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4496 Flat River Rd
Greene, RI, 02827
United States

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Blog

A note on raising prices and shrinking the CSA a bit

Ben Torpey

Scratch Farm is entering its 15th growing season. I have been here as owner, manager and steward of the farm for about half that time. Though our farm has always been just 2 acres, we’ve grown the amount of food and number of customers slowly but steadily since I’ve been managing the farm, moving from 80 to 130 CSA members in 7 seasons. As the soil and our systems steadily improved, and you all told your friends to join the CSA, our growth has felt organic. But I’ve noticed some strains lately, both on myself and the soil, and this coming season we’re going to scale back our membership to ensure we’re maintaining the long term health of the project. As a practical matter, you probably won’t notice any difference in the shares (hopefully this means they’ll be even better!), though we may sell out sooner than in the past, which is mostly why I mention this change to you.

In addition, it’s been 5 years since we raised weekly prices. During that time, due to inflation, the costs of growing vegetables have risen- everything from compost and soil amendments to rent and utilities to wages. As the business has grown, we’ve moved away from relying on volunteers and low-paid apprentices to paying consistent, hard-working, trained crew a better hourly as they stick with us and gain skills and experience. This has helped the farm run more smoothly and, I think, translated into improved quality and consistency of the produce we’ve been sharing with you, and the customer service we have offered. I’m faced with a choice to either cut corners (on inputs, on maintaining soil health, on working conditions and decent pay) or adjust the price of our CSA shares.

We will continue to have a sliding scale and offer half-price shares for those paying with SNAP benefits because wage and wealth inequality are real and growing. Despite market pressures, I still want to grow food for as many of our committed community as I can -regardless of your income- and trust that when we all pitch in as much as we can it’s possible to support the success of a farm of our style at our scale. If you can’t afford to pay any more than you have been, don’t worry. My hope is that this is what a CSA is about: a community coming together to support a farm, an economic model that’s more intimate, more honest and more supportive than a raw capitalist exchange of food for dollars.

The amazing support and love I’ve received from so many of you over the years is a large part of what keeps me going. My intent is that these changes will make our little farm more sustainable and joyful over a longer term. I hope you will agree that paying a bit more to support Scratch Farm, and our goal of bringing ethically and ecologically grown vegetables to our community, is an investment worth making.

Love,

Farmer Ben