True Cost of a Share

As we get down to brass tacks and decide whether to continue our CSA farm, we felt it is valuable for you to see where your money goes when you sign up for a CSA and the general costs of growing food 30 Full Shares and why we are going to stick to our guns when it comes to enrollment this year.

I thought of this because I had a member mention that I would probably rather have to half shares because it’s more money than enrolling for one full share.

We are not in this for the money, folks. And the reason the half share costs more is because it is more work. Creating a second and third menu each week and balancing the diversity week to week out of the fields adds more time to designing the crop plan and much more time and attention week to week throughout the year.  Wouldn’t it be neat if those of you needing only a half or an individual share encouraged a neighbor or family to split a share with you?

It is actually a lot of work to plan the diversity for three share sizes. So, yes, we offer it. But no, we do not hope for smaller share sizes to make more money. We have a vision of 30 full shares, streamlined planning and delivery and letting people split their food with 30 to 40 more families once it leaves our farm.

Here’s the breakdown of breaking even:

30 Full Shares @ 830 = 24900

What do you think the expenses are to operate a five acre farm? Do we include land taxes that we pay as responsibility of our CSA? Electricity? Gas? Should our phone service and family meals after working all day be covered by our income? Do we actually get paid for the hours we work toward planning, growing and delivering your food?

This year and last, the answer has been no, we do not. Simply because of low enrollment. Even though we have 27 families picking up, that is really only about 12 shares of food. And we were prepared for the ramping up of a new business since that number doubled in just one year. So, it seems fair to double again this year and get our membership to capacity.

Why is this important?

Because we do deserve to create a viable business. We will accept humble, but we get to be viable. And by humble, let me share a few details of our time to get your share together:

Each week, I write these newsletters, create a menu and send out texts/arrange pickup delivery/special circumstances from 3:30 am to 6:30am  on Wednesdays and another few hours on Thursday/Friday to keep shares in good condition that don’t get picked up                   132 HOURS

Six days a week from March until November, Joel and I spend no less than 4 hours a day (ha!! those of you who know me realize I’m out there 12 hours most days!) planting, picking, tilling, seeding, weeding, fencing, digging, covering, pruning and whatever else needs to be done to assure a solid crop for the season and prepare soil/seeds for years to come   1728 HOURS

On pick day, it takes me and two volunteers from 8am to 4pm to prepare shares. Picking, washing, organizing, cooling, bunching, labeling, etc.   528 HOURS

Thursdays is another 10 to 12 hour day. I am cleaning up the market stand, sanitizing containers, communicating with those who missed  pickup and re-packaging for proper storage or getting extra food to the food bank. Then, I do a second pick for delivered shares and make a 200  mile round trip to get food to our members in Ottawa, Streator, Coal City, Morris, Marseilles, Seneca and Utica  242 HOURS

Once our 22 week season ends, I begin crop planning and dedicate no less than 3 days a week to seed selection, farm research, business planning, grower networking, crop plan, soil amendment (yes we farm in the winter!!) and whatever else comes up to prepare for the forthcoming season  720 HOURS

Beginning in January, our seedlings get started. January and February are just a few trays but come March, I spend up to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week planting, organizing, watering, and nurturing the plants that become your food for the season. 1200 HOURs minimum

By the way, as I write this, it’s really sinking in how much I believe in our local food movement!

Our hard expenses for the farm is rent of land along with essential supplies for growing such as seeds, soil/straw/mulch, fish emulsion/fertilizer, compost annually, equipment maintenance, licensing, sales tax, self employment tax (!!), Web site url    averaging $12,500 

So our ‘profit’ should we actually gain membership beyond our expenses (YES! PLEASE!!) should be just over $12,000 to cover those 4,550 manhours of minimum time to get you a share each week for 22 weeks of the growing season.

Dare I do the math??!

OOOooooohhhhh! Truly a labor of love!!

$2.72 an hour.

I laugh out loud, with tears of joy!!

How crazy am I that this seems wonderful??! Less than three bucks an hour, yet I am giddy with delight that I get to pay myself this coming season!

Only $1000 a month to cover utilities, groceries, vehicles, insurance and tuition?? No way! I get to trust that winter months as I work to establish a second career will create abundance and personal growth/prosperity far beyond our basic needs!!

No, this is not a job where hourly wage should ever be considered. The rewards of working the land, connecting with people, sharing our personal journeys, healing trauma through working the earth, watching students in town light up with discovery and ownership, teaching organic methods and conservation to home schoolers who pick your share with me each week, transforming the land I grew up into a working farm. This is my pay. Experiences far more valuable than anything money can buy.

Besides, what if I did charge my actual costs? What if I paid myself just $10 an hour? For the hours and hard costs it takes to produce food for 30 Full Shares, that would hike the price of a full share to just under $2000 a season, or $87 a week for fresh picked, non-GMO, chemical free produce. I see the value. I live the value. I’ve recovered from Parkinsons Disease with food, so I’d gladly pay $87 a week for food rather than meds!! Will you? Will you equate the cost of your weekly food to savings from hospital visits, pharmacy costs, lost days of work feeling depressed, anxious, gnarly? And then gladly shell out $87 a week for me to grow your food? If so, feel free to add a one in front of the eight when you submit your membership enrollment!! Ha! So the value of your share is actually $87 a week, people! And I’m offering it to you for $37. So you’ve all just qualified for the ‘cost of inspiring a local food movement’ family discount of $50 OFF each week of pickup!


For all of these reasons, I am thrilled to go against the grain and the recommendation of every business adviser who wants me to bow to practicality. For each of you, I am committed to living a humble life of loving the land, growing your food and connecting through healing and nurturing and creating and growing. What we create over the next few years will travel with us for many lifetimes.

And I share all of this with you to give you fair warning that I’ve given my word to my family that I will only pursue this dream if we reach full capacity of 30 shares for the 2016 growing season.

So, get out there, spread the word. And sign up for a full share. Buy a share for a neighbor if you can afford it. Gift one for Christmas if someone on your list is impossible to buy for. Contribute to a pending share that I can distribute to families going through health or financial struggles. At the very least, spread the word and encourage another on their path to holistic health and support of local/family business.

Your action (or inaction) is very much imperative to what direction we turn for 2016.

As we await enrollments, I continue to trust and align with my beliefs that the Universe and all who contribute to all things good are conspiring with our dream to continue Grateful Plains CSA farm another season.

And So It Is.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s