Summer often arrives with a suitcase full of surprises and no one knows that better than farmers. But summer can also create erratic schedules and the unforeseen "change in plans" element for your CSA members too. With vacations, children's activities, and seasonal events on the calendar, it's not uncommon for some of your members to find themselves unable to pick up their share. Farmers across the country deal with these situations differently but, with advanced notice, most will allow for certain accommodations. Here are some suggestions of what you can do when you members need to (or accidentally) skip their share:
1. Allow for a stand-in. Let your members send a friend or relative to pick up their share. They can provide you with the name of the person picking up and you can add this note to your pickup lists, so that everyone knows about the change.
2. Double up. Deliver a second, or double size share at the next pickup date after the one that your customers want to skip.
3. Plan for the skip. Allow your members the chance to skip once. Then make one extra delivery at the end of the season for those that skipped.
4. Give a refund. offer your member a refund for the missed share, either at cost or minus a convenience fee. Or offer another form of refund like a discount on next season's sign up, or credits to your farm stand or store.
5. Call it a forfeit. Let your members know that if they need to skip a pick-up and can't make other arrangements that their food will be forfeited. This is usually the standard option for those members who don't give you advanced notice and simply don't show up. To soften the blow, consider donating the food to an organization who can get it to those in need, like a local food bank. This way your members can feel good about skipping a pickup or two.
This issue of skipping pick-ups led Small Farm Central to the development of a tool that allows CSA members to request temporary changes to their membership, while still allowing the farmer to decide how, if at all, their members are accommodated of the days they miss. This feature is called the Holds & Changes Tool and can be found in the Member Assembler area of your Control Panel.
This tool allows you (and even your members, if you choose) to set scheduled actions for your members. These actions include:
1. Vacation Holds - this removes the member from pickups lists when they will be away
2. Pickup Changes - this allows a temporary change of your member’s pickup location
3. Double Boxes - this notes on the pickup list that a member will receive a double share, to make up for a pickup that they missed in the past or one that they request to skip in the future.
To learn more about how to use this tool, read the Vacation Holds and Scheduled Actions article in the Knowledge Base.
Here's to a fruitful (and vegetable-ful) summer!
In addition to making major additions to our Member Assembler, E-Commerce, and website software tools, the development team at Small Farm Central spends a great deal of time making adjustments that fly under the radar. Whether it's correcting bugs, improving processes, or following up on the hundreds (literally!) of customer suggestions and customization requests, we keep ourselves extremely busy. Here are just a handful of the recent changes over the past couple of months you may or may not have already noticed in your usage of your Small Farm Central site:
- Member Assembler Payment Requests can be generated based on a particular season's invoice rather than just the member's overall balance.
- E-Commerce orders Excel exports can be run with one order per row in addition to each item per order per row. Member Assembler pickup locations are automatically included in the export, when relevant, so you don't have to recreate all your pickups in E-Commerce.
- Just the recipient's first name, rather than only full name, is available as a merge field for mailing list newsletters.
- E-Commerce shoppers can pay fully or partially with their available balance even in departments with other kinds of checkout, like PayPal or Authorize.net, so you can issue more effective store credits to your customers.
- Member Assembler exports of Box Builder, Pickup Locations, and system-generated Member Notes data have been added. Invoices exports include all adjustments, charges, discounts, and each share type and cost.
- Member Assembler Pickup Lists can include pickup address and descriptions, a full range of dates for E-Commerce extras, and you can just generate a list of share totals by location without all the individual members.
- Vacation Holds have more settings to choose an end date to your current season, what types of scheduled actions members can request, and split-share weeks can be labeled so you and your members know which dates correspond with which deliveries.
- You can reduce the amounts of future Member Assembler automated scheduled payments so members don't overpay their balance if you or they have made adjustments after they created their payment schedule. Also, scheduled payments for someone with a negative balance are automatically suspended to save you the hassle of issuing refunds for overpayments.
If you have any questions about these, please let us know and we'll be happy to go into greater detail with you!
Welcome to the first edition of the We Love Our Farmers photo series! We love hearing about what's happening on the Small Farm Central farms from our farmers, but we love seeing it in their websites even more. This is why we will be featuring photos taken by our farmers on the Small Farm Central blog. In this edition, we feature the charming goats from Whitmore Farm.
