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new farm / garden project / CSA start up

 
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Hi there!

I'm new to this site and forum, but a few google searches during my research for a garden project at work led me to some threads.  I thought I'd reach out and see if anyone would be willing to share advice, information, anything really!  

A little bit of back story - I work at a new farm animal sanctuary in Sonoma, CA.  Over the summer, I headed up a very small garden program (4 raised beds), primarily to grow greens and other produce for our animals, and give some produce to volunteers, etc.  Right now, we're looking to expand our garden program and branch out to selling our produce - mainly in the areas of local farmer's markets, and starting our own CSA program.  We reached this decision mainly based on many area farms operating under a "we sell what we grow" model, thus proving difficult to get our produce into an existing CSA.  

We want to start on the small side, and then scale up as we can / as needed - thinking of starting off with 20 boxes.  I'd also like to keep it relatively simple - so any advice on that front would be great as well.  Where I'm most looking for advice is in the planning stages of this.  We'll likely need to use raised beds for the garden, as our soil on property is super compact and clay like.  My main question is, how many raised beds would you recommend (a range is fine) for something of this scale (20 CSA boxes)?  Should we scale back and just shoot for 10 boxes for our first season?  

Basically, any and all advice, information, contacts, connections, recommendations are welcome!  I'll be looking at other threads quite frequently, so will be here often.  Feel free to also e-mail me directly at amanda@charliesacres.org if that's easier.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read!    
 
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Howdy Amanda , welcome to permies!  I added your post to the California forums and will bump it back to the top in hopes it will be seen.
Being the holidays and all , it might take a bit for someone to reply, so be patient and enjoy some of the other threads here.
 
Amanda Schramm
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Thanks Miles, I appreciate that!
 
pollinator
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So it seems like you are asking how many raised bed per CSA and then you will just multiply that by the amount of CSA boxes.

So I need a few clarification:
1) Is this a weekly CSA, if not is it bi-weekly, or monthly.
2) Is this vegetable only or vegetable and herbs or something else.
3) How long is the CSA for, just summer (13 weeks) or is it 26 weeks (May-Oct), or something else.
4) How much are you effectively getting paid per week. ($520/26wks = $20/wks)
5) How much do you effectively charge pound. $4/lbs and $20/week = 5lbs/week.
6) How much produce do you provide per week. $4/lbs and $20/week = 5lbs/week.

Scheduling.
Time to Maturity = 7wks,
Harvest per week = 5lbs,
Space required per lbs of harvest = 2sqft
Space required per week = 2 * 5 = 10sqft/wk
Total Space Required = 7wks * 10sqft/wk = 70sqft

Each week you harvest a batch, just replant some new ones.
Add some fertility after each batch, maybe
After each weekly harvest change species/plant family, to help with pest control.

What are the list of vegetables that you will be providing?
Spinach Family (Rainbow Swiss Chard, Beet Tops, etc)
Cabbage Family (Kale, Collard, Cabbage, etc)
Lettuce Family (lettuce, maybe dandelion greens)
Herbs (Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Winter Savory, Mint, Chives/Scallion, Celery/etc)
 
pollinator
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This comes up so much on farming forums, I'm putting some numbers down here that came up in a facebook thread.

30/acre

13/ An acre

10 on 1 acre and 4 markets a week

40 on 1acre

55 on an acre,

40. acre

20/acre

86/acre

20/acre

51

100 shares

50 full shares an acre

One acre 30-35 weekly

Myself I was on 40 an acre

Taking out the top and bottom gives an average of 40.8 shares per acre. with a range between 10 and 100 of course this is VERY dependent on what you grow how big a "share" is your climate etc. But when you start out it WILL be lower than you think, I do not do a whole acre, it would be way too much work for one person, I have worked out averages before but an acre of intensively grown vegetables takes 2-3 full time people, row crops it's more like 1 person per acre, but you won't get 40 shares! so for 20 shares I would go for half an acre (including paths) of beds. Remember that a good 25% of your planned crop will probably not be saleable, whether from insect damage or crop failure or some other reason. I built in a 30% buffer last year and that seemed about right.

I hope you recorded everything you grew on your trial, it will give you the best chance of guessing correctly, I have kept records the 5 years I have been at this property and it gives me a good oversight into how many carrots (for example) I can expect from a square meter, and how long it takes to grow them.

The biggest surprise to me was how long it takes to harvest wash and pack. That is by far the most time consuming part of the whole thing.


 
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