Near Northeast Community Supported Agriculture Program

Project Overview

FNC20-1220
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $7,525.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Soul Food Project
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Danielle Guerin
Soul Food Project

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: youth education
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, farmers' markets/farm stands, market study
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, employment opportunities, leadership development, quality of life, urban agriculture

    Summary:

    The Northeast side of Indianapolis has been a food desert for over 20 years only just receiving a small grocery store in 2016. Many residents still rely on fast food establishments or take the bus to the nearest grocery store which is a 30 minute trip. While economic viability for my operation is important, I want to be as socially responsible as possible and my focus is on improving the quality of life for the community that I operate in. 

    To solve this problem we want to try two different direct marketing solutions: a subsidized community supported agriculture (CSA) program and a farmer’s market. We will trial 10 CSA shares with a sliding fee scale, with shares being as low as $10. We will also guide the community in planning a biweekly farmers market in order to help strengthen the local economy and support other community members that we can’t serve with the CSA. We chose these two options because a CSA can take away the uncertainty of picking out fresh produce while a farmers market gives us the opportunity to educate a wider audience. 

    Our first step was to create a community survey that got neighbors' opinions on veggie boxes and farmers' markets. The goal was to learn what types of vegetables they would like to receive and if they would like to see a market in their neighborhood. Due to the pandemic, we had to conduct the survey entirely online. What we didn't know is that several other organizations that were larger than us were also conducting similar surveys and ours got lost in the shuffle. We decided to continue with the project and made the choice not to try to launch a brand new farmer's market in the summer. 

    The first season of 2020, we had two veggie box shares a full share ($90) and a half share ($45). The full share was designed to feed between 2-4 people while the half share was designed for 1-2 people. Each share lasted for the same 12 weeks, June through September. We had 2 families purchase a full share and 9 purchase a half share. This was a promising start and many lessons were learned. The major one being that we didn't grow a diverse amount of crops. Our typical farm crops did well if we were selling at a farmer's market but there wasn't enough variety for our members and they were getting the same thing each week. This caused us to reach out to other farmers throughout the season to try to add some variety to the bags. Another issue we had was that many of the participants weren't from the neighborhood and we priced it so low to help the neighborhood. Many of the participants could afford a higher cost share but chose ours to save money. 

    To try to solve these problems for our second year, we ran targeted ads on Facebook for our neighborhood and posted about the boxes in the Nextdoor app, and local neighborhood groups on Facebook. This came with success and we even had one neighbor walk to the farm each week to pick up her share. We also raised the price to $150 a share and only offered one size but offered some variety. Here is a copy of the text from our website describing our boxes:

    Our share pickup is set up like a farmer’s market. You pick up your vegetables according to a weekly list with approximately 8-12 choices. Your options will consist of a variety of vegetables and herbs sustainably grown on our farm and will change on a weekly basis.

    "One share will generally supply a family of 2-4 for a week (depending on a family’s weekly vegetable intake). Each week members receive a box of produce that will regularly include what we like to call “the base of the box:”

    1) Two bunches of Swiss chard/kale/collards 

    2) Fresh herbs.

    In addition to the weekly “base,” you will receive seasonal herbs and vegetables including basil, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, beans, mustards, green onions, hot peppers, potatoes, radishes, squash, cherry tomatoes, turnips, zucchini and more!"

    This allowed us to harvest everything consistently and allow the participants to shop. It reduced the labor of having to pack the boxes each week and allowed other tasks to be done. We had 11 participants signed up for the season. They received a newsletter that told them what would be on the table each week and also recipes that they could make with the produce. At the end of the season, they received a survey but many preferred to give their comments face to face when they picked up their final box. The general consensus was that they loved it but still would have liked more of the root crops. 

    The farmer's market still did not happen in 2021 but we did participate in a farmer's market that was launched less than 2 miles from our farm. While close to our neighborhood, it was still in a more affluent neighborhood and wasn't our target customer base. We do vend there every week but our product mix does not do as well as it could if it was in our neighborhood. We will be convening a neighborhood committee together during the fall of 2021 to launch a farmer's market in the summer of 2022. 

    The biggest lesson learned in all of this research is the importance of community engagement. We are still meeting people who are unaware of our farm and what we are doing. This fall we will be doing a lot of work in building up our website, social media and maintaining our presence in the community by attending as many community events as possible. 

    Project objectives:

    Survey 50 households with the community needs food security assessment. 

    Establish a 12 week CSA program that serves 10 families between June and September.

    Host 2 nutrition/cooking workshops to educate families.

     

     

     

    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.