The 2014 CSA Expert Exchange will quickly be upon us. The "Beginning CSA" sessions will be Thursday, March 6th in the evening and the "Main Event" will be Friday, March 7th during the day. We hope you will join us.
You've probably already received a variety of emails and updates about our speakers, but if you haven't checked them out yet, we encourage you to do so. See the CSA Expert Exchange website for profiles for the DAY ONE and DAY TWO presenters. You can also check out the CSA Expert Exchange blog for some short Q+A sessions we did with many of our presenters.
To see the full schedule of conference sessions, go here.
Deadlines for registration for the live event is Thursday at 4pm Eastern time for the "Beginning CSA" session that evening and Friday at 9am Eastern time for the "Main Event" session on Friday.
Remember, if you cannot attend the entire event live, the sesssions will be recorded and archived and will be available for registrants to view online over the coming year. So even if you can't be there live, we encourage you to register to get access to these sessions.
We are also really excited to announce our first ever "CSA Member of the Year" award recipient. We received some great nominations and you can read about the candidates on the Small Farm Central blog. The winner will be announced on Friday.
We look forward to gathering online with you all over the coming days. For more information on the CSA Expert Exchange, please visit the official website at www.csafarmconference.com, email us at conference [at] smallfarmcentral.com or call 412-567-3864.
Thanks to all our farmers who submitted nominations of their CSA members for the CSA Member of the Year Award. We have a full crop of outstanding nominees which will sure make choosing a winner hard for the crew at Small Farm Central. Each one of these CSA members has gone above and beyond to help their farmer in some way, so we want to recognize all of them for their support of local small farms. Click here to check out the nominees and read a quote from the farmer who chose them.
Don't forget to attend the second day of the CSA Expert Exchange online conference on March 7th to find out who wins!
Dave Liker and family. Dave is one of our presenters for this year's CSA Expert Exchange.
Dave will present on surviving the early years of your CSA.
The 2014 CSA Expert Exchange will take place on March 6th and 7th, 2014. That's less than a month away. We're very excited for this year's event and feel we've put together a great panel of presenters covering a variety of topics relevant to CSA farmers. Remember: these sessions can be attended live as they are happening or your registration will also give you access to recorded versions of the sessions to watch on your own schedule in the future.
The Thursday March 6th event is our “Beginners CSA” session focused on a couple topics relevant to new farmers and farmers just starting up a CSA. There are two sessions that will take place in the evening starting at 7pm Eastern time. Dave Liker from Gorman Farm will discuss surviving those critical beginning years of your CSA. Shannon Jones of Broadfork Farm will talk about land acquisition and will share their story of leasing and then purchasing their farmland.
The Friday March 7th event will focus on topics relevant to farmers of all experience levels. There will be 5 main sessions beginning at 11am Eastern Time. The event runs until 3:30pm Eastern. Karla Pankow of Bossy Acres will discuss marketing and social media. Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons will present on legal issues related to CSA's. Chris Brockel from the FairShare CSA Coalition will talk about the value of building a CSA coalition. Pam Dawling, writer for Growing For Market and the book Sustainable Market Farming, will demonstrate her crop planning system. And Michael Kilpatrick from Kilpatrick Family Farm will discuss CSA customization and the future of CSA.
It will be a packed day but we've planned for some small breaks in between presentations to let you get up and stretch, refresh your cup of coffee or hit the bathroom without missing any of the sessions.
NEW FARMER SCHOLARSHIP (one week left to apply)
Small Farm Central is again providing 20 scholarships to new and beginning farmers to attend the CSA Expert Exchange. Those chosen for the scholarship will be able to attend both days of the CSA Expert Exchange for the cost of the "Beginner CSA" session only ($25).
If you are interested in applying for this scholarship, please send a couple paragraphs to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us about your beginning farmer story and how you feel the CSA Expert Exchange will help you achieve your farm goals.
The cut-off date is February 24, 2014 and we will select the 20 scholarships based on who we feel can gain the most from the CSA Expert Exchange. Our selections will be made February 28, 2014.
'MEMBER OF THE YEAR' CONTEST (one week left to nominate)
As part of this year's CSA Expert Exchange, Small Farm Central is excited to announce the “CSA Member of the Year” contest. We are interested in hearing from farms about what makes a great CSA member. All CSA farms are eligible; you are not required to be a Small Farm Central client or to be attending the CSA Expert Exchange to make a nomination. The winning member will get a credit of $400 towards a CSA share at their nominating farm.
