that CSA can only work in the ways it is designed to, it can only achieve its potential as a living thing, if we approach community in this more dynamic way and see our relationships with one another as being the most important piece of the process. Otherwise, a CSA is just another shop in the mall. Thinking back now on the other options I had for learning about farming in this way, some with more formalized mentorship opportunities, I can see how difficult it would be to communicate these most important variables within an institutionalized setting. I can see how easily CSA could become a standardized product, where this is just a way to make a buck without selling your time to a corporate giant. I see that the key to keeping the heart in CSA is working relationships like the one Jenny and I have developed. I think of the saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” This is what our relationship, our mentorship, has done for me. It has taught me to fish for all of the good stuff; taught me to nurture the earth and my neighbors. It has enabled me to provide for my family, for my village in more ways than just filling bellies. Nourishing me, providing me with fertile soil to work my life in, this relationship has altered the course of my life. I am forever changed by it.

Appendix B
CSA Conference 2006 Evaluations

67 evaluations submitted

1. I am a (please select the ONE that best describes you)
30 ___CSA farmer
7 ___Farmer
6 ___CSA Farm Member
9 ___Ag professional/educator
5 ___Intern or student
4 ___other ___unspecified____________________
4 ___other ___gardener____________________
2 ___other ___ prospective CSA grower (we should have this in the list)

2. I would come to a conference like this again ___yes ___no
All yes except 1 maybe
3. I would prefer to come to a shorter (i.e., one day) event ____ yes ___no
10 yes, 3 both or maybe, some non-response. Remainder no
4. This was a good time of the year for a conference ___yes ___no
Most yes, a handful suggest later. This question is particularly subject to self-selection for ‘yes’ because the ones for whom this was a bad time didn’t come…
If no, what would be a better time for you? __________________
5. This was a good location ___ yes ___no
If no, what would be a better location? ______________________
Overwhelming yes, many adding !!! or other enthusiasms. Suggestions include Ontario, Wisconsin, southern Michigan
6. Please use the other side of this sheet to:
• Describe or list something that you learned that you will take back to your farm, job or home.
• List workshop topics that you would like to see included in a future conference.
• Suggest speakers or presenters for future conferences.
• Say what you liked best (or least) about this conference.

I did not tabulate the many things learned or taking back to the farm

Future topic suggestions: (* means several suggested it)
• How to juggle CSA and family
• Developing a land trust
• More specific ones, like ‘winter greens’
• Horse power on the CSA (Ken Laing volunteered to present it)
• Panel of researchers who study CSA benefits, to use in promotion
• Vermiculture – Will Allan (Milwaukee)
• Aquaculture (‘Flannigan, IL’)
• Soils/cover crops
• Equipment/machineryergonomics/body-saving tools
• *Labor on the farm
• More on succession, more crop plans
• Have a CSA grower do the business session
• * More on member participation including core groups, social events etc. Community issues
• Newsletter production
• Fermented food
• Member retention issues
• Incorporating low income members into the farm
• Fruit
• Management issues
• Member recruitment
• PR
• “Do’s and Don’ts”
Alert readers will notice that many of these were covered in the 2004 conference, suggesting that there will be good reason to have them again in any future conferences

Suggested future speakers: Nordell’s

General suggestion to improve:
• Bring in an equipment vendor
• Topic tables at lunch
• Better collaboration between multiple presenters
• Good coffee all the time
• Repeat sessions because there were too many good choices at the same time
• Go around the ‘Let’s Talk’ circle for comments from all participants
• Plan for walk-in registrations
• Some workshops too short – consider “part 1, part 2” (greenhouse mgt mentioned)
• Better job of moderating. We worked on this but clearly can still improve.
• Map with stick-pins for participants to show where they came from
• From the ‘unclear on the concept’ department: “many repetitions of CSA issues became tiresome”
• Mini-school could have been more structured

