The Local Produce Link program developed from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. As a result, Local Produce Link seeks to provide farmers with flexibility and an element of risk sharing. Just Food understands that one aspect of Community Supported Agriculture farming is that members support their farmer by sharing in the risk (poor weather, crop failure, etc) and rewards (the bounty of a good season) involved in farming. Drawing on CSA, the Local Produce Link program maintains flexibility and risk-sharing in the following ways:
- Farmers are paid upfront for the entire season.
- The quantity of vegetables provided can vary from week to week. For example, in a more bountiful week, a farmer might provide 1000 pounds of vegetables. In a less bountiful week, a farmer might provide 800 pounds of vegetables. Overall, the farmer provides an average of 900 pounds per week, but the exact amounts each week can vary.
- Similar to a CSA, farmers can select which vegetables to deliver each week within the guidelines of the program.
- In the case of poor weather or crop failure, special arrangements can be made. Farmers should be in close communication with Just Food in the case of unforeseen crop failures to discuss possible alternative arrangements.
- If necessary, farmers may supplement their produce with purchases from neighboring farms up to 15% of the total pounds delivered for Local Produce Link (see pages 143-144 for more information on Purchasing from Other Farms).
Unlike a CSA arrangement, however, Local Produce Link farmers contract with the United Way to provide a certain number of pounds of vegetables over the course of the growing season. Farmers are expected to meet this goal. In the case of an unexpected emergency, farmers can discuss alternative arrangements with Just Food in order to meet the requirements of the contract. For example, a farmer who is hit by a hail storm should contact Just Food to talk about what options the farmer can pursue and to decide which option will work best for both the farmer and the participating EFPs (see case study below). If the farmer is unable to fulfill the poundage goal, the farmer is required to reimburse the United Way for unfilled contract obligations at 100% the cost of undelivered shares. Just Food recommends that farmers consider carrying crop insurance as a risk management strategy. See pages 269-272 for more information on Risk Management: Crop Insurance.
Example of Risk Sharing:
In 2007, many farmers in the Hudson Valley were hit with a hailstorm that ruined crops and decreased yields. Ted Blomgren of Windflower Farm wrote a letter to CSA groups and EFPs that he delivered to in New York City about how the hailstorm affected his farm. While this letter is geared towards his CSAs, it is a good example of how to effectively communicate with city folks (CSAs or EFPs), how to educate customers about the risks in vegetable farming, and how to demonstrate a plan for dealing with the situation. We delayed LPL deliveries and increased pounds slightly to allow Ted to recover and to meet the contract.
Dear Core Group Member:
Bad news. Last Tuesday afternoon wind-driven hail cut a wide swath through southern Washington and northern Rensselaer Counties when a powerful Canadian cold front collided here with a large mass of warm, humid Gulf air. Crops on numerous farms throughout the region were destroyed, ours included. A storm lasting fewer than ten minutes laid waste to months of effort. We had some forewarning, and, with the assistance of a dedicated field team, were able to place row covers over several of our plantings, but we could not cover the entire farm. Nor did all the covers stay in place because of the shear force of the wind that accompanied the powerful storm. Greens were shredded, young root crops lost their tops, and new seedings were washed away. The greatest damage occurred to crops intended for the first few weeks, including choy, chard, spinach, kale, kohlrabi, salad mix, turnips, radishes, scallions, carrots, and broccoli.
Not all was lost. Many of the covers stayed in place, and many of our crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers, are grown in one of several greenhouses. We’ve been working furiously since the storm to replant, but most crops will be delayed. The farm crew understands how critical it is that we replant the farm as quickly as possible, and have put in some very long days. We thank you for sharing in the risk of farming; for our part, we are working very hard to recover. We’ve seeded thousands of new plants, from quick salad items to broccoli, and have already set out thousands of plants that were safely inside our greenhouses during the storm. But damaged crops will need time to recover, and new plantings will need time to mature.
What will vegetable shares look like until then? If we start as scheduled, we’ll deliver far less than we hoped to for the first four to six weeks. The first four shares would look something like this:
- Butterhead lettuce, scallions, kale, and herb plants
- Romaine lettuce, scallions, Swiss chard, and herb plants
- Red Oakleaf lettuce, kale, radishes, a braising mix, and herb plants
- Romaine lettuce, salad mix, Swiss chard, choi, radishes, and herb plants
- Lettuce or salad mix, Chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli or peas, Japanese turnips, and herb plants
We should be back on schedule by week six or so, with main season crops like corn, cucumbers, beans, beets, and squash getting underway, and tomatoes and peppers soon to follow. The good news is that our main season vegetable crops are on-track.
We could delay the start of the season by five or six weeks (a quarter of the season), and then extend the season into December, five to six weeks beyond the normally scheduled end. But the root crop-heavy end may become a bit tiresome. There may be other ways to deal with this problem – don’t hesitate to suggest something. Please communicate with other folks in your core group.
As for other shares: Jan lost a flower greenhouse, although the crops inside were not badly damaged. Many of her field flowers were lost or set back, and, as a result, the start of the flower share will be later than usual. The fruit share will not be affected by the storm, although we lost our strawberries, and the Bordens lost their entire fruit crop, because the fruit share is purchased from a variety of farmers in the region. Strawberries should arrive with the first vegetable shares.
Thanks for your support,