Like a lot of farmers who rely on farmers markets for most of our income, Chicago Honey Co-op gets the great majority of it's sales in the Summer and Fall. From about July to October every year for the past six years we have gone to market on Saturday and Sunday to sell our honey, beeswax candles and bath products. Of course with income concentrated in such a short time period, that leaves a big part of the year with reduced income. Having online stores helps somewhat but doesn't provide the infusion of cash we need in the first half of the year.
This is identical to the situation that farmers face and it is why the CSA was invented. For those of you who don't know CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture started in the early 1980's in New England as a means of connecting communities with their local farmers. Members pay up-front to provide the farmer with much-needed capital at the beginning of the season and collect produce (in our case, honey, candles etc.) in a CSA box later in the year.
We have talked among ourselves for a couple of years about starting a CSA but because of the nature of our products, felt a little guilty about making people buy bath products or candles along with the honey in a CSA box if all they really wanted was honey. An article in the magazine Growing for Market helped us solve that problem. In short, the farmers who wrote the article switched their CSA from a weekly produce box to a debit style system. CSA customers pay for a share like any other CSA but instead of receiving a box they get to pick out what they want at the market stand and what they choose is subtracted from their credit balance.
We think this approach will work much better for both us and our customers. A share will cost $48.00 and can be used at either the 2 farmers markets we will be selling at this year. In addition CSA members will be able to choose from other products from the bee farm that we usually don't sell at the markets and will get discounted admission to events and tours we have at the apiary.
So, here we go!
You can find details about our CSA and sign up on our CSA page.
Hope to see you all at market!