Yesterday a group of budding CSAs met with John Twyford and his colleagues from Plaw Hatch Farm in Sussex. They described a farm that is beautifully run to Biodynamic principles, a deeply committed local community, a dedicated and experienced grower, a well located farm shop and a rich history – that got into trouble. The grower explained ''You have got to look after the numbers, not just the farm. We were working long hours to grow fantastic vegetables that we had no market for. Every farm needs a John''. John is a biodynamic farmer there, with a background in business consultancy. With his help, Plaw Hatch have looked after the numbers and they are now in good health. The farm keeps precise records. They are informed about how many customers want what produce in which month. They know what those customers are happy to pay, where else they shop, and what they pay when they shop elsewhere. They know why their customers come to them and they know the margins on each product.
John's advice to struggling farms growing good produce is to go through the Minnesota University workbook on Building a Sustainable Business. It is free and friendly.
Until April 2012, CSAs can apply for free one to one business support from the Plunkett Foundation.