A new twist on Community Supported Agriculture
Earn 10% instantly! Unused balance redeemable for cash!
A lot of you have been asking about signing up for a CSA this year, and I’ve been telling you I’m not doing one this year. I’ll explain in a moment how I came to this decision, but I also want to let you know I’ve come up with an alternative that I think will be of much greater service to customers, investors, and my farm. First, though, let me explain why I’m not doing the CSA the same as I’ve done the past couple of years.
When I was doing the CSA, I found that instead of harvesting vegetables at their peak of quality, I was harvesting whatever I could when the shares were due. Harvesting immature vegetables resulted in a lower yield overall, meaning I had almost no produce to sell at the farmers market. It also meant that the CSA members were getting smaller shares of lower quality produce. I was disappointed, the farmers market customers were disappointed, and I know at least some of the CSA members were disappointed. It’s not an experience I want to repeat. Fruits and vegetables are ready when they’re ripe, not when the calendar says I owe them to somebody. I want to offer the best quality produce available, and that means some weeks will be fruitful while other weeks, there may be nothing from the gardens at all.
It was a similar story with the chicken and eggs. I saw a strong demand at the market for sausage, for example, but I found that I usually didn’t have enough chicken to meet the processor’s minimum requirement for making a batch of sausage once I met my obligation to provide so many whole chickens each week to CSA members. With eggs, it’s hard to predict exactly how many might be laid in a given week, especially as the seasons change. I didn’t want to sell more shares than I was able to fill, but I also didn’t want to turn people away as long as I had eggs available. I actually did estimate pretty accurately, with the result being that every few weeks, I had just a few dozen eggs to sell at the farmers market. People came to the market and saw me handing out eggs to CSA members only to be told that I had none to sell to the general public, and it was too late for them to sign up. It was frustrating for both them and me, and I think poor public relations for both the farm and the farmers market in general.
So with all this, I said, “No way. I’m not doing it again.” My plan was to quit offering the CSA altogether and only do farmers market sales this year. Then I hit up against a hard reality—I need money. Farming is the sort of venture where you go all winter with little to no income, and then in the spring, when your savings are depleted, you have to invest thousands of dollars, then work long days with no pay for a few months before you see any return. Banks and credit card companies tend to want paid every 30 days. That was my chief reason for offering the CSA. I needed money to pay for seed, chicks, feed, sawdust, chicken processing, tiller repairs, egg cartons, market and licensing fees, compost, etc. months before the markets even start.
The question, then, is how do I get people to invest in the farm up front, not have to pay them back until the harvests start coming in, while not having my hands tied by a CSA schedule that doesn’t correlate to natural harvest times? I’ve come up with an idea that I think you’ll like. It offers more variety, more flexibility, and even the chance for you to earn some cash back. Here’s how it works.
You invest some amount of money with Frijolito Farm, much like purchasing a gift card from a store. Instantly, I credit you 110% of the amount paid. That means if you send me a check for $500, you have $550 in your farm account. You can then use this account to buy anything we have for sale—chicken, eggs, bread, vegetables, furniture, workshops, whatever—in any amounts, whenever you want. I’ll keep a running balance of your account, and issue you a card on which I’ll write down your new balance each time you use it.
And here’s the really unique part—on December 1st, if you haven’t used your entire account, I’ll refund the balance. So if you send me a check for $1000 (meaning you’d have $1100 in your account), and you only buy $50 worth of Frijolito Farm merchandise all year, I’ll pay you $1050 on December 1st. My hope is that in addition to providing a good deal for regular customers of Frijolito Farm, I’ll also be offering an attractive investment opportunity for people interested in microfinance and local, sustainable agriculture, even if they’re not the sort to get out to farmers markets on a regular basis.
If you use your whole account to buy goods from Frijolito Farm, you’re getting a 10% discount off everything we offer, all season long. And if you leave any amount at all in your account, you’re earning 10% of your initial principle in less than 12 months. 12-month CDs right now are paying around 1.25%. I’m offering you 10.00%.
“So what guarantee do I have that you’ll pay me back?”
Obviously, I’m not a bank or an investment firm. This investment is not insured. Since I’m using it for operating costs, though, and generally earning a profit equal to about 65% of those costs, I can’t see that I would have any trouble at all paying you 10%. Also, there’s a bright side to what I said earlier about having to invest so much money up front. Toward the end of the season, things wind down. I don’t have to pay for seeds after they’re planted, and I don’t have to feed chickens once they’re in the freezer. At the very end of the season, there are no expenses, and I’m motivated to sell off all my inventory before the markets end.
“But say there’s a calamity and you CAN’T pay me back. What then?”
Well, unless meteors strike my farm every 59 days and wipe out everything, I don’t see that happening…but here’s what we’ll do: If December 1st arrives and I don’t have enough money to pay you your full balance, I’ll pay you the interest you’ve earned and roll over your remaining balance to the next year—at which point you’ll instantly be credited another 10% of the amount that’s rolled over. Here’s how that would work:
Say you’ve invested $1000 in Frijolito Farm. That means you have $1100 in your account. You spend $300 of it buying the only chickens that survived the massive flood that submerged Columbus for the entire summer of 2011. December 1st comes, and I don’t have the $800 I still owe you. I will pay you $100 right then. I’ll apply the remaining $700 to your account for 2012, meaning you’ll instantly be credited 10% so that you’ll have $770 in your account.
I want to stress that this is a last-ditch option, though (unless you want to carry a year-to-year balance as an investment in your family’s food security). I fully intend to refund the full amount of your remaining balance on December 1st, 2011, and I see no reason why I wouldn’t be able to do so. Besides that, you know my name, you know where I live, you know where I work, and (since I was in the military and law enforcement) my fingerprints are on file with the FBI. It’s not like I can skip town.
I reserve the right to refund in full, within 30 days and with no interest due, anyone’s money if I feel the investment is too large for me to cover. I’m only looking to raise a few thousand dollars. If you cash out your entire portfolio and send me a check for tens of thousands of dollars, I’m voiding it and sending it back to you.
This is a limited time offer. I say this because I need the money now to pay for broiler chicks (before March), chicken feed (in three days), seeds (today), and fees (next week). This is a great opportunity to invest in sustainable farming and the local economy, and a way to get a 10% discount all season long at the farmers markets or get a fat bonus in time for Christmas shopping.
Update: If you’re interested in participating, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me how much you’d like to invest. Also email me at that address if you have any questions you’d prefer not to discuss in the public comments below.
There is no minimum amount required to participate, but I’d suggest no less than ten dollars. Two-thousand dollars ($2000 USD) is the most I’ll accept from any one investor.