Community supported ag, direct marketing prosper in Wyo
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) first appeared in the United States in the 1980s and has been rapidly growing in popularity.
“In Wyoming, we have gone from no farmers’ markets to 42,” says Cole Ehmke, UW Extension Educator, “and from no CSAs to 19, all in the last 10 years.”
“Currently, demand for CSA shares in Wyoming outweighs the supply coming from Wyoming,” Ehmke continues. “People in many parts of Wyoming have limited access to fresh, high-quality food, and interest in CSAs is growing in all parts of the state. Thus, there is tremendous opportunity for the growth of a well-managed CSA as part of a business portfolio for Wyoming producers.”
How it works
The concept of a CSA is that the end consumer makes a direct connection with the producer of their food by becoming shareholders.
At the beginning of the season shareholders pay the farmer or rancher for a portion of the crop raise, providing financial support and often labor during the growing period. Then, as the season progresses, the shareholders get a regular delivery of produce or meat.
In many CSAs those shareholders help with projects on the property, go to communal dinners for all the shareholders and may even help plan or manage.
Wyoming proudly supports many CSAs that offer produce, as well as several that sell sides, quarters, and individual cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb to consumers.
A challenge that Wyoming producers are facing, according to Bridger Feuz, UW Extension Educator, is the lack of a USDA-inspected plant in Wyoming.
Producers are still able to sell within the state, but different regulations have to be taken into consideration when crossing state lines.
“A meat CSA would only need a USDA inspected plant if it were selling across borders,” Ehmke states. “Otherwise a state-inspected plant would be acceptable.”
“With a USDA-inspected processing plant in Wyoming, we would see more rapid growth with meat CSAs,” Feuz adds.
Although meat CSAs can be challenging, there are also many benefits that the producers can enjoy. These include payment upfront and less repetitive interaction with the public.
“With a CSA, producers avoid answering the same questions over and over again like you would encounter at a farmers’ market,” explains Ehmke. “A CSA gives them the luxury of only answering the questions a few time and get a long term relationship from it.”
Direct marketing is another way that producers can market their product. The product can be sold locally or nationally with this plan and the consumer share is delivered all at once, rather than over a period of time with a CSA.
With direct marketing, shares of an animal are sold before the animal is harvested, allowing them to be processed in any licensed facility. These are usually sold as quarters, halves or sides and whole sections of the animal. Customers can specify their processing preference, and the product has the opportunity to be shipped nationally.
Direct marketing also allows the consumers to develop a relationship with the producer and see where their food is coming from.
“One of the best parts of doing this is getting to people the people that buy our meat,” says Cindy Goertz of Wyoming Pure, Natural Beef, LLC. “It is pretty fun to talk to the customer, over the phone or in person, and it is important that people as consumer know who is producing their product.”