Community supported agriculture in MichiganDOWNLOAD FILE
Michigan Statewide CSA Network
- Formed in 2016
- Have met regularly for the last 3+ years
- Originally supported and facilitated by Michigan Food and Farming Systems and Department of Health and Human Services
- Key goals:
- Better understand CSA farms in MI
- Increase collaboration across organizations supporting CSA farms
- Develop and share models for increased CSA access
Michigan Statewide CSA Survey
- Network Identified a need to better understand current “situation” of CSA farmers in MI
- Developed using input from several previously utilized CSA surveys from around the country
- Input from network partners and farmers
- Launched in spring 2018
- Distributed through statewide listservs, local contacts (MSUE), farm organizations
- Collected data through early summer 2018
Results - What do CSA programs in MI look like?
- Price of full share ranged from $0-$1200, with average being $523
- 10 farms indicated they offer work share CSAs
- Definition of a standard share = 8-12 items (or 10lbs) with a value of $20-$30/week
- 63% of respondents offer share "add-ons"
Results – How do CSA farmers view business viability?
Farmer Financial Satisfaction
- 56% somewhat or extremely satisfied with financial ability to meet annual operating costs, 31% somewhat or extremely dissatisfied
- 36% satisfied with farmer/owner compensation, 42% dissatisfied
- 24% satisfied with financial security including health insurance, retirement, 58% dissatisfied
Michigan CSA Survey Results - exploring CSA labor
- Seasonal farm labor more common than year round labor
- Year round employment also add seasonal employees
- Difficulty with incentivizing return for seasonal farm labor
- Few took advantage of interns, apprentices or woofers
- Roughly 25% of farmers responding to labor questions used CSA Workshares for part of their labor
- 2-25 workshares
- Discounted labor cost, earned income for Market share
CSA Labor- less common practices
- Many don’t consider themselves paid labor
- Using contracted crews for occasional large harvests
- Non-traditional (or traditional) workers - High school volunteers, 4H/FFA clubs, children
- Groups of volunteers – nonprofit status allows local businesses and organizations to host volunteer days on farm, other community focused events
- Volunteers thrive on easy, monotonous, large scale tasks – not for highly specialized labor
- Important to assess cost v benefits
Primary Labor Challenges
- Inconsistent pool of skilled labor
- Difficulty retaining quality labor from year to year
- Creating pathways for growth for labor (education, promotion, increased pay, side hustles)
Broad Survey Conclusions
- There are many diverse CSA farms in Michigan working at all sizes and scales.
- Opportunities exist for organizations like non-profits, extension and other community organizations to connect CSA farms to work on food access.
- Farmers use a variety of definitions for farm viability and there are a variety of goals that farmers have for their CSAs. This is reflected in their labor practices.
- Farmers see a need to grow the pie of local eaters and understand they are working in a very competitive marketplace that requires large changes in the way we eat.
- The CSA model is experiencing changes due to changing food buying habits and a turn to convenience
- Opportunities exist for CSA farmers to access new and different customers by partnering with local employers
- Opportunities exist for CSA farmers to work with food access nonprofits who are looking to increase local food choices and options for their constituents
- It is important to know who your customer is, so that you can develop messages and marketing strategies that reach those “ideal CSA members”