"We photograph all of our goats when they are born. This is a Tennessee Fainting
Goat born on our farm on March 15th. We load up the ones that are for sale for breeding
stock on the website."
-Will Morrow, Whitmore Farm
Last summer, we made some important updates to our Pickup List tool in order to increase it's usefulness. If you haven't explored this feature yet, you will find that the information that you recieve when you generate a Pickup List will not only to help you prepare for your deliveries but is also great to give to your drivers and site managers, ensuring that every dropoff site gets exactly what it needs. As you get into the swing of your regular deliveries this summer, it's a good idea to learn about or reacquaint yourself with this helpful tool.
The Pickup List tool can be found in the Member Assembler area of your Control Panel. Simply navigate to the Members section and choose Pickup Lists.
Here you can generate a list for all pickup locations and member types or you can create more specific lists by choosing which locations and member types to display. If a member type has an option you don't want displayed (a bi-weekly option, for example), you can exclude that option from the pickup list.
The pickup lists that you create can easily be printed out to use or distribute to your staff. When you generate your list, you have the option of just creating a list for the next week of pickups or you can choose what specific dates you want pickup lists to display. Then, print out just what you need for now or print out the entire season's lists.
Your lists can be as basic or as detailed as you need it to be. They can simply be a list of member names and member types or can include information such as phone numbers, member notes, member balances, and more. There is even an option to include a check box next to each member's information. Leave a list at each pickup location so that your members can check off they they picked up their share.
But the Pickup List tool doesn't stop there!
Want to integrate your E-commerce orders into your pickup lists? Simply fill out the date parameters and the tool will include all E-commerce orders made during that time period. Orders from that day through the time you generate your list will be included. Need to include specific instructions to your crew? Use the field at the bottom of the page to include notes for your drivers or site managers. Or, insert your logo there. You can even use the pickup lists tool to create packing labels. At the top of the page, choose “Packing labels” from the View/Print menu option. These will be formatted to fit on Avery 5163 labels available through most office supply stores.
As you can see, the pickup lists tool has the power and flexibility to provide a wide range of information so everyone involved in the delivery and pickup of your CSA orders gets just the information they need.
You're done taking signups and may have even delivered a few weeks of shares... it's official, the Summer CSA season is underway. While your CSA tasks shift from planning and marketing to harvesting and packing, your days will be dominated by the familiar tools and machinery of farm work.
But don't forget that Small Farm Central has it's own set of tools that you can use throughout the season to run a smooth CSA program. In addition to the Box Builder, which we talked about in the blog last week, this summer we'll be writing about other features of our websites and Member Assembler software that can make your season run smoothly.
Additionally, Small Farm Central wants to help your members get the information and tools that they need to be successful CSA subscribers, so look for more posts that include content that you can use on your websites and share through newsletters. Here are two videos that we created with simple cooking recipes for two of the early share items: radishes & asparagus.
Visit the Small Farm Central YouTube channel here: http://bit.ly/csafarmhandvids to view the video descriptions, which include full recipe instructions. To learn how you can embed these videos on your website, check out the article "Inserting HTML Code into Your Website" in the SFC Knowledge Base. Need some help? Email us at email@example.com.
Stay tuned for more recipes and videos soon!
World Environment Day happens every year on June 5th and while it may not be as popular as its cousin, Earth Day, they are both centered around the idea of raising awareness for environmental protection issues.
This year's WED theme is "Think, Eat, Save: Reduce your Foodprint" and it aims to encourage people to become more aware of the environmental impact of food waste and food loss in the food supply. The World Environmental Day website has many suggestions for how people can make changes to reduce their "foodprint", and pinpoints buying naturally grown local foods one of the most important ones:
“Making informed decision means, for example, that you purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.”
Since your CSA members and Farmers' Market customers are already taking this vital first step, here are some other ways that you can help them to reduce their "foodprint" even further and prevent the sin of wasting the fruits of your labor, literally. In honor of World Environmental Day, consider adding the follwoing information to your website, or include it as a blurb in your next newsletter.
-Encourage food waste composting. If food must be tossed, this is the most responsile way to process it. You may even be able to accept food waste from your members for your own composting system, if your local government doesn't have restrict it.
-Educate about proper food storage and preservation. This can reduce the anxiety of recieving too much of something in their CSA and encourage customers to buy more seasonal items and freeze or can them for future use.
