What information can you give me on estimating labor needs for a CSA?

R.O.MassachusettsAnswer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information on estimating the labor hours needed for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm based on the number acres or amount of sales. Following are a few resources that should help you estimate your labor needs.There are several variables to consider when estimating labor hours, including crop mix, degree of mechanization (vs. hand labor), post-harvest handling and distribution systems, and other factors. As you can see from this Colorado State University article, your enterprise mix will affect your labor hours.A good place to start is the labor planning section of “Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms and Rural Businesses” (http://www.misa.umn.edu/vd/bizplan.html, see Planning Task 4, pp. 145-148, along with Worksheet 4.18 in the Planning Task 4 Worksheets link). Note, too, a chart in the appendices section on “Direct Labor Requirements for Traditional Crop and Livestock Enterprises” ? probably not the crops you’re interested in for a CSA farm, but the framework may be useful.In addition, “Using Vegetable Budgets to Make Decisions,” presents a good overview of the budgeting process; embedded in this article are sample enterprise budgets for specific vegetable crops, which include estimated labor hours. See: www.agmrc.org/business_development/operating_a_business/budgeting/articles/using_vegetable_budgets_to_make_decisions.cfm. These estimates are based on vegetable bed production, where the only machinery used is for tilling in the spring and the rest of the labor is by hand. For larger scale vegetable production budgets, see Michigan State University’s Web site at: www.msu.edu/user/blackj/spreadsheets.htm. A few additional enterprise budgets (including labor hour considerations) are at: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/enterprise.html. Other farmers (especially those who keep good records) may be the ones best able to help you estimate labor hours for different enterprises. Finally, let me refer to a couple of ATTRA pubs that may inform your process of estimating labor hour needs.Market Gardening: A Start Up GuideCommunity Supported Agriculture