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Selling through a Neighbor's CSA

Posted by Peter Fisher 
Selling through a Neighbor's CSA
February 17, 2015 05:58PM
For others out there who have a small orchard, there are some good reasons to investigate selling through an existing vegetable CSA that someone else is running. We have sold all our fruit through a neighbor's CSA, apples and pears for $2.50 a pound, Asian pears for $2.75, and peaches for $3.00. They do not have to subscribe to a season of fruit. Instead, each week I send an email to the CSA owner describing what we have for sale. She sends it out to her members, who reply by email directly to me. I fill the orders, bring them over to the CSA the afternoon of her delivery (twice a week), and she delivers them to the pick-up site with her members' vegetable shares and collects the money.

This is something the CSA folks may be used to doing, with say eggs or bread or meat from another grower. They may ask for a percent of the sales; our CSA owner just wants a share of the fruit. It has an advantage to the CSA in that it gives them a leg up on their competition and gives their members another reason for re-subscribing; people love getting local fruit, especially when they can choose what they get.

It is so easy for us. No sitting at a farmers' market, no crazy people and their kids and dogs in your orchard (I would never let a stranger attempt to pick my peaches anyway). A big advantage to the fruit grower is that the CSA may already have educated folks on the challenges of growing organically, so they don't necessarily expect perfect looking fruit. And you have the chance to educate them as well in the email you send out weekly, explaining why some apples may have a bit of white residue on them, which is kaolin, not mold, or that fruit with minor blemishes should be enjoyed, not thrown away. You can tell them they need to wash their fruit because at your scale you can't afford to invest in a washing facility. And since you have a relationship with your customers, you can explain exactly how you grow your fruit, the time it takes to hand thin Asian pears, why you aren't certified organic, etc., so they understand why it costs a little more than at the grocery store (but no more and probably less than organic fruit at the co-op).

If we ever get a "normal" weather season we will have too much fruit for the one CSA. But there are three others within 15 minutes of our farm so I am not worried about finding additional outlets.

Turkey Creek Orchard
Solon, Iowa (zone 5A)
Re: Selling through a Neighbor's CSA
March 02, 2015 05:12PM
Great post Peter!

I absolutely love this idea. Creative and a winner on numerous levels, for everyone involved.

Your point that "the CSA may already have educated folks on the challenges of growing organically, so they don't necessarily expect perfect looking fruit" is a solid one. The fact that most subscribers to CSAs do indeed appreciate the adventure that comes with their weekly baskets, is commonly spoken of in my neck of the woods. These same people would surely enjoy some locally grown tree fruit to go along with the typically vegetable dominated boxes, especially later in the season.

What a great partnering experience you are sharing

As yet one more added bonus, this would indeed be an excellent way to share with local organic consumers that you, the grower of this fine fruit, are doing so in a 'beyond organic' fashion with a deeply connected holistic approach . . . No doubt in my mind that'll peak some additional excitement too.

Gopher Hill Apples
Zone 8 in California
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