A decade-old Cal Poly program that provides organic produce to about 170 households will end at the end of this month, according to a letter sent this week by the university’s Horticulture and Crop Science Department.
The letter to subscribers — who pay between $20 and $26.50 per week for boxes of produce, depending on size — states that the Community Supported Agriculture project will be cancelled Aug. 30.
The decision was made after a “thorough analysis of the benefits, educational opportunities provided, and costs associated with the CSA project,” organic farm director David Headrick and department head John Peterson wrote.
The announcement cites expensive operations and an annual deficit, which has been covered through department and other funds as well as private donations, as reasons for the decision.
Organic farm food production will continue, and “you will be able to purchase the organic farm’s products through other avenues,” the letter states.
Farm manager Cindy Douglas said she has been laid off, and her job will end in three months.
“Our mission has been for students to come and work on an on-campus farm and to really learn by doing,” Douglas said. “ … I just hope the new direction doesn’t limit opportunities for students.”The program brought in about $180,000 in 2009-10, and Douglas said the program could be funded if the university kicked in about $50,000 per year.
But she also said that furloughs and a drop in subscribers contributed to revenue losses.
“It was the furloughs at Cal Poly (most of our subscribers were Cal Poly staff and faculty and students) and general economy,” Douglas said in an e-mail.
The program made $240,000 two years ago, and its $180,000 in revenue this year covered two full-time employees and all of its supplies, Douglas said. The program sought to have about 200 subscribers, she said.
During the school year, about 50 students at a time were participating in the farm’s activities, most of them volunteers or students in a class. The program used about 10 part-time student employees.
The student employee positions and a full-time production supervisor position remain in effect at the farm, Douglas said.
The letter states that the change will mean smaller amounts of vegetables will be grown, but adds flexibility to cultivate experimental crops and further student projects.
“A dynamic transition is taking place that includes new crops and new production and marketing practices, student special projects, and research such as testing new varieties and growing methods,” the letter states.