Do you want to start a CSA farm? If YES, here is a detailed guide on how to start a profitable CSA farming business with no money and no experience.

CSA is an abbreviation for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA farm model gives city residents direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers; it is a system that connects the producer and consumer within the food value chain system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.

When you become a member of a CSA, you will be purchasing a ‘stake’ of farm produce from a regional farmer. There are several commercial farmers that are willing to partner with a community supported agriculture business to help them reach out to their customers who may not have enough time to come over to the farm; it is a means of maximizing profits for the farmers and of course customers get cheaper farm produce.

How to Start a CSA Farming Business – A Detailed Guide

Industry Overview

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture business falls under the agribusiness industry and this industry includes businesses that directly engage in or directly benefit from the agricultural value chain. Businesses in this industry may produce agricultural commodities; buy agricultural produce or supply goods and services to farms and the agriculture industry.

It is important to state that the core aim of this industry to focus on the food-supply chain from farmers to wholesalers and to retailers. Basically, the Agribusiness industry is the combination of a wide variety of agricultural-based industries.

These industries are either directly involved in the business of growing agricultural commodities, or they directly benefit from these growers by buying from them or selling to them and that is where food hub business comes in.

CSAs (community supported agriculture business) mostly concentrate on the production of high quality foods for a local community, leveraging on organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure.

Community supported agriculture business cum farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-farmer relationship. The core design includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to financially support a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods.

The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. CSA theory purports that the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste.

In recent time, large multinational companies are increasingly getting in on the agribusiness act. These corporations are encouraging vertical integration in the industry and are actively boosting the industry’s profitability as a whole.

The Agribusiness industry has experienced increasing interest in biofuel, strong growth in the number of free-trade agreements signed by the federal government and a rise in the prevalence of genetically modified seeds. These trends are forecast to continue over the next half a decade.

Some of the factors that encourage entrepreneurs to start their own community supported agriculture business could be that the business is a thriving one and it is easy to set up, and can be managed with minimal capital.

Over and above, community supported agriculture business is indeed a profitable business venture and it is open for any aspiring entrepreneur to come in and establish his or her business; you can choose to start on a small scale without a storage/warehouse or you can choose to start on a large scale with a standard storage facilities/warehouse, large business network, dozens of distribution trucks/vans and a strong online presence.

Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Food is an essential need for humans and animal, so the demographic and psychographic composition of those who consume food et al cut across all age groups and genders, hence the demographic composition for community supported agriculture business is all encompassing.

So, if you are thinking of starting a community supported agriculture business, then you should make your target demographics all encompassing. It should include households, assisted living homes, nursing homes, hostels, dormitories and camp houses et al and commercial farmers in and around the neighborhood where your community supported agriculture business is located.

Niche ideas Within this Business That You Can Specialize in

It is important to state that there is no known niche area when it comes to community supported agriculture business. Community supported agriculture business is a niche in the agribusiness industry.

Every player in this line of business is basically involved in giving their customers direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers; it is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food value chain – system by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.

The Level of Competition in the CSA farm Business

The competitions that exist in the community supported agriculture business goes beyond competitions amongst community supported agriculture businesses; you will be expected to compete with every player in the agribusiness industry. So, it will be right to say the competition in the community supported agriculture line of business is tough.

The truth is that no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you have done your due diligence and you brand and promote your products or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure that you work with leading commercial farmers and high – end consumers in your business location and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.

But over and above, there are several community supported agriculture businesses scattered all around the united states.

So, if you choose to start your own community supported agriculture business in the United States, you will definitely meet stiffer competitions amongst community supported agriculture businesses and every business in agribusiness industry within your business location. Besides, there are larger community supported agriculture businesses that determine the trends in the industry and you should be ready to compete with them for customers.

