Community CROPS began in 2003, offering classes and low-cost garden space in one community plot for people who wanted to grow their own vegetables, and hands on help for those just learning how to garden. In 2005, Community CROPS started their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which sold farm shares to approximately 50 families and launched the Sunset Community Training Farm at the request of program participants. The four-acre training farm helps enrollees learn how to grow and sell produce and livestock commercially or to local vendors.
The support of private and community foundations was critical to the creation of the training farm, which quickly became one of the most popular parts of the program. However, Executive Director Ingrid Kirst noted that the site only had four acres of tillable land and no full time staff, which sharply limited the number of families that could participate. Currently, families participate in the program for three to four years before striking out to grow on their own land. Kirst and her staff decided to double the size of their CSA from 50 to 115 shares in 2009. "It was a significant expansion, but we knew there was a demand," Kirst said. The increase in CSA revenues was enough to pay the families participating in the program wholesale rates for their produce, and help fund the additional staff needed for the training farm. To date, the program has been able to earn approximately 20 percent of their $250,000 annual budget by selling produce from the training farm and program enrollees participating in the CSA and farmers market.
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