Season Extension for Winter CSA and Restaurant Sales

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2007: $5,829.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:


  • Vegetables: beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, garlic, greens (leafy), parsnips, peppers, brussel sprouts


  • Crop Production: double cropping
  • Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: green manures
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    The demand for local, sustainably produced farm products is steadily growing in Western North Carolina. At this time there are several CSA farms in the area, and many neighborhood tailgate markets. However, both the CSA's and markets generally begin in early to mid-May and finish by the end of October. Currently, there is very little local farm produce available from November through April. Many CSA members, tailgate market customers, and chefs that buy regularly at the markets are looking for a chance to purchase more local products in the off-season. Many of the local farmers get jobs off the farm for the winter months in order to make enough money to survive the winter and start production again in the spring. Working off the farm in the winter can be difficult for area farm businesses, as there are always a multitude of projects to be finished that make the Spring planting get off to a better start. It can also be difficult to get a good winter job that will only last November through February, typically the slowest time for the economy in Western North Carolina. If at least one member of the farm family, and hopefully two, could create a job on the farm in the winter by season extension and winter production, there would be smoother seasonal transitions, a chance to maintain relationships with customers and chefs, and the ability to provide local, fresh produce through the winter months. We propose to implement season extension techniques on our farm and establish a model winter CSA for the area. Having just arranged a long term lease on another field from a neighbor, we will have the opportunity to grow more potatoes and winter squashes in the summer. We plan to use our two 50 foot by 20 foot hoop houses on skids, our 30 foot by 30 foot greenhouse, and floating row covers to grow winter greens and root crops. After creating an indoor washroom in our greenhouse, it will be feasible to wash and prepare the produce for our customers. We will use one of our walk-in coolers to store the potatoes, onions, and cured squashes, as well as the greens and root vegetables when they are harvested for sale. These methods can be implemented on many farms in western NC, leading to increased farm income and the capacity of on-farm jobs during the winter. A winter CSA will also increase customer loyalty and health, by enabling customers to eat local, fresh, sustainably grown produce all year long. We will have a field day at our farm in the late winter of 2008 for local farmers, agriculture educators, CSA members (and potential members), chefs, and other customers. This field day will demonstrate our winter production methods and be an outreach to farmers who are interested in doing something similar. In January 2008, we will speak to farmers at the annual Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) marketing conference on this winter production opportunity. We will also present the results at the Organic Growers School in March 2008, and at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference in November 2008. We will generate a winter production fact sheet that will be helpful for the attendees of these events. We will show slides of our winter production beds, greenhouse washroom, finished product, and sample CSA boxes. The best yielding and storage varieties will be discussed as well as budgetary aspects of production. We will document and report the offerings of each winter CSA box and weekly offerings to chefs. Our promotional material will be available to anyone interested in the winter market. The outcome should be particularly relevant to the attendees of these events, as many come from western NC. We will also submit an article to Growing For Market with our winter production results and lessons learned. Good yields of storage vegetables and winter crops will lead to successful winter CSA and restaurant marketing. As the winter beds are harvested, records will be kept of the yield of each picking. Yields of storage vegetables will also be recorded. Having a consistent price for each item will enable us to figure the income generated by each crop. Our crops will be selected carefully by researching what other producers in all areas of the country are growing during the off-season. By the end of the winter season, we should have a clear idea of which crops yield the best and generate the most income, and which crops need to be replaced by something else. Records of sales to chefs will be maintained with an invoice book. Records of time spent planting, weeding, harvesting, and selling the winter produce will also be maintained, in order to track whether the time spent on these activities brings a fair wage.

    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.