Building connections: Creating a broader public base for CSAs
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 CSAs.
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)
This milestone was met in 2006. See 2006 Annual Report.
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 has been working with individual congregations to explore developing a relationship with local farmers. The Rockland Unitarian Universalist (UU) relationship with Hatchet Cove Farm continues to thrive and the congregation this year has launched the first Community-Supported Fishery as an extension of their CSA relationship. Happy Town Farm in Orland formed a relationship this year with the Ellsworth UU congregation, supplying 25 shares from the farm. There are also reports of congregation members throughout the state purchasing shares from farms on their own as a direct result of being exposed to the CSA model through Andy’s work. Examples include congregations in Augusta, Hallowell and Belfast.
Andy is also working with MOFGA and Slow Foods Portland to expand the CSA Fair in February 2008 to 3 additional congregation-based sites in Maine by actively recruiting congregations to champion those fairs.
3. 40 new farmers interested in forming CSAs or supplying additional products to CSAs attend one or more training meetings. (Spring 2007)
In March MOFGA co-sponsored, with the Maine Council of Churches and Slow Food Portland, Maine’s first CSA Fair, which was a huge success. About 20 farms came and set up information about their CSA programs and over 200 people attended to ‘shop’ for a CSA. All the farmers who came were very pleased. We rounded out the day with a peer learning discussion, attended by about 30 current and prospective CSA farmers, which afforded them the opportunity to bounce ideas and ask questions of their peers.
We will repeat this event in February 2008, and will build on this success with 3 more CSA Fairs in other locations in the state.
In June, MOFGA organized two Farm Training Project workshops focused on marketing where farm apprentices and beginning farmers were afforded the opportunity to hear about other successful farmers’ marketing strategies. CSA was a central theme in marketing for farmers at both workshops, which had a total attendance of about 50.
At the Common Ground Country Fair in September Melissa White gave a farmer-oriented presentation “How CSA Can Improve Your Farm’s Bottom Line”. About a dozen prospective CSA farmers attended.
Melissa has collected a list of potential future CSA farmers who she updates via email regularly on available resources, trainings, information and other opportunities relating to CSA in Maine. The list currently contains 55 addresses, and additions are made regularly.
4. 40 of 80 current and prospective CSAs attend advanced training on CSA planting and harvesting systems. (Fall-Winter 2007)
At MOFGA’s annual Farmer to Farmer Conference in November we were fortunate to have farmers from 2 innovative and successful CSA’s come and give presentations on their farming systems.
Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens in Vermont, runs a year-round CSA and offers a ‘localvore’ share option. He’s a very ambitious young farmer who has very quickly built his operation up to a larger scale than the typical diversified organic vegetable operation. We need to see this happen on farms in Maine to meet the growing demand for local, organic food. His presentation allowed attendees to learn about the kinds of equipment and inputs needed to make it happen on that scale.
Jeff and Amy Burchstead of Buckwheat Blossom Farm in Wiscasset, Maine run a highly diversified vegetable & livestock CSA. They are very strong in recordkeeping and business planning, and their presentation highlighted these strengths.
65 CSA farmers, prospective CSA farmers, and other interested parties were in attendance. Both presentations were made in PowerPoint, so we hope to be able to make these available to other farmers who were not able to attend.
4b. Melissa is able to communicate regularly with 89 of the current 96 CSA farms in Maine through an email list. She uses this list to alert farmers of new tools and resources that become available to CSA farmers as well as marketing or training opportunities and other events of interest.
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)
In March MOFGA co-sponsored, with the Maine Council of Churches and Slow Food Portland, Maine’s first CSA Fair, which was a huge success. About 20 farms came and set up information about their CSA programs and over 200 people attended to ‘shop’ for a CSA.
Andy Burt has provided outreach materials and done presentations/workshops on local foods/CSA model to congregations, public health and mothers’ groups, Sierra Club-Maine Chapter (farmers markets & newsletter), 4-H clubs, food activists, and citizens in over 36 Maine communities concerned about global warming and looking for solutions like building a local foods network.