Well Known Brands in the Industry

In every industry, there are always brands that perform better or are better regarded by customers and the general public than others. Some of these brands are those that have been in the industry for a long while and so are known for that, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

These are some of the leading community supported agriculture businesses in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • FairShare CSA Coalition
  • Roxbury Farm
  • Seabreeze Organic Farm
  • Community Supported Agriculture – LocalHarvest
  • NanoFarms USA
  • City Farm, Chicago
  • Green Youth Farm, Chicago
  • Earthworks Urban Farms, Detroit
  • Kansas City Community Farm, Kansas City, Kansas
  • Greensgrow Farms, Philadelphia
  • Brooklyn Rescue Mission Bed-Stuy Farm, Brooklyn
  • eVision Urban Farm, Boston
  • Jones Valley Urban Farm, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz, California
  • Rio Grande Community Farm, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Economic Analysis

If you are looking towards successfully launching a business and maximizing profits, then you need to ensure that you get your economic and cost analysis right and try as much as possible to adopt best practices in the industry you choose to build a business in.

The community supported agriculture business is not a Green business, as a matter of fact, you will come across several community supported agriculture businesses all across major cities in the United States of America.

So, if you are mapping out your economic and cost analysis, you should carry out thorough market survey and costing of the required amount needed to handle logistics as it relates to storing of farm produce and also the running cost to successfully run the business.

Over and above, if you are considering starting a community supported agriculture business, then your concern should not be limited to the cost of renting or purchasing a food storage facility and trucks/wagons, but also on branding and on how to build a robust clientele base (consumers and farmers). The truth is that if you are able to build a robust clientele base, you are sure going to maximize profits in the business.

Starting a CSA Farm from Scratch vs Buying a Franchise

If you are looking towards starting a community supported agriculture business, you would have to start from the very scratch because you can hardly get a franchise of a community supported agriculture business to buy. It is a business that is open to all and sundry.

Besides, starting a community supported agriculture business from the scratch is less stressful when compared to other related agribusinesses which usually require extensive research and detailed groundwork before launching the business.

With a community supported agriculture business, you should just try as much as possible to secure a storage facility and trucks/wagons, build business relationship with commercial farmers and eateries and households within your coverage location and then leverage on every marketing tool within your disposal especially the internet to marketing your community supported agriculture business.

Please note that most of the big and successful community supported agriculture businesses around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success

Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to start your own community supported agriculture business today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established community supported agriculture businesses and every business in the agribusiness industry within your business location. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

Some other challenges and threats that you are likely going to face is economic downturn; if the economy is in bad shape, businesses such as community supported agriculture business and the likes usually struggle to maintain their old customers or even welcome new customers.

unfavorable government policies can also hamper the growth of your community supported agriculture business. There is nothing you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to stay positive that things will work well for you.

Best Legal Entity to Use for This Type of Business

You can either choose a general partnership, or limited liability company for a community supported agriculture business. Ordinarily, general partnership should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale community supported agriculture business especially if you are just starting out with a moderate start – up capital in a small neighborhood with a handful of commercial farmers and consumers.

But if your intention is to grow the business and connect commercial farmers and consumers all across the United States of America and other countries of the world via branching out, then choosing general partnership is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC will cut it for you.

Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your community supported agriculture business; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners, investors’ expectation and of course taxes.

If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities to use for your community supported agriculture business with the ability to sell franchise all across the United States of America, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or an ‘S’ corporation especially if you have the plans of going public.

Catchy Business Name ideas Suitable for a CSA Farm

When it comes to Choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Usually it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

If you are considering starting your own community supported agriculture, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Santa Fe CSA® Farm, LLC
  • Tallahassee Organic Community Supported Farm, Inc.
  • Harvest House© Community Supported Farm, LLC
  • Green Horn® Community Supported Farm, Inc.
  • Miami Beach Community Supported Farm, LLC
  • Columbus Organic Community Supported Farm, Inc.
  • One Love® Community Supported Farm, Inc.
  • Texas Organic Community Supported Farm, Inc.
  • Christian Community Supported Farm, LLC
  • Health Living® Organic Community Supported Farm, Inc.

Insurance Policies

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your community supported agriculture business.

Here are some of the basic insurance covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own community supported agriculture business in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Credit insurance
  • Motor vehicle insurance (comprehensive insurance)
  • Deposit insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

Intellectual Property Protection/Trademark

If you are considering starting your own community supported agriculture business, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is so because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run the business without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

But if you just want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and farming production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO.