So what does it mean to be a "Member of the Year"? Each farm has some members that stand out - some for good reasons, some for bad reasons. We want to recognize those members who stand out and bring value to a CSA. Some examples of this would be a volunteer member who through their volunteer activities, whether that be hosting a drop-off site or creating a newsletter for example, has improved the CSA experience for other members. Or it might just be a member whose excitement for their CSA is infectious -- they show up every week excited to see what is in their box and are vocal about sharing their tips and recipes for getting the most out of each week's box.
For more information on the contest guidelines and for the form to make your nomination (limit of one per farm), go to: http://www.csafarmconference.com/form/372
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To read more about the conference, please visit the official website at www.csafarmconference.com
Small Farm Central is currently accepting nominations for the CSA Member of the Year Award, which will be presented as part of this year’s CSA Expert Exchange online conference. The CSA Member of the Year Award was created to recognize and honor those CSA Members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to their CSA farm and local farmers throughout the year. The winner of this award will receive a credit of up to $400 towards a CSA share at their nominating farm.
Farmers and farm organizations running local CSA programs are encouraged to nominate one of their most outstanding CSA members for the award by filling out the application form by 9:00am EST on Monday, February 24th, 2014. All CSA farms are eligible; you are not required to be a Small Farm Central client or to be attending the CSA Expert Exchange to make a nomination.
What does it mean to be a "Member of the Year"? You tell us! We are interested in hearing from farms about what makes a great CSA member. This could be a member who is an avid volunteer or always willing to help. Maybe it's someone who shares great recipes on your website and improves the program for other members. Or it could be a member whose excitement for your farm is infectious and who tells others about your CSA program.
In the ever-expanding and competitive market of CSA farming, many of you are offering Buy-Down Style or Market Style CSA shares, where members receive a flat amount of credit to order from you each week rather than a standard picked box. Small Farm Central is happy to announce that we are rolling out some new developments that should hopefully make administering this type of CSA much easier for you with Member Assembler.
The key features will be:
- Members can receive credit to their accounts automatically when they sign up according to credit levels you set. These credit levels may differ from the price of the share if you choose, for example: a share that cost $500 will actually give your member $525 in credit. Also, any changes made to their membership will automatically adjust their credit.
- Members will receive access to a "buy-down" department only after their invoice is fully paid. So, even though they have the credit on their account after signing up, they still need to pay you for it before they can use their credit to shop in the department.
- All users sharing a Membership will have access to the credit. It will no longer have to be the primary user who logs in to make the selections.
These tools work independently of one another so you can mix or match them into your other options for running your Member Assembler, as needed. We can always work creatively with you to solve your business model's technical issues as best we can. Our target for releasing these features is before the end of February. While there is still some testing to be done, we wanted to give you a heads-up so that you can plan for the upcoming 2014 CSA season.
You will no doubt notice a major change to your Control Panel: an upgraded version of the visual text editor you use for creating content on your Small Farm Central site. Check it out!
This most recent upgrade contains all of the tools you need to build your website pages and emails and has smoothed out many of the bugs that plagued the previous version. Most importantly, unlike the old iteration, this new text editor is compatable with the most recent version of Internet Explorer, thus necessitating the upgrade.
You will see many familiar icons and features in the toolbar and to learn what each tool does, simply hover your cursor over each icon, to learn what each button does. There are also some changes to be aware of. There is no longer a button for spell checking, now it is just done automatically for you! You'll see now there is also a word count and also a path tracker showing what html markups are in effect wherever your cursor is. You won't see the "remove formatting" eraser anymore, but you can use the underlined "Tx" to remove formatting in the same way. The Undo and Redo buttons are a new and welcomed addition to the toolbar. Finally, you will still be able to switch to the html code view if you want to format this way. Simply click on the two brackets in the upper right.
While it was necessary to upgrade the text editor because of the issues with Internt Explorer, we hope that its sleeker design with clearer buttons and smoother interface will be a welcome change for you in any case. Let us know what you think and give us your suggestions by contacting Small Farm Central support.
We will be continuting to roll out new features and making updates to existing ones as the year goes on. Stay tuned to the blog for more news about how Small Farm Central's services imporove!