MOFGA’s Maine CSA Directory publication has been posted online since March of 2007 and 1000 copies of the directory were printed in April, which were mailed to all the public libraries in the state (about 300) as well as hospitals and health centers across the state (200+). We have also distributed copies of the directory at events we sponsor and/or attend throughout the year. In addition to the pdf download, the directory is also available for online viewing, to increase access to those with slow internet connections or those who only use public terminals for internet access and are not permitted to download files. CSA’s can be viewed geographically by county and direct links to email and websites of the CSA farms are active. The url to this information is: http://www.mofga.org/Resources/CommunitySupportedAgricultureinMaine/tabid/653/Default.aspx A paper copy of the directory will be mailed under separate cover.
The directory is continuously updated as new information is gathered from farms, and a new printed version will be available this winter, well before deposit deadlines for most CSA’s.
In October, Melissa and Cheryl Wixson were invited to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Nutrition Educator Training and gave a presentation on the benefits of local food. A primary focus of the presentation was how communities can increase access to local food for low income populations (the audience’s target population) through creative CSA arrangements like work shares, taxpayer support for shares, and private-contributor funds for share subsidies. About 30 Nutrition Educators were in attendance.
At the Common Ground Country Fair in September Melissa White gave a presentation: “What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?: a primer for the consumer”, which about 20 people attended.
6. 20 CSAs add other farm products like cheese and grains to their farm-produced offerings. (Fall 2008 to Spring 2009)
This will be a focus for the coming year. We will have data representing progress on this milestone in the following annual report.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
CSA Share Data
We now have a database of CSA farms and are keeping track of numbers of shares, share types and other share and farm information. We look forward to building on this body of data year to year so we can use it to track trends and identify needs on both the consumer and producer sides of the CSA relationship.
After analyzing data collected from CSA farms we have found the following:
There are currently 96 CSA programs operating in the state. 17 of these were new in 2007 and there are currently 4 known to start in 2008 (included in the count of 96). Based on information collected from ongoing communications and networking, we anticipate 5-10 additional new CSA’s to begin in 2008.
Detailed share data has been collected from 48 of the 96 known CSA’s. The 17 new CSA’s in 2007 represent approximately 400 new shares. Additionally, 19 pre-existing CSA’s reported growth in shares ranging from 5% to over 100% growth, representing 350-400 additional shares. The estimated total number of shares is currently about 4000.
There has been quite a bit of press in the last year connected to the CSA model in Maine and MOFGA’s and the Maine Council of Church’s efforts to increase its visibility. The online links are pasted below, but paper copies will be sent under separate cover.
- The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Winter ’06-’07, “Community Supported Agriculture”, p. 5
Lewiston Sun Journal, 1/29/07, “Farms, churches link up through local agriculture”, http://www.sunjournal.com/story/196875-3/OxfordHills/Farms_churches_link_up_through_local_agriculture/#
ATTRA’s Weekly Harvest Newsletter, 1/31/07, “Project Linking Churches With Local Food”, http://attra.ncat.org/newsletter/weekly_harvest_013107.html
Also the March 21st edition, “MOFGA Releases CSA Directory”, http://attra.ncat.org/newsletter/weekly_harvest_032107.html
Portland Press Herald, 2/28/07, “Organic farmers host fair for the keep-it-local crowd”, http://business.mainetoday.com/news/070228soupnuts.html
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Spring ’07, “Community Supported Agriculture: What you need to know” and “2007 Maine CSA Directory”, p. 42, http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=653
University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s March Issue of the Piscataquis Farming Newsletter, “Maine CSA Directory”, http://www.umext.maine.edu/piscataquis/farming/Vol5Iss3/directory.htm
The Citizen, 3/19/07, “MOFGA publishes directory of CSA farms”, waldo.villagesoup.com story id:88940
National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter, 3/31/07, “MOFGA’s Maine CSA Directory and new CSA page”, http://www.sustainableagriculture.net/newsandresources15.php
Maine Agriculture Today Newsletter, 4/4/07, “MOFGA Publishes CSA Guide”, http://www.maine.gov/agriculture/newsletter/local/index.shtml
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Summer ’07, “Maine Community Supported Agriculture Directory Published”, p. 43, http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=739
The Forecaster, 7/12/07, “Who’s Your Farmer?”, http://www.theforecaster.net/story.php?storyid=11394
The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Autumn ’07, “Local, Healthful, Affordable Food”, p. 54, http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=807
Maine Coast Now, 11/30/07, “MOFGA Started Small and Blossomed”
The Village Soup, 12/9/2007, “Port Clyde fishermen find creative ways to sell catch”
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