Is Professional Certification Needed?

When it comes to community supported agriculture business, you do not need to have any formal training or special certification before you can be allowed to start the business. All you need is informal training that will expose you to the in and out of agribusiness.

On the other hand, if you come across any form of certification that can aid you to conduct your community supported agriculture business pretty well, then by all mean try and pursue such certification.

Legal Documents You Need to Run a CSA Farm

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own community supported agriculture business in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Tax Payer’s ID/Tax Identification Number
  • Business Plan
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration
  • Appropriate driver’s licenses for drivers (Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Assistant’s licenses for assistants
  • Proof of ownership, proper identification and vehicle license
  • Foods and drinks handler certificate
  • Health inspection Certificate
  • Proof of district-issued food and drinks manager identification card
  • Copy of license for the service support facility (warehouse) and/or a recent inspection report
  • Employee Handbook
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use (if you also operate online)
  • Online Privacy Policy Document (basically for online payment portal)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
  • Building License
  • Franchise or Trademark License (optional)

Financing Your CSA Farm Business

Starting a community supported agriculture business can be cost effective especially if you choose to start on a small scale with few commercial farmers and consumers covering a small neighborhood.

Securing a warehouse facility is part of what will consume a large chunk of your start – up capital, but if you choose to start the business on a large scale with fleets of delivery wagons and trucks, then you would need to source for fund to finance the business because it is expensive to start a standard large – scale community supported agriculture business.

When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your community supported agriculture business;

Choosing a Location for a CSA Farm

When it comes to choosing a location for your community supported agriculture business, the rule of thumb is that you should be guided by the demand of farm produce, the number of community supported agriculture business and other businesses in the agribusiness industry within your business location et al.

Of course, if you are able to start your community supported agriculture business in the right location for such business, you won’t struggle to make headway with the business.

It cannot be overemphasized that the location you chose to start your community supported agriculture business is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of people with the required purchasing power and commercial farmers willing to join the CSA farm model.

If you make the mistake of starting your community supported agriculture business in an area where you can hardly find commercial farmers and of course consumers with the purchasing power, you will struggle to grow the business. Most importantly, before choosing a location for your community supported agriculture business, ensure that you first conduct a thorough feasibility studies and market survey.

The possibility of you coming across similar business that just closed shop in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out. These are some of the key factors that you should consider before choosing a location for your community supported agriculture business;

  • The demography of the location as it relates to farmers (farming community is ideal for this type of business)
  • The demand for farm produce in the location
  • The purchasing power of the residents of the location
  • Accessibility and road network of the location
  • The number of community supported agriculture businesses and food hub businesses et al in the location
  • The local laws and regulations in the community
  • Traffic, parking and security

Technical and Manpower Details

On the average, there are no special technology or equipment needed to run this type of business but you will definitely need POS machines, computers, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves) amongst others and all these can be gotten as fairly used. You would need delivery vans and wagons for this kind of business and you would have to procure one.

As regards leasing or outright purchase of a warehouse facility, the choice is dependent on your financial standing, but the truth is that to be on the safe side, it is advisable to start off with a short – term rent/lease while test running the business in the location. If things work out as planned, then you go on a long – term lease or outright purchase of the property but if not, then move on and source for other ideal location/facility for such business.

When it comes to hiring employees for a standard community supported agriculture business, you should make plans to hire a competent Chief Executive Officer (you can occupy this role), Relationship Manager, Sales and Marketing Officer, Delivery Vans and Wagon Drivers, Accounting Clerk, and Utility Staff.

On the average, you will need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff members excluding commercial farmers in the farming model to run a medium – scale but standard community supported agriculture business.

The Business Services Process Involved in CSA Farm Business

Community supported agriculture business as the name implies is a farming model that involves farmers and the community (consumers). Community supported agriculture business mostly concentrates on the production of high quality foods for a local community, leveraging on organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure.