General Praise and selected quotes:
• Liked the relaxed atmosphere – several commented on the extra time allowed in the schedule, something we worked hard to provide
• Good food – mentioned in 10 surveys. Again, improved with worthwhile effort
• “good diversity of workshop topics, good balance”
• “incredible energy boost”
• “So many things to take home and implement for a startup CSA”
• “I loved the conference,” “Absolutely great,” “very well run” and the like
• “networking is priceless”
• “learned lots … but the biggest thing … is inspiration and reinvigoration”

We did not ask any questions about specific workshops or presenters; sessions or presenters mentioned (favorably) include:
• Both keynote speakers praised several times
• David and Barb Perkins
• Greenhouse management
• Oxfam
• Seeds and bugs sessions
• Arts and the CSA session (3 times)

Second Biennial Conference for
Community Supported Agriculture

November 10-12, 2006, Kettunen Center, Tustin, MI

Join us for workshops, presentations, CSA tools and resources, displays, music and fun!
PLUS - Learn the basics!
mini-school for the new or prospective CSA farmer
Featured Speakers:
Steven McFadden (Journalist and Visionary), co-author of Farms of Tomorrow Revisited – Community Supported Farms, Farm-Supported Communities
Scott Chaskey (Farmer at Quail Hill CSA) Author of This Common Ground, Seasons on an Organic Farm
...and many others, who will educate and inspire

Located on 160 acres of Northern Michigan rolling hills and forests, on Center Lake, Kettunen Center provides beauty and serenity in a natural setting with opportunities to unwind and explore while taking care of business. Perhaps best described as “comfortable rustic,” the Center offers a relaxing environment set off the beaten track.

A Conference for Community Supported Agriculture

November 10-12, 2006, Kettunen Center, Tustin, MI
Press Release, May 31, 2006
• Please publish in your calendar or resource listings.
• Please publish narrative as appropriate to your publication; edit as necessary.
• Contact us for a disc or email attachment of this information: [email protected]

What: Raising Vegetables and Civic Values: CSA in the 21st Century
Second Biennial Conference for Community Supported Agriculture
When: November 10-12, 2006
Where: Kettunen Center near Tustin, Michigan (Just south of Cadillac)
Contact: CSA-MI
3480 Potter Rd
Bear Lake, MI 49614
231-889-3216 (toll free 877-526-1441)
Email [email protected]

Workshops for experienced and new CSA farmers, CSA wannabes, small farm advocates, community food/health advocates, educators and extension personnel.

Intensive Mini-School on November 10 is meant especially for new or aspiring CSA farmers. The mini-school will introduce the concepts and practices of CSA farming, presented by a panel of experienced CSA farmers. Topics will include recruiting shareholders, setting prices, succession planting, distribution techniques, value of core groups, and other topics of interest to the new or prospective CSA farmer.

Raising Vegetables and Civic Values: CSA in the 21st Century
At a time when farms are disappearing at an alarming rate, and some refer to family farms as an endangered species, community supported agriculture (CSA) offers a path to farm preservation, stability and profitability. CSA farms connect growers and consumers through arrangements in which farm members, or subscribers, usually pay in advance for their share of the harvest and participate in the risks and rewards of each farming season. But CSA offers benefits off the farm too: it connects people with their food supply, builds community, enhances community health and increases food security. CSA’s popularity has been steadily growing. This increase reflects a growing recognition that our current, industrially modeled and long-distance food system is unsustainable and that workable alternatives for both farmers and non-farmers are necessary and possible. It also reflects the creativity and flexibility that is inherent in CSA as a place-based model of food production, distribution, and consumption.

CSA is no longer a novelty. Featured in the mainstream media (e.g., The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, PBS, Great Lakes Radio, Time Magazine, and USA Today) and coordinated nationwide through food and farming websites, CSAs have demonstrated their diversity and holding power. More than farmers markets, food coops, roadside stands or u-pick operations, CSAs are complex agricultural and sociocultural systems. They are both entrepreneurial in design and civic in function. CSAs raise baskets of food, not commodities: they feed local families, teach environmental ethics, conserve natural resources, connect with urban residents, and contribute to community vitality.

