Building connections: Creating a broader public base for CSAs
Summary: MOFGA and the Maine Council of Churches are working together, and with other partners, to increase the number of CSA farmers in Maine, and to grow the number of CSA shares. MOFGA is providing technical support to CSA farmers, and compiling up-to-date listings of CSA farms for the general public. The Maine Council of Churches, working with individual churches and with partners like the Maine Sierra Club, is trying to identify clusters of consumers who will commit to buying shares from local CSA’s.
Performance Target; By the Spring of 2009, at least twenty of Maine’s sixty existing CSA farms and twenty additional farms will expand their shares and product availability to reach an additional 1250 families.
1. 40 of Maine’s 60 CSA farmers share information on their potential new number of shares through a common outreach effort. (Fall 2006)
Results: Melissa White developed a survey that was distributed at MOFGA’s Farmer to Farmer Conference in November, and mailed to farmers who didn’t participate in the Conference. At Farmer to Farmer a workshop was held on ways to maintain CSA customers, featuring Kate Duesterberg of Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont and Amy Sprague of Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred, one of Maine’s largest CSA’s. Over 30 farmers participated in that session. By year’s end over 50 farmers had responded to the CSA survey, and Melissa was calling the rest on the list. Melissa and Cheryl Wixson visited six of Maine’s largest CSA’s during the fall to identify both success factors and their capacity for handling additional shares. As part of this outreach work a number of new CSA farmers have been identified.
2. The Maine Council of Churches identifies at least 3 clusters of churches/parishes interested in acting as CSA distribution hubs, representing 250 new shares. (Fall 2006)
Anne D. (Andy) Burt hit the ground running in the spring, and forged a partnership with the Rockland, ME, UU Church that resulted in a new CSA forming. Twenty families made a commitment to buying from a CSA, and as a result Bill Pluecker and Reba Richardson started a new CSA to supply them. Bill & Reba are recent ‘graduates’ of MOFGA’s journeyperson program (new farmer training that goes beyond apprenticeship) and this was their first year farming on their own. This CSA is expected to grow in 2007. In addition, Andy has made a connection with another newly-forming CSA in the Kennebunk area to supply customers in York County. This, too, is another new MOFGA journeyperson graduate, Rachel Seemar, who is leasing a farm. Discussions are underway in western Maine, in the Norway area and northern Maine, in the Houlton area, where church-CSA connections are helping several small CSA’s to grow as well. Russell Libby spoke at the statewide fall meeting of the social justice committees of the Maine Council of Churches, working to encourage more participation.
Finally, MOFGA, Slow Food Portland, the Maine Council of Churches and the First Parish Church of Portland are developing a CSA promotion event for Portland residents for March, 2007.
3. 40 new farmers interested in forming CSAs or supplying additional products to CSAs attend one or more training meetings. (Spring 2007)
About 15 of the 30 farmers attending the CSA training at the Farmer to Farmer Conference were prospective new CSA’s. MOFGA also scheduled a beginning CSA session for the Agricultural Trade Show in January, 2007 (40 attended). A training meeting is planned for the March CSA event in Portland, Maine, as well.
4. 40 of 80 current and prospective CSAs attend advanced training on CSA planting and harvesting systems. (Fall-Winter 2007)
5. 2500 families are exposed to the CSA model through organized outreach by the Maine Council of Churches and MOFGA: 1000 find matching farms. (Fall 2007 to Spring 2009)
6. 20 CSAs add other farm products like cheese and grains to their farm-produced offerings. (Fall 2008 to Spring 2009)
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
First, and foremost, both MOFGA and the Maine Council of Churches have made a substantial commitment to this project. Andy Burt is promoting CSA’s at every event she attends around the State. MOFGA hired two people to share responsibility for CSA’s. Melissa White is the new Organic Marketing Coordinator. She is developing contacts with each CSA, organizing training sessions and outreach work, and putting together an up-to-date listing of CSA’s in Maine for Spring, 2007. Cheryl Wixson was hired as a part-time Organic Marketing Consultant. Cheryl is a chef; she is working on ways to get recipes and use information more widely available to CSA customers and to the general public. She also works with Melissa on events related to CSA’s.
At least two new CSA’s organized in 2006 due to this project (the Rockland connection, for the 2006 growing season; Kennebunk, for 2007) and other new CSA’s are emerging for 2007, in part due to the growing consumer interest.
There are two spring CSA events on the calendar (Agricultural Trade Show training, January) and the joint effort with Slow Food Portland (March). In addition, there will be press work around the release of the 2007 CSA list in March of 2007.
There have been several very positive press stories about the farmer-church connection. These will be mailed under separate cover.
Director, Environmental Justice Program
Maine Council of Churches
15 Pleasant Ave
Portland, ME 04103
Office Phone: 2077721918
Organic Marketing Consultant
PO Box 170
Unity, ME 04988
Office Phone: 2079470892