Community supported agriculture business cum farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-farmer relationship. The core design for the Business model includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to financially support a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods.

The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. CSA theory purports that the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste.

It is important to state that a community supported agriculture business may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated community supported agriculture business process is not cast on stone.

Marketing ideas and Strategies

Normally, running a business requires that you should be proactive when it comes to marketing your goods or services. If you choose to launch a community supported agriculture business, then you must go all out to employ strategies that will help you attract customers or else you will likely struggle with the business because there are well – known brands determining the market direction for the agribusiness industry.

Commercial farmers and households (consumers) will join your community supported agriculture business network if they know that it will benefit them (more profits for farmers and quality and cheaper farm produce for consumers).

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans and strategies for your community supported agriculture business, make sure that you create a compelling personal and company profile. Asides from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to community supported agriculture business and the people you have worked for.

This will help boost your chances in the market place when sourcing for commercial farmers and households (consumers) to join your CSA farm model. As a matter of fact, your marketing strategy should center on quality farm produce, reliability, pricing, secured payment platform, and above all excellent customer service.

You should ensure that whenever your commercial farmers and consumers join your CSA farm model, they will get excellent service. The truth is that if you are able to put the above stated in place, you won’t struggle to retain your old customers and at the same time win new customers over.

Businesses this days are aware of the power of the internet and which is why they will do all they can to maximize the internet to market their services. In other words, a larger percentage of your marketing effort should be directed to internet users.

These are some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can adopt for your community supported agriculture business;

  • Introduce your community supported agriculture business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to households and commercial farmers in the neighborhood where your community supported agriculture business is located
  • Advertise on the internet on blogs and forums, and also on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn to get your message across so that those on the social media or those who read blogs can know who to call when they need to join a community supported agriculture business within your location
  • Create a basic website for your business so as to give your business an online presence
  • Directly market your community supported agriculture business
  • Engage in road shows in targeted farming communities from time to time to market your community supported agriculture business
  • Join local community supported agriculture business associations for industry trends and tips
  • Provide discount days for your customers
  • Advertise your business in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business on yellow pages ads (local directories)
  • Encourage the use of Word of mouth marketing (referrals)

Factors That Will Help You Get the Right Product Pricing

One key factor that will help you sell your farm produce at a price that is highly attractive is to ensure that you source your start – up capital from sources that won’t put pressure on you or give you high interest rate. Another strategy that will help you sell your farm produce at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name.

Asides from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your services. You can also try as much as possible to work with independent contractors and marketers; it will help you save cost for paying sales and marketing executives.

Possible Competitive Strategies for Winning your Competitors

The availability of loads of commercial farmers and households (consumers under you CSA farm model – network), different farm produce, your business process and of course your pricing model et al are part of what you need to stay competitive in the industry.

Another possible competitive strategy for winning your competitors in this particular industry is to build a robust network. Over and above, ensure that your organization is well positioned, key members of your team are highly qualified and your product can favorably compete with the some of the best in the industry.

Possible Ways to Increase Customer Retention

When it comes to business, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps to attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always.

If your customers are satisfied with your products and services delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers or products. If you can continue expand the network of commercial farmers and households in your CSA farming business, and your customer service delivery is top notch, then you won’t struggle to maintain loyal customers.

Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also to attract new customers. Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers, and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.

With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).

Strategies to boost your brand awareness and Create Your Corporate Identity

If your intention of starting a community supported agriculture business is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand, then you must be ready to spend money on the promotion and advertisement of your brand.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting cum promotion to continue to appeal to your target market. Here are platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity for your community supported agriculture business;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and agribusiness magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community based events
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your community supported agriculture business
  • Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Engage in roadshows from time to time in targeted farming community and other neighborhoods to create awareness of your community supported agriculture business
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • Contact households and commercial farmers in the neighborhood where your community supported agriculture business is located informing them about your business
  • List your community supported agriculture business in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your community supported agriculture business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Position our Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your community supported agriculture business is located
  • Ensure that all your staff members wear your branded shirts and all your vehicles, vans and bikes are well branded with your company logo
Ajaero Tony Martins