04.18.10 Community Supported Agriculture Discussion @ Arcosanti

On Monday the 18th Agaja Olu Enahoro and John Bianchini came back to Arcosanti for a second visit. The focus of the meeting was the discussion on how to develop a CSA for the region that could eventually support increased agricultural production at Arcosanti.

John is currently looking at how to develop a CSA along the i-17 corridor. He met with the Arcosanti Energy Apron team on April 18 to discuss the possibly of working with us here at Arcosanti as we revitalize our agricultural program. The idea is to have layers of farms between Phoenix and Flagstaff that would gear up for production at different times of the year, when different kinds of crops grow best. While we are still in the early stages of getting our current growing program ramped up to meet onsite needs for greens, we are interested in potential ways we could link up with John as he develops his endeavor in the coming years.

We discussed the idea of combining food production and fundraising through a Community Supported Agriculture Program. Speaking of fundraising towards innovative social enterprise type business models, Energy Apron Ad Hoc Committee team member Tracy Mcquade sent me this link to Camphill, a project that I became aware of years ago when I was more in touch with the Intentional Communities Movement. They focus on developmental disabilities basically organizing a community around the process of helping and serving these kinds of people. Apparently they are a bit further along on the doing these types of things…

A key step in forming a I-17 CSA corridor would be to identify markets in the region and how these markets would be developed.

Map out Resources:

  1. Outline What you need to do
  2. Develop Business Plan/Strategy
  3. Design Implementation Plan
  4. Get network involved inKnowledge Base Development such as or similar to Local Food Harvest

Actual steps in the planning process might include:

  1. Map of Farms to be considered in the CSA
  2. Things to be harvested: Seeds of Change and Johnny Select are two online resources for planning and designing for the production of certain crops in terms of expected outputs.
  3. When to harvest at which location spring, winter, summer and fall crops
  4. List of market potential including which crops are most relevant for what area
  5. Pricing for CSAs and estimate of potential market growth and revenue
  6. Setting of milestones and goals
  7. Initial investment to start it up

Current Planning and Development

In terms of getting to the point to actually consider a CSA we considered more immediate steps such as focusing on growing more food for local consumption here at Arcosanti. One challenge is determining whether we want to focus completely on addressing local onsite consumption needs or developing mixed strategy that includes selling produce we grow here at Arcosanti at local Farmers Markets. And of course eventually, we could expand this to include CSAs.

Agaja emphasized the importance of considering the cooks and how the food is to be cooked by the clients. So as the grower designs his growing plan he needs to understand what the needs are in the community of people that are consuming the food.

Right now we are meeting much of the need for greens at Arcosanti just from our small greenhouse. So the idea of what can we do now that will provide the greatest bank for the buck. From Katerina Loy the Arco Cafe kitchen manager, we now have some focus in terms of greens such Romaine, Red Leaf and Chard, herbs and fresh tomato for salads.

Other crops on our long list are: Garlic, Green Onions, Beans, Flowers and Peppers.

One thing that Agaja mentioned was that it was important that we work on developing a clear vision to sustain the business plan. He also stressed the idea that any project or idea should really have a business plan – regardless of whether you call it as such.

Leveraging on our Advantages:

  1. Land is paid for it just needs to be better utilized.
  2. We have lots of volunteer labor coming to Arcosanti
  3. Name recognition is high

Comprehensive Land Use and Agriculture Strategy needed

One thing we are realizing is that it is not enough to simply have greenhouses, we need to consider the heat impact in the summer on the growing conditions. If the heat is too much then basically we’ll have a three season production greenhouse with the summertime months used for starts in the greenhouse that can then be planted in the fields/gardens around Arcosanti.

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