Customer demand in the food market is driving innovation. Without change, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model is being left behind. Rusty Bucket Mushrooms would like to conduct a pilot project in our area aiming to test the viability of a multi-producer CSA network that provides more options for their customers in order to compete in a new marketplace. By working collaboratively with local CSA programs, we aim to increase profitability for all farms involved, increase customer satisfaction and involvement in the local food economy, and demonstrate the viability of the model. We will gather data throughout the summer and publish our results while establishing an innovative network focused on expanding the market for local producers.
Much of our outreach will be conducted through approaching farms initially with the proposed model. By contacting the 15-20 local CSA farms in our initial outreach phase we will be beginning a conversation we hope will continue through the region. Follow up with these farms will hopefully be positive, and continued correspondence and collaboration is ideal. Furthermore, there are several outlets that we wish to pursue to bring further attention to the topic:
- Apply to share our results with NOFA and Small Farm Central, either via their online blogs or at their annual conference
- Distribute information about our study at farm markets we sell at, both encouraging customers to purchase traditional CSA shares or to encourage their current CSA farmers to bring on more variety such as that offered by our supplemental mushroom share
- Publish our results and freely distribute to all local CSAs, even those that did not participate in our study.
- Host a seminar at the Rusty Bucket Mushrooms Farm detailing our findings and how they could benefit all local farms, which could also be live-streamed or filmed to distribute digitally to any interested parties
Project objectives from proposal:
By establishing the precedent of expanding inter-farm collaboration, we expect to see an empowered farmer community that actively connects consumers to its extensive network of producers and services. Ultimately this will contribute dramatically to the resurgence and stabilization of local-centric economies. Our objectives are as follows:
- Gauge farmer and consumer interest in collaborative CSA networks
- Determine economic and logistical viability of the model
- Establish effective working practices that foster positive relationships between producers
- Improve produce marketing via a supplemental weekly mushroom share pilot program
Simply put, Rusty Bucket Mushrooms’ objective is to further connect local consumers to local producers by expanding the range of food available at any single farm. Integration of mushrooms into Western New York CSA programs will serve as a pilot program to gauge interest, determine viability, and establish a working business model for future potential partnerships. By expanding upon the preexisting CSA options available in the area, new and existing farms could potentially access thousands of previously unconnected consumers. The proposed model could be applied to many types of farms and regions around the United States. The results of this pilot project will outline the successes and failures for their use.