CSA in the 21st Century is being organized by CSA-MI, an association of CSA farmers, members and advocates. In 2004, CSA-MI organized the conference, "Growing Together: Strengthening the CSA Movement," the first program of its kind in Michigan. "Growing Together" was an unqualified success. Keynoter CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds called it “…one of the three best and most important gatherings I have ever attended.” Our goals are to:
• Publicly showcase the diversity and civically engaged nature of the CSA model
• Provide a forum within which CSA farmers and members can network, exchange information, share stories and meals, dance and sing songs.
• Introduce conventional farmers to the CSA concept and the range of local options
• Promote CSA as a viable option for new farmers and provide information and support to this important group
• Develop on-going relationships with agricultural professionals (e.g., extension), clarifying the philosophy and mechanics of CSA

Why a focus on CSA? “We have been to several conferences that focus on community supported agriculture,” says Jo Meller, one of the conference coordinators, “and we always return inspired and better able to manage our farm.” Jim Sluyter, another coordinator, adds, “Even though there will be a concentration on CSA, you can expect plenty of workshops of interest to any market grower.”

Keynote Speakers
Steven McFadden, a native of New England, now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he serves as director of Chiron Communications and continues his work as a journalist, a teacher, a counselor, and a healer. "I have been reporting on community supported agriculture since its inception in the United States in 1986. The first two CSA experiments started nearby that summer in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. They naturally drew my interest. I have continued to follow the story over the years -- a story that has enormous importance for North and South America, as well as for many other nations sharing the water, soil, and air of our earth." He is co-author (with Trauger Groh) of Farms of Tomorrow Revisited – Community Supported Agriculture and Agriculture Supported Community

Scott Chaskey, farmer, poet, author and educator, has managed Quail Hill Farm CSA on Long Island for 15 years. He specializes in garlic, greens and potatoes, as well as growing 50 other crops. He has worked as poet-in-residence in numerous schools and museums for over 20 years and has taught poetry to children of all ages. His recent book, This Common Ground, Seasons on an Organic Farm, will soon be released in paperback.

Other knowledgeable presenters will lead workshops on topics on a wide range of topics.

Join us for a celebration of good work, good soil and good food.

A Voice for Community Supported Agriculture
FF Issue #36 a Winter 2007

Conference Commentary

The Second Biennial Conference for Community Supported Agriculture was held in Michigan last November. By any measure it was a great success. We hope to see you in two years (maybe in Ontario). Here are some ‘voices’ from that event.

The CSA Community
CSA by its very name holds the concept of community at its core. I truly can’t think of a better foundation for community building than bringing people together to celebrate, share and support good food grown by good people. It is this ideal that drew me to apprenticing on a CSA farm three years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, on the cusp of starting my own CSA in Ontario, I am gaining even more of an appreciation for the importance of community, not only within my CSA, but also among CSA’s around Ontario, North America, and the World!

In November I found myself en route to Tustin, Michigan to check out the second biennial CSA conference. What I hoped for was to meet some interesting people, learn a thing or two about crop planning, and further my knowledge about the CSA movement. What I found was an incredibly diverse, supportive group of like-minded people all committed to inspiring positive change in our collective food system. There were long time CSA farmers, young apprentices, CSA members, academics, wannabe farmers, food activists and non-CSA farmers looking for a new approach to farming. There were a diversity of ages, genders, races, and backgrounds with one common tie: a passion to nurture this movement of community supported agriculture. Among many other things, I came away with a renewed sense of inspiration and belonging, and an even deeper commitment to this model of food production.

As a budding CSA farmer, I am extremely grateful for the experienced CSA farmers who see the need to educate young people about growing food and raising civic values; and who take time out of their busy lives to continuously nurture the CSA community. It is a community rooted deeply in cooperation, shared values and a vision of feeding the world, one community at a time.

