Customer Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a transaction between farmer and consumer (B2C) but in an interesting way it feels like more (C2C). CSA does not seem to work with large corporate farms as these entities have large contracts and shareholders become too much to manage - possibly up for discretion with the correct infrastructure. In Montana, specifically, agriculture is focused on corn & grain specifically selling to Wheat Montana, Coors, and feed lots. This corn is used for cattle feed, not human consumption. CSA is a matter of big farms with small organic "gardens" or medium sized farms selling to co-ops and grocers. CSA is designed to distribute risk. By having consumers pay upfront for their annual share; farmers no longer explicitly rely on a successful harvest to profit. Pain point? - Farmers are currently seeking shareholders by word of mouth with 1980s style websites or non-existent marketing.
Could we create a farm to table infrastructure to lead the pop culture trend of healthy eating? - One up the "organic moms" with rugged crates full of fresh vegetables with soil remnants? Potentially, organic consumer friendly farmers could create a co-op to help streamline profitability. Farmers face the risk of poor harvest because of pests and poor irrigation. What if farmers conglomerated (union esque) allowing for each other to take care of each other locally? Many local farmers cannot keep up due to larger distant farms (California) underpricing and contracting with local grocers. Local organic farmers are competing on price when they should be collaborating. Example (the milk industry).
Locally, Cloud 9 farms has tried to do this, but received poor collaboration from neighboring farmers. The research and economic value is not there for them to present. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn't. Cloud 9 has tinkered with the CSA formula. An interesting idea- in a poor crop season, all of their shareholders left because they ended up over paying because the farm didn't harvest successfully. Contradictory, some years farms are a huge success turning much more crop then expected. This is where a potential for co-op exists. Can we create more value for farmers? Not only by bringing them a large customer base (increasing supply & demand), but streamlining production to make everyone "better off" - This is interesting as it is socialistic, takes away capitalism in farming. This would need to be surveyed, interviewed and looked at in a focus group.
On the farmer side, in regards to supply in demand, maybe its a great model, or bad, but what happens when their are more consumers than acres of crops? Raising prices will only work for so long before we lose customers. On the customer side, marketing, politics and pop-culture all play to advantage. Originally, moms have moved from Albertsons to Whole Foods in search of, up for interpretation, but hierarchy and trendy health reasons. This is awesome. Create what the consumer doesn't yet know what they want. As an online to offline, or O2O, application there is potential for delivery, payment transaction, bringing sellers to buyers, creating a community, and creating value for both the consumer and seller.
Farmers can specialize and create a co-op similar to the breweries of Montana - sharing barley and tanks. Recycle the delivery boxes. Currently transactions are mostly made at farmers markets. Farmers are looking for new shareholders annually. I think the biggest draw back is the size of the market.
- Sam Lucas