Another great annual conference is in the books for UConn Extension and the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station. 266 growers, agricultural exhibitors, and educators came together Monday January 11th at Maneely’s in South Windsor for a session filled with valuable information in which growers will take back and apply to their operations.
Topics covered included how to comply with labor laws, heat treating seeds for disease management, the effects of environmental extremes on crop physiology, weed management in berries, irrigation, how to grow for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The crowd was also given some great updates on risk management and crop disaster assistance programs from USDA-Farm Service Agency given by Bryan Hurlburt, grant opportunities from the Department of Agriculture given by Commissioner Reviczky, Worker Protection Standards given by Candace Bartholomew of UConn Extension, and updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act given by Diane Hirsch, also from UConn Extension. The growers who were licensed Pesticide Applicators received 3.5 pesticide credit hours from this event.
Not only were the talks great but so was the tradeshow. Coming from all New England states, New York, and Ohio 43 exhibitors represented 26 organizations. These ranged from seed companies to agricultural service providers as well as the UConn publications stand where growers could purchase beneficial publications such as the “2016-2017 New England Vegetable Management Guide”.
The crowd also enjoyed a delicious locally sourced lunch on Monday. Locally grown and made products were provided for the conference from 8 businesses in Connecticut. The conference received outstanding ratings and positive feedback through the evaluations where 95% of the recipients rated the program as “excellent” or “good”.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): an arrangement whereby customers pay growers in advance of the growing season for a guaranteed share of the season’s harvest.
Background: In summer 2014 we investigated CSA prices that farm operations advertised on websites and producer association listings. Our goal was to have a better understanding of prices that farmers were charging for a standard summer vegetable share. This is the third year we have collected CSA pricing data, so we are able to track how pricing has changed, and also make county comparisons. Below is a SUMMARY of our findings, as well as a FULL LIST (pages 2-5) of the 92 CSAs and their prices that were included in the study.
We found CSA pricing data for 92 farm operations. Standard summer vegetable shares were typically listed as July to October, and featuring vegetables, herbs, and sometimes flowers or small fruit. We did not attempt to compare the contents of CSA shares, nor did we evaluate pricing for add-on items such as flower shares, fruit shares, meat shares, egg shares, etc. When a range of weeks was promised for a given CSA share price (i.e. 16-18 weeks), the average number was used (i.e. 17 weeks).
Average weekly price of 2014 Summer Vegetable CSA = $31 Maximum price = $50
Minimum price = $15
Standard Summer Vegetable CSA Pricing in CT: $31/share
Fairfield County- $31
Hartford County- $30
New Haven – $32
New London- $33
To download the full summary and a listing of CSAs in Connecticut, please click here.
UConn’s Cooperative Extension System (Jiff Martin, Jude Boucher, Joe Bonelli and Mary Concklin), the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) and CT NOFA sponsored a CSA School on November 28th, at the Middlesex County Extension Office. A total of 81 people attended the event and 49 (60%) filled out an evaluation form. Eighty percent of the participants grew vegetable crops and many also grew flowers, small fruit and had greenhouses. Eight growers, two Extension Educators and one “Typical Customer” made presentations about their CSAs’ at the workshop, while four more farmers led discussion groups on how to get started, get better and deal with regulations. Presentations included a ‘Typical CSA Vegetable Share’, ‘Multi-farmer CSA’, ‘Multi-season CSA’, ‘Partnering with Chefs’, ‘a Meat CSA’, ‘Tips & Tools for CSA Business Management’, ‘Insuring a CSA’, and a farmer panel of first-year CSA growers who shared what to do and not to do when getting started.
Seventy-nine percent of the folks who answered the evaluation rated the program as “excellent” while the rest rated it as “good”. Participants all received a CSA_School_Booklet_112812 and all rated it either “Excellent” or “Good”. The full booklet has been posted on the UConn RMA web site at www.ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/. Of the respondents, 86% said they learned something to change their marketing practices, while 80% said the program will improve their farm profitability. Almost everyone raved about the locally-grown lunch from River Tavern and some said it was worth the price of admission all by itself. Four respondents said they would start a CSA next summer while 10 claimed they would add a farm credit-style CSA option to their operation. Others said they would start an entertaining CSA newsletter, begin office or church deliveries, increase their crop diversity, partner with restaurants, add items to shares, write up shareholder agreements, plan production to meet share requirements, start a swap box, change the amount in each share, and have more personal contact with shareholders.
Left: Rick Hermonot, from Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, describes his “Meat CSA.” Right: Steve Munno, from Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, leads a discussion on how to improve your CSA.