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New CASFS manual focuses on the business of small-scale farming

By Jennifer McNulty

The economics of corporate-dominated food production today make it tough for small-scale farmers to make ends meet. Despite long hours and backbreaking work, they often have little money in the bank.

A new publication by CASFS offers marketing ideas and strategies for small-scale farming.

A new publication by the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) focuses on what it takes to make small-scale farming economically viable, offering marketing and business-planning guidance, as well as tips on how to pursue “out of the box” ideas like marketing to restaurants.

A compendium of the latest marketing ideas and strategies compiled by instructors in UCSC's highly regarded Farm & Garden Apprenticeship Program, the manual offers lessons to farmers, instructors, and others with direct-marketing outlets, including urban farms, community gardens, and food projects.

The manual covers farm and business planning, selling at farmers' markets, direct marketing at a roadside farm stand, and a full exploration of community-supported agriculture (CSA), which has been a boon to many small growers.

The publication, Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors, is a companion volume to CASFS's first training manual, Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors.

“Growing quality produce is at the heart of farming, but there's much more that goes into making a farm successful over the long term,” said CASFS director Carol Shennan. “We saw a real need for a publication that would address the business aspects of farming.”

From finding land and planning what crops to grow, to marketing crops and managing farm income and expenses, Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability covers it all. Three sections focus on marketing, while other sections cover land-use options, including cash-rent leases from nonprofits, shared ownership models, conservation easements, and community land trusts. A general review of small farm viability is also included.

The manual may be downloaded for free as a PDF from the CASFS web site. It is also available in print for $25, plus $4 for domestic shipping; please send e-mail to for details on how to order a printed copy.

The manual was made possible by funding from the True North Foundation, the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

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