— Caitlin Hall, New CSA Farmer
reroot organic CSA, Moorefield, Ontario •

Maybe we too easily forget, as CSA growers and builders of community, that the need for community amongst ourselves has the same kind of importance as it does around our farms. Maybe in some ways even more so...since many of us are isolated by the space between our farms and the time that we must devote to their operations

After weeks have gone by I am still resonating from the energy of the gathering. I was so inspired by the energy and the sense of solidarity that came out of the conference. It has been about four years since I attended a CSA conference. Since then, I have been running a smallish CSA, alone, in the countryside west of Ottawa, Ontario. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. It's easy to find myself lost in to-do lists, patchwork repairs and planting/harvesting schedules. I tend to disconnect with "why" I do what I do. Spending 48 hours talking and talking and talking with other CSA farmers and with aspiring CSA farmers fueled my sense of purpose.

There are all sorts of farmers around me. Grain farmers, dairy farmers, even vegetable farmers. But, there are very few Community Farms. I believe we're a special breed. For that reason, I think it is essential to have a opportunity such as this one, to come together for inspiration and support. Tell me when and where the next one will be, and I will be there with bells on!
— Hilary Chop, Teamwork CSA

I attend a lot of organic and small farm conferences, but this CSA conference is the best. There is something extra exciting, educational and inspiring about bringing together CSA farmers for a conference. I think it is in part due to the focus of such a specific (though diverse) group of farmers all engaged in something very meaningful...CSA. The other part I think lies in the nature and dynamic of the kinds of folks (farmers and others) who are interested in CSA and therefore inherently in community and the role of sustainable agriculture in our collective lives.
Jeremy Moghtader, Manager/Instructor
Student Organic Farm
Michigan State University

CSA in North America got its start in New England, and took root rapidly in the fertile soil of their small farm traditions. In other parts of North America and the world, it has taken some time for these ideas and concepts to germinate. We are now perhaps in the eye of the perfect storm of grower and eater interest. With more attention to local food than any time in recent memory, and a continued loss of small farms (not to mention concerns about open space and food security) CSA is poised to fulfill a variety of needs and wishes. And indeed, the growth in the number of CSA farms in Michigan and many other places is dramatic in recent years.

As a new Michigan resident, coming from New England, I was excited to see the building momentum of the CSA movement in Michigan. My outsiders’ assumption is that the community-based farming scene in New England is well developed, and efforts to support CSA principles and action are perhaps even saturated or overlapping in some ways. But as I moved through the days at the conference, meeting farmers and aspiring farm owners and innovators, I had a sense that things are really moving in Michigan. While farms may not be as in close proximity to urban hubs as in the Northeast and the large-scale farming tradition allowed by Michigan’s flat expanses may be harder to transform, a strong commitment links CSA farmers all around the state. Michelle and Marty’s presentation (Michigan CSA By Cycle — provided evidence that the interest in local food and community-supported agriculture is growing – that Michigan CSA farmers tend to be far more youthful than the national averages, more operations use alternative energy, and the demand is growing! And not only in Michigan – the strong presence of Canadian compatriots at the conference made CSA efforts seem that much more cosmopolitan, global and urgent.
Jessica Cook, intern
Tantre Farm

The [CSA Conference] was a great means of putting together all I'd learnt during the six weeks I was visiting CSA farms beforehand. It gave me a chance to affirm some things I'd noticed from the individual farms and gave me a wider perspective. I found it very inspiring to meet so many people doing the same things as me and to see such a thriving community of CSA farmers — especially coming from the UK where CSA is relatively unknown.
— Jen Broncyk, Cwm Harry Land Trust, Wales, UK


As a companion to CSA mini-schools, CSA-MI produced a training manual for new CSA producers in English and Spanish. Find it online at


Participation Summary

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.