An organic family farm providing a seasonal fruits and vegetables box to CSA customers in Warsaw and another town.
Key words: CSA, organic, vegetables, fruit, community, biodiversity, happiness
Name of the initiative? Wojciechówka CSA (RWS Wojciechówka)
What kind of initiative Farming/production, processing, biodiversity, community
I was working with the Social Ecological Institute and was an assistant in a project where I met a lot of ecological farmers. I was inspired by them. I discovered it was possible to live as an organic farmer and have some profit with this kind of farming.
I’d grown up on a family farm, but I left to go to university in the city. I lived in Warsaw for around twenty years but in 2011, I decided to come back to my village. I wanted to completely change my style of life – to be in the farm and work with the soil was exactly what I needed. At that time my family and I converted our conventional farm into an organic farm. We had just three or four cows, and some vegetables to feed our own family.
“I wanted to completely change my style of life – to be in the farm and work with the soil was exactly what I needed.”
I had good friends, who owned a CSA farm 120km north east of Warsaw, supplying organic vegetables to customers in the capital. In 2014 they decided it would be their last season because of family commitments. I’d seen their system and the way they ran their farm and liked the CSA model. With their advice, I contacted their coordinator and asked if she would like to help me to set my CSA with that group. Although my farm is 80km South of Warsaw, accessibility is good via the motorway. We started in 2015 with ten customers. My new coordinator took over the mailing and was responsible for all communications between me and the customers. I started the deliveries for my group in early June and finished in late October. It was a success, so I decided to continue in the following year. I was happy working on my farm, growing the green and fresh food and the customers were pleased that they would still have access to organic vegetables.
I now have thirty-five customers from Warsaw and another five from a nearby town.
“…we have direct contact with our customers. They know us.”
The model works because we have direct contact with our customers. They know us. All money is paid up front, so it’s possible to plan expenses for the whole season. The customers don’t choose which vegetables and fruits they receive, they understand that they will receive what is in season, and in this type of farming the natural products may not be as beautiful or as colourful as they are in the supermarkets. Some weeks there may be less, other weeks there may be more.
“Communication between the farmers and the customers is key. It’s so important to clarify everything with the customers.”
Communication between the farmers and the customers is key. It’s so important to clarify everything with the customers. We listen to all feedback. If our customers tell us what kind of vegetable they like, we will try and include that. It’s very important to me that my customers are happy with my work and the vegetables I deliver. When the season in over, it’s very satisfying to know they can’t wait until next season!
My main challenge is how to develop the farm, how to make my work easier and how to get new machinery. Most of the work is done by hand, so having some machinery helps. We find we make enough money for my husband and I to buy some new machinery every year.
My advice to someone else wanting to start a CSA is don’t be afraid of the challenges.
I’m happy I can do what I want to do. I’m happy with my life now. I hadn’t realised how much fun it would be before I started. It gives so much. It’s amazing that the customers trust me enough to pay the money up front – knowing that I will deliver.
“It’s amazing that the customers trust me enough to pay the money up front – knowing that I will deliver.”
This is the sixth season and I still have some of the same customers who joined at the beginning. Now they are less like customers and more like friends. They recommend my farm to their friends and family members. Some of them come to visit my farm with the children and the dogs and the cats. They can meet me and see where their food is grown.
The local community can see that what we do makes sense. It’s a good example for the village of organic production. We can afford to keep our 6-hectare farm. Some people ask my advice on how to run their farms in the organic way. I’m now even a mentor for a new small-scale farmer.
Repository compiled in August 2020 by: Anna Posnik – Jurczak
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