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Tri-State CSA Conference to Focus on Sustainable Farming Practices
Ohio Ag Connection - 09/15/2021

Want to learn more about how to start a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program? How about learning how to expand your existing CSA to make it more sustainable and successful?

If so, then the "Thinking Inside the Box: Growing CSAs Across the Tri-State" conference is a place to find answers to those and other CSA-related questions.

Experts with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES)--in collaboration with Purdue University and Michigan State University--will host the conference Oct. 24--25. It runs from 1 to 8 p.m. Oct. 24 and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at Sauder Village and Farm, 22611 State Route 2, in Archbold, Ohio.

"The goal," said Christie Welch, who is an organizer of the event, is to help "CSA operators take advantage of the increased demand by consumers for a convenient and safe way to access the locally produced foods they have come to expect."

"This conference will provide an opportunity for producers to learn from their peers who have successfully operated CSAs for years as well as hear from OSU Extension experts on a variety of topics."

While all CSAs have some slight differences in how they operate, all work by allowing consumers to purchase a share--some call it a subscription--to a farm in return for weekly deliveries of farm-fresh, local produce, goods, and foods. Farmers and growers benefit because they are able to derive income from the shares, which are often used for payment for their supplies, seeds, and labor costs.

During this past year and continuing now, farmers and producers nationwide are seeing an increase in consumer demand for CSA shares because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Welch, who is also the program manager of Ohio State University Extension's Direct Agricultural Marketing Program. OSU Extension is CFAES' statewide outreach arm.

"Many producers have reported selling out of the available share and have had to start a waiting list of consumers who want to be a part of the CSA," she said. "Our goal with the conference is to share information and best practices to help growers increase their profitability and better serve their customers."

Topics for the conference include the following:

- Online CSA options

- CSA administration

- Continuous crop production

- Introduction to season-extension methods

The conference will also feature a trade show, an optional farm tour, panel discussions from CSA operators, and presentations by:

- Dan and Julie Perkins of Perkins Good Earth Farm, a 180-member CSA, certified organic hardneck garlic and produce farm with an on-farm stand, commercial kitchen, and local wholesale accounts in De Montte, Indiana.

- Theri Niemier-Zimmerman, director of Bertrand Farm, Farming the City with Good Shepherd Montessori School, an agricultural learning center focused on environmental restoration through sustainable farming practice, in Niles, Michigan.

Conference registration is $75 per person and includes meals and handouts. The deadline to register is Oct. 15. Register at go.osu.edu/csaconferenceregistration2021. For more information, contact Welch at welch.183@osu.edu or 740-289-2071.


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