Posts Tagged: farm stand
The economic shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed California's farmers and ranchers to quickly embrace new business practices — including creative new ways to sell directly to consumers. UC ANR and partners are offering an eight-part series of free virtual trainings to help producers build their businesses with agritourism and other direct-to-consumer sales.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge shock to California's food economy, forcing many of the state's growers to embrace new business practices and drop old ones as “shelter-in-place” directives rolled across the state.
But the pandemic's challenges bring new opportunities too. Consumers' interest in local food and local outdoor experiences has grown immensely, from community-supported agriculture (CSA) and other online ordering, delivery and on-farm pickup options, to visits to farm stands, U-pick operations and other family-friendly socially distanced outdoor activities.
Pivoting to these new marketing channels opens new revenue opportunities for farmers and ranchers across California and the nation. But each new marketing channel also demands new skills and connections.
To help build growers' skills to embrace these market channels, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources is partnering with the Community Alliance of Family Farmers (CAFF) and expert growers across California to offer the free webinar series Agritourism and Direct Sales: Best practices in COVID times and beyond.
Through eight one-hour virtual trainings held this spring, participants will learn about best practices for implementing a variety of direct-to-consumer sales approaches. These trainings are offered to anyone interested in learning more about direct-to-consumer sales and agritourism. Topics and dates are:
|Getting started with community supported agriculture
||Tuesday February 23, 11am–12pm PST|
|Best practices for U-pick operations||Monday March 8, 3-4pm PST|
|Operating a safe, healthy and successful farm stand||Monday March 22, 3-4pm PST|
|Best practices for visitor interaction with animals||Monday April 5, 3-4pm PST|
|Best practices for farm tours, workshops and farm-based education||Monday April 19, 3-4pm PST|
|Online sales options and methods||Monday May 3, 3-4pm PST|
|Creative marketing and staying connected with social media||Monday May 17, 3-4pm PST|
|Community collaboration – farm trails, tourism partners and more||Monday May 24, 3-4pm PST|
Register at sarep.ucdavis.edu/agritourism2021.
For more information:
Penny Leff, UC SAREP, email@example.com, 530.902.9763 (cell)
Funding for this webinar series was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant #AM200100XXXXG177. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA./span>
Tomatoes grow fine in my Sacramento backyard. I can usually count on plenty of basil, more zucchini than the neighbors will take, some snow peas, chard and kale, a few small peppers and eggplants and whatever salad greens survive the slugs (in other words, lots of arugula). We have oranges and grapefruit, but I wouldn't even try to grow peaches or apricots. It takes a farmer to grow peaches. It takes a good farmer to grow good peaches. It takes a good farmer and good weather to grow Blenheim apricots.
Instead of planting a peach tree, I joined a fruit community supported agriculture (CSA) program, promising to pay $15 a week for a box of fresh fruit every week from June 7 until October 4. By joining I am agreeing to share the risk and the promise of the harvest of a four-acre fruit orchard with four part-time beginning farmers growing fruits and vegetables just west of Davis.
The Cloverleaf at Bridgeway Farms about two years ago. Rich Collins, land-owner and sponsor of The Cloverleaf, planted the fruit trees four years ago but doesn't have the time to manage the orchard, so he leased it to the Cloverleaf farmers this year. Aubrey White and Marisa Alcorta joined as farm partners also this year. Together, the four women work long hours on weekends and evenings to farm an acre and a half of vegetables and the four acres of peaches, apricots, nectarines and figs. Like most beginning farmers, all four work full-time at other jobs; Torbet at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, Klein with the Farmer Veteran Coalition, White with the UC Agricultural Sustainability Institute, and Alcorta with the National Center for Appropriate Technology.
The Cloverleaf at Bridgeway Farms offers a chance that is, Aubrey White says, "both attractive and terrifying, with everyone trying to make it happen while keeping their jobs." The monetary investments were low, as they have no buildings or heavy equipment, and Collins offered a very attractive lease arrangement to encourage the new farmers. The vegetable land is certified organic and the orchard land is in transition to organic. The part that is terrifying is the risk of crop failure and poor yields that all farmers face.
The Cloverleaf farmers all have some farming experience, but the orchard presented new challenges. White started with the UC Master Gardener Program in Los Angeles, worked with urban farms and community gardens, and for two years at the UC Davis Student Farm. But, she says, taking on the orchard involved a "crazy different learning curve for three out of four of us." Even with all of her agricultural experience, she felt at a disadvantage not having a science background, particularly not having the soil science information to best manage the orchard.
Woodleaf Farm near Oroville, is the soil scientist peach farmer that every beginning orchard manager would love to know. Rosato has taken on advising the Cloverleaf farmers as they learn to confront peach leaf curl and blossom rot by keeping the soil healthy and pruning the trees to ensure good air ventilation. Knowing that Rosato is involved gives me hope that we'll see some Blenheim apricots in the CSA box this June.
The original point of CSA programs was for the community (eaters) to share the risk of farming with the farmers, and to pay for a season's worth of produce up front to ease the cash-flow burden on the farmer before the harvest. In a pure traditional CSA, the farmer estimates the production for the year and sells shares in that production to as many families as the farm can be expected to feed. Each family receives a box of produce every week, with the full week's harvest divided up among the boxes. Some weeks there would be more variety than others; bounty and low yield would all be shared. Some years there would be good harvests and some years, poor harvests. The farmers are not at the mercy of the market, either wholesale buyers or competitive farmers' markets.
Most California CSA operators do not follow this traditional model, but sell to wholesale customers, restaurants, farmers markets and food processors in addition to the CSA customers. This means, in practice, that CSA customers do not share the full risk of the farm production and can expect a more consistent quantity in their box or basket each week. However, CSAs are an important and valuable part of most CSA operators' marketing plan. A UC study of several California organic farms selling through different marketing channels showed that the CSAs consistently returned the most profit to the marketing investment.
As a small farm with a young orchard, The Cloverleaf's fruit CSA still involves a little risk to the members. If the rain continues through June, as it did last year, we may not get those delicious Blenheims. Last year everyone lost them. But CSA manager White promises to give first priority to the CSA customers, with 25 to 50 percent of the fruit harvest going to CSA members. If needed, Cloverleaf will buy more blackberries from Collins or fill the boxes with the more successful varieties of peaches and nectarines.
In addition to the CSA, The Cloverleaf farmers will operate a farm stand, several U-pick days and a harvest festival this year, and sell fruit to several wholesale buyers. Just in case they don't have enough to do, they are considering introducing pastured chickens to the farm next year. The farm stand will open on Memorial Day at the Kidwell Road exit off Highway 80 between Davis and Dixon, and will remain open on Saturdays and Sundays until October. Information about the U-pick days and the harvest festival (and lots of other on-farm activities throughout California) will be listed on the UC Agritourism Directory, www.calagtour.org.
There might be a few shares left for the fruit CSA. For more information, visit the website or Facebook page of The Cloverleaf at Bridgeway Farms or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm looking forward to those peaches!