We're back! Just a little note to let you know that the Small Farm Central team is back from our break and working furiously to develop new features, help set up websites, configure Member Assembler sign-up, answer questions, and tackle all the other behind the scenes tasks that we regularly do. Jump right in to 2014 with us! Dust off your keyboard and put up some photos, start getting ready to take CSA sign-ups, or write a blog post. Let your customers know what's happening on your farm in the winter months, whether you're battling the weather or enjoying a milder climate. As usual, we're here to help. So give us a call (412-567-3864) or send us an email if you have any questions.
It's that time of year again at Small Farm Central...no, not the time when we remind you to create a new Member Assembler Season, or the time when we bug you to update your blog. Now is the time when the Small Farm Central staff takes a short hiatus during the holidays. Much like our farmers, who take some time to relax before next year's work begins, so does the SFC team. Therefore on Tuesday the 24th we will begin a period of "light support" that lasts until January 2nd when we will return to the office nicely rested and ready to tackle the new year.
Don't worry! As always, we will maintain the health of the service, including major bug fixes, and our 24/7 monitoring of the servers never stops. Additionally, we're never really that far from our keyboards, so we will still get back to you promptly if you have a question or concern. "Light support" simply means that we will not be scheduling sales phone calls and will limit communication to email responses. We know you are busy spending time with your loved ones, enjoying holiday festivities, and otherwise hibernating, so it's likely that you won't even notice.
During the break, don't forget that our helpful and comprehensive Knowledge Base of information is a workhorse that never takes vacations. If you are looking to find out more about Member Assembler, our live software demonstrations will resume in the new year starting on January 8th. You can sign up for one here. In the meantime, take a look at our Member Assembler video tours. You can also stay up to date with Small Farm Central news by subscribing to the blog, liking our Facebook page, or following us on Twitter.
This is also the only time of year that we encourage you to send that last email, turn off your computer, and forget about your website for a while. We'll see you back online in 2014. Thanks for a great year!
-Simon & the Small Farm Central team.
Last month we wrote up a blog post about End-of-the-Year CSA Reporting and reminded you that this is a good time to get some feedback from your CSA members. Customer feeback is an important way to confirm that what you are offering is meeting the needs of your community, and Small Farm Central itself often uses surveys to gather information and evaluate our services. Recently we did our own end-of-the-year survey and we've compiled some of the highlights to share with you.
First off, there were a lot of great suggestions in the responses. We will use these suggestions to build a development roadmap for the next year. The suggestions keep us improving, but the positive comments keep us going! Here are just a few nice comments we received:
"Everything! We were so excited to switch to SFC this past June, just in time for our Summer Session, and we have gotten nothing but rave reviews from our members. The template is sleek and displays information very well, and we have already found that it makes a big difference in how new customers find us."
"That I can post a short "note" that will go out automatically to those subscribed to RSS, and now learning that I can have it go directly to our Facebook page too. I like that I can email for help and get a response, and that there are people I can speak with for help at SFC. Customer service is excellent, which is what I rave about to others when they tell me the problems they have with their websites."
"It is easy to use/update for the most part. Frankly, I just don't utilize/update it as much as I should."
Some other areas to highlight:
How likely are you to continue using Small Farm Central's services during the next year?
95% of respondents said "very likely" or "somewhat likely".
How strongly would you recommend Small Farm Central's services to others?
78% of respondents said "very strongly" or "strongly".
We are always interested in finding out how our CSA farmers are running their programs. This year we asked about customization options for CSA customers and found out the following:
Do you allow your CSA customers to do any type of customization to their shares?
36% are doing some sort of CSA customization
32% are considering it for the future
16% will never do customized CSA
What kind of CSA customization do you allow or do you want to allow?
Full box customization through online interface 22%
Partial box customization through online interface 18%
Flexible weeks -- for example, members pick-up 16 of 20 weeks during the season 26%
Pay-as-you-go CSA -- for example, $25/week until cancelled 17%
Ability to change pick-up locations for a specific week or place box on hold and get a double-box later 45%
We also inquired about mobile technology that farmers were currently using. This is a major area of interest to us moving forward and we see lots of opportunity for us to help our farms with the "mobile" world. The technology is definitely changing quickly!
In closing, we just want to thank those of you who took the time to fill out our survey. We want you to know that we value your responses and it means a lot that you took the time out of your day to assess our services. This kind of feedback is essential as we look to improve into the future.
Keep the feedback coming and we'll keep working to improve our software!