Mogo Farms field day will explore benefits, challenges of collaborative CSAs – July 6, Mount Pleasant

For Release: June 23, 2015

Mount Pleasant, Iowa — For beginning farmers interested in raising vegetables, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) provides an attractive entrance point. In this business model, customers pre-pay for a share of the expected harvest, thus helping to offset costs while sharing in the risks of food production. Once harvest begins, they regularly receive a share of the produce.

However, CSAs are complex to run. To be successful, a farmer must know how to produce often 30 or more fruits and vegetables, from planting times and harvest size to fertility needs, pest management and post-harvest handling. CSAs also require good business management skills, from customer service to operating databases.

To meet this challenge, some farmers across the United State are forming collaborative CSAs, joining with other area vegetable farmers as one CSA. In collaborative CSAs, farmers split the work load, divvying up duties such as marketing and distribution, as well as the crops each farm raises. This arrangement lets farmers combine their skills to create a quality CSA.

Morgan Hoenig operates Mogo Farms near Mount Pleasant, and is now in her third year growing produce for the collaborative CSA Green Share LLC. She will share her experience with the benefits and challenges of running a collaborative CSA at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day she is hosting on Monday, July 6, from 4-7 p.m. The event – “Collaborative CSAs: Some Assembly Required” – is free to attend and open to everyone. Mogo Farms is located at 2542 Iowa Ave., 1 mile south of the Mount Pleasant city limits.

“The benefits of collaboration have been monumental to my farm business, reducing the stresses of providing for a CSA and expanding my customer base,” Morgan says. “But working with others has its challenges as well, and we had to become smarter at doing business.”

Attendees will learn about the origins of Green Share LLC, which Morgan helped start in 2013. Originally formed with four other local producers in 2013, members in the collaboration have changed over the years. Morgan and Shanti Sellz, of Muddy Miss Farms, will describe the start-up process, benefits they’ve experienced, management issues, mistakes and lessons learned, and roadblocks they have encountered.

“So many of us farmers are solitary folks. We all have our own ways of doing things, and that’s sort of the challenge,” Morgan says. “We had to learn a lot of skills, like working with the other farmers, trust, having agreements in writing. We originally had an informal agreement, and things got a little messy.”

Morgan says a big challenge was finding the right balance between friendships with the partner farmers and operating their collaborative business. “It’s just like anything in farming: You have to make mistakes to find out how to do things right. We had to learn the importance of being business-like.”

Morgan started Mogo Farms in 2008, after being discouraged by the lack of fresh, organic produce available in her farming community. She determined to help fill that void by growing her own. The farm has grown exponentially every year. Mogo Farms now has two high-tunnel greenhouses and six acres of produce. The old 1890s barn has been renovated and turned into a retail space and pack house with a CoolBot cooler.

Directions from Mount Pleasant: Follow Main Street south out of town. Main Street turns into Iowa Avenue. The farm is located 1 mile south of the city limits, at the bottom of the hill. Look for a brown barn on the east side of the road with large, metal letters spelling “MOGO” on the north side of the barn.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

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Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit http://practicalfarmers.org.

 Contact:

Morgan Hoenig | Mogo Farms | (319) 931-1458 | [email protected] | www.mogoorganic.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]