5 Risks of Joining a CSA

0fe63a4CSABy: Meaghan Malinowski, MidAtlantic Farm Credit

As we’ve already mentioned how awesome CSAs are in our previous post, “What is a CSA?” , now we need to fill you in on some of the risks of investing in a CSA as well. Anyone familiar with farming knows that it’s not an easy job by any means. There are many challenges and obstacles that farmers face on a daily basis. Between fighting an ever present army of insects waiting to dine-and-dash or a bad case of bud blight, farmers have to be conscientious of how they handle these problems and how their solutions will affect their crop, the consumer, and the environment. As a farmer, you understand the risks that come along with the job, but as an investor, anyone purchasing a share in CSA should be aware of the problems that could arise and how that will affect their investment.

  1. Drought – Drought for most people means limiting your water usage around your house and in your garden. For a farmer this can mean not having enough food to feed their families, livestock or to make a living off of. This can be an especially expensive fix if the farmer has to invest in an irrigation system or drilling new wells, which also take time. Livestock are also affected as extreme droughts dry up natural water sources. While some places are more likely to experience a drought due to their location and climate, all farmers should have a drought plan to lessen the effects.
  2. Insects – Insects can cause a wide range of problems for farmers as they affect both crop and livestock health. Feeding on the leaves, boring through roots and stems, and spreading pathogens from plant to plant (or animal to animal), insects have the potential to wipe out an entire field crop, ruin stored grain, and pass along diseases that can harm plants and animals. Just like droughts, farmers should also be prepared to handle any insect invasion and have a well detailed plan.
  3. Flooding – Just as too little water is an issue, so is having too much. When flooding occurs, the oxygen level in the soil decreases, making root respiration difficult and allowing the levels of other gases to increase significantly. Some plants can survive extended periods of time being submerged but may not survive to harvest. Flooding also washes nutrients out of the soil, so any plants that do survive will not be of the best quality.
  4. Farmer loses ground – If you’ve ever lived in a rural or even suburban area for a substantial amount of time, you probably know of a piece of land that used to be just that, a piece of land. When the season was right maybe it had corn growing tall, or housed a herd of cattle year round. Now, what used to be a leg of agriculture has been transformed into another cul-de-sac of homes. The American Farmland Trust estimates that every minute we lose more than an acre of farmland to development. Asking your CSA about conservation and development plans can help you decide which CSA is a good fit for your investment.
  5. Falling in love with fresh produce – “How is this a risk?” you might ask. Chances are you’ll get used to having the freshest and tastiest produce right at your fingertips, making a tomato from the grocery store that’s been squeezed by more people than a puppy at the state fair on kids’ night, well, just plain unappealing. Ask your CSA if they have produce throughout the year, or if it is only during the summer months. Year round supply (either through root vegetables that can be stored or through greenhouse production) may become a necessity for you.

Just like investing in a business, doing your research and asking questions is the best way to decide if a CSA is the right choice for you and your family. Educate yourself on the farm(s) involved, the farmers running the show, and the contract you sign. With farming comes many potential risks, just like investments, but you have to decide if supporting your local agriculture industry is worth taking a chance on.

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