I've written about my dreams of making this a working farm again; to grow food that nurtures others, as well as ourselves. I'm a long way from that dream as I still have so much to learn, but I think I'm coming closer to figuring out what comes next.
I've said that it's easy for me to come up with ideas, especially with all the reading and research I do. It's a trait/hobby/compulsion that members of my immediate family find both enamoring and infuriating, especially whenever I start a sentence with, "I've been thinking and..."
I've had an idea bouncing around my noggin for the past few weeks so I thought I'd give my family a break and "test drive" it with you folks instead, and humbly ask for your thoughts, suggestions and feedback.
One of the family farm models that is growing in popularity is the CSA, or community supported agriculture. Farms that use a CSA model sell shares before the growing season in return for delivering a set number of weeks of farm produce. As an example, one share, worth say $500, would give the consumer 18 weeks of in-season vegetables. The benefit to the farmer is obvious -- he or she can anticipate how much food to grow based on the number of shares sold, thereby reducing the risk.
The most successful CSAs grow a wide diversity of produce to keep the food baskets full throughout the entire season. Even if you collaborate with other farms in co-operative arrangement, this can be a lot of work and even more logistical juggling. It's also a big commitment, one that I'm not confident enough to make yet.
However, I recently read about a farm that in addition to its regular CSA program, offers a season-specific program; namely a Thanksgiving CSA share.
The way theirs works is that members receive a package of winter squash (5 - 10 lbs), potatoes (5 - 7), onions (3 - 4) and a pasture-raised heritage turkey, minimum weight of 8lbs at $5/lb, for a total base cost of $60.
What I liked about this model is that the farmer gets the benefit of a commitment from the share member, plus the upfront payment, and it's a one-shot delivery deal, versus 18 to 20 weeks, or more. One obvious downside is you have to sell a lot more shares at $60 a pop than you would for one full-season share.
So I started thinking, what if I offered two different sizes of shares: starting out with a basic share like this one, and then adding a second, larger share, that would offer the basics plus extras such as more root veggies, beans, a pumpkin, herbs, garlic, and perhaps other locally-sourced goods, for a true 100-mile/local Thanksgiving meal.
I'm crunching the numbers right now (yes, my brain is aching something fierce!), considering...
~ the cost of a turkey poult ($7.01 for a day old Orlopp Bronze, $11.38 for a three-week old started bird)
~ the feed costs (grower is approximately $17.50 for a 20 kg (I think) bag, and you need 2.5 lbs of feed for every 1 lb of live weight)
~ and the feed-to-weight conversion rates (Orlopps process at 75% of live weight, reaching 12 lbs at 12 weeks for hens (16 weeks for Toms) to a maximum of 22 lbs at 20 weeks for hens (35 lbs for Toms))
~ Ed update: Blogger Mama Pea reminded me that I'd need to consider the cost to process the birds to get them oven ready
... and then trying to figure out the per pound weight, plus profit, that I could charge, as well as the unit costs of all the veggie goodness.
For this season, I'm thinking of trying this for ourselves: raising a few turkeys and growing everything we'd need four our own homegrown Thanksgiving meal. Maybe I'll discover that I don't like raising turkeys (are they really as stupid at my reading suggests? Can they really lose track of where their feeders are, or drown in a rainstorm? I don't know how much more dysfunction this farm can take!) or that the numbers simply don't work out.
Or maybe this could be one way that our farm starts giving back and contributing to our local food economy. But for now, it's simply food for thought.
What do you think? Would you consider buying a Thanksgiving CSA share? What would you want in a basket? And what price would you consider paying?