Farmer Profiles

Farmer Profiles

“Mark Guenther”
Community Harvest-Tait Farm Foods, Centre Hall, Pennsylvania

“Start-up CSA farmers should get exposure to other CSA farms and to farming. I really benefited from my experiences on farms, which in turn gave me the understanding of the flexibility I needed with the CSA…”

Farming Operation: Mark Gunther rents approximately 15-20 acres of land from the Tait Farm in central Pennsylvania to run the Community Harvest CSA, which was launched in 2000. He is currently farming approximately 6 acres of vegetables, and has 2 acres in orchard. Mark is working toward using biodynamic practices on the entire farm. The CSA supports Mark and one other employee full-time year round.

CSA Marketing: In 2001, Community Harvest CSA provided 110 shares at $525 per share, running 26 weeks starting in mid-May. Mark’s main market is State College, home of Pennsylvania State University. All of the shareholders come out to the farm to pick up their shares. The CSA produce is supplied on a weight basis and, within the weight limit, shareholders can choose the produce they want. The share also includes flowers, and apples and cider in the fall. Mark offers cheese and eggs supplied by other farms, and he is considering providing shareholders with meats. The CSA publishes a weekly newsletter. Mark is interested in experimenting with the concept of CSA in the future. One possibility is getting 10-15 members who will pay a significant amount to the CSA to provide them with the majority of their food supply (meat, produce, fruit, etc.) throughout the year.

Views on CSA: Mark tells us that part of the benefit of CSA is economic freedom. He feels that because he is paid in advance, he can experiment more on the farm. Once the farm became financially stable, he didn’t need to focus on the economics of the farm operation as much as he might otherwise, leaving time to experiment with different systems and crops.

Key challenges: Mark feels that he is working more than he should during certain times of the season. He is also resistant to hiring more employees because he would like to focus on farming, not managing people. He felt quite a bit of anxiety in the first year over the initial start up of the CSA. He also feels that there is a large educational effort that must be made concerning local foods and CSA, and that the potential is there for these foods to make up a larger portion of the market than they currently do.

Words of Advice for New CSA Farmers: Mark tells us, “Start-up CSA farmers should get exposure to other CSA farms and to farming. I really benefited from my experiences on farms, which in turn gave me the understanding of the flexibility I needed with the CSA. I think it is important to be excited and passionate about what I’m doing because it is contagious with the shareholders.”

“Mark Guenther”
Community Harvest-Tait Farm Foods, Centre Hall, Pennsylvania
“Start-up CSA farmers should get exposure to other CSA farms and to farming. I really benefited from my experiences on farms, which in turn gave me the understanding of the flexibility I needed with the CSA…”
Farming Operation: Mark Gunther rents approximately 15-20 acres of land from the Tait Farm in central Pennsylvania to run the Community Harvest CSA, which was launched in 2000. He is currently farming approximately 6 acres of vegetables, and has 2 acres in orchard. Mark is working toward using biodynamic practices on the entire farm. The CSA supports Mark and one other employee full-time year round.
CSA Marketing: In 2001, Community Harvest CSA provided 110 shares at $525 per share, running 26 weeks starting in mid-May. Mark’s main market is State College, home of Pennsylvania State University. All of the shareholders come out to the farm to pick up their shares. The CSA produce is supplied on a weight basis and, within the weight limit, shareholders can choose the produce they want. The share also includes flowers, and apples and cider in the fall. Mark offers cheese and eggs supplied by other farms, and he is considering providing shareholders with meats. The CSA publishes a weekly newsletter. Mark is interested in experimenting with the concept of CSA in the future. One possibility is getting 10-15 members who will pay a significant amount to the CSA to provide them with the majority of their food supply (meat, produce, fruit, etc.) throughout the year.
Views on CSA: Mark tells us that part of the benefit of CSA is economic freedom. He feels that because he is paid in advance, he can experiment more on the farm. Once the farm became financially stable, he didn’t need to focus on the economics of the farm operation as much as he might otherwise, leaving time to experiment with different systems and crops.
Key challenges: Mark feels that he is working more than he should during certain times of the season. He is also resistant to hiring more employees because he would like to focus on farming, not managing people. He felt quite a bit of anxiety in the first year over the initial start up of the CSA. He also feels that there is a large educational effort that must be made concerning local foods and CSA, and that the potential is there for these foods to make up a larger portion of the market than they currently do.
Words of Advice for New CSA Farmers: Mark tells us, “Start-up CSA farmers should get exposure to other CSA farms and to farming. I really benefited from my experiences on farms, which in turn gave me the understanding of the flexibility I needed with the CSA. I think it is important to be excited and passionate about what I’m doing because it is contagious with the shareholders.”