Common ground teaching farm in Mount Hope may look like an oversized backyard garden but it’s actually growing enough to feed 50 families. It uses a concept called community shared agriculture, or CSA. The farms sell shares at the beginning of their growing season to cover overhead planting costs.
For farmer Mike Mikulak, it’s kind of like an insurance policy. “By buying a CSA we can plan for the season. We can buy what we need to buy in the beginning because you’re putting up the money right at the beginning of the season.” Share holders help shoulder the risk that comes with unpredictable weather and pests. “In a good year, you’ll get a really big share. In a bad year you might get a slightly smaller share.”
Each CSA has its own methods, but most work similarly to common ground. For a basic share you pay $450 up front and with that money the farm plants enough fruit and vegetables to feed its shareholders for a 16 week season. Then once a week a bicycle courier will deliver a box of veggies straight to your front door.
Jen Kellner Benton and her husband bought a share last year and were surprised by how much produce they got. “We actually found that we had a hard time going through all of it so we ended up sharing with other people.” A scant season means slightly smaller shares but a bumper crop means veggies up to your ears. As an investor your return follows the ebb and flow of farming.