-Make meal planning easier. Use email to let people know what will likely be in their CSA share or availalbe at the next Farmers' Market. This helps your customers plan Meal planning and list-making reduces impulse purchase and over-buying, which can lead to uneated, waste food.
Happy World Environmental Day! Thanks for being good stewards of our Earth!
We quietly built and released a new feature for Member Assembler last Fall - the Box Builder. This tool allows a CSA to design each week's CSA box as far as what products will go into each size of box, target an overall box value, and then retrieve harvest amounts needed to fill the boxes for the week.
This feature is available in the control panel right now under: Member Assembler > Box Builder. Check out the Box Builder help document for more details about how to use this tool.
As May turns to June, many of our CSAs will start delivering CSA shares, so this tool will now become useful. This is certainly not a tool that you need to use with your CSA and the Member Assembler system does not force you to use this, but it may help you be more organized and keep precise records of what went into each box. It also spits out a report that you can hand directly to your field managers so they know what to pick for that delivery day.
We are still learning how people will use this tool, so please give me some feedback as you try out the box builder by emailing simon*at*smallfarmcentral.com. I am especially interested in what kinds of statistics you would like to gather from the system.
A farmer just wrote me, "We are having a spring from hell. Winter snow didn't leave the fields til May so planting sequencing a challenge. You never catch up when it starts wrong we are finding out. We also are dealing with five inches of rain so each field has chronic wet spots."
I know this is a pretty widespread experience from reading the discussion on the CSA Farmer Discussion and following the chatter of farmers here in western Pennsylvania. When I was in Colorado visiting farmer friends at the beginning of May, we woke up to 8 inches of snow on the ground (see photo). So, I think it is safe to say that it has been a tough Spring for a lot of vegetable growers.
My only advice in a tough growing season is to lean on your CSA members and take advantage of the lines of communications and trust that you have built over the years. My CSA farm had a freeze scare over the weekend and they spent the weekend updating members via Facebook on the great lengths taken to cover an acre of tender nightshades from the frost. Thankfully, the plants all survived, but this sort of communication connects members to the farm and the challenges of farming. This kind of communication will lead to understanding from members later in the season, when, for example, tomatoes are later than normal or not as plentiful.
When you grow a wide variety of crops, there is the hope that when one crop doesn't grow well due to the weather, another crop that is more adaptable to the weather will take over and provide a bounty. Bad weather, frosts, floods, hail storms, drought, and more will inevitably happen over the years, so if we can find anything good in these situations and use it is as teachable moment for members (while, of course, mitigating the damage as much as possible!) you are ahead of the game and taking the greatest advantage the CSA model and the community you have built.
Some of you are lucky enough to live in a region with the kind of weather that allows for fresh food to be sold from outdoor stands and tables all year-round. Those of us in the East, however, feel the rising anticipation for Farmers Market Season all spring long. Now, as seasonal markets get rolling, us Easterners are ready to fill our tote bags with early offerings like rhubarb and radishes.
While the market’s goods must obey the regional conditions of the growing season, the nature of the market’s operations allow for flexibility in the way business is done. Special relationships with customers are built, deals can be made, and bartering occurs. Read about two new ways that Farmers Markets are changing in order to better meet their community’s needs.
Here in Pittsburgh, the Citiparks Farmers Markets, with the help of the Just Harvest Organization, are testing out a way to allow customers to pay with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Access cards, credit, or debit cards. Cards are swiped through an electronic card reader and the patron is given wooden tokens to spend at participating market stalls. Similar systems are in place and popping up in markets across the country. Click the links below to read more about existing programs and how you can start this at your market:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Citiparks markets to accept food stamps
USDA Information - Learn how you can accept SNAP Benefits at Farmers' Markets
The term “food desert” is often used to describe neighborhoods and districts where there is little or no access to the fresh foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. There can be more than one accessibility issue at play, but major issues are usually related to location, transportation, education and finances. However, some organizations are trying a new approach to the traditional location-based Farmers’ Market by putting produce on wheels and taking it to the people who aren’t able to access it. Here’s the buzz:
Norfolk, Virginia -Mobile farmers markets infuse fresh foods
Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Mobile farmers market serving ‘food deserts’ in EBR
We have just released a new feature that syncs Small Farm Central and Member Assembler mailing lists with MailChimp lists. This allows you to use our tools for CSA sign-up, accounting, etc. while using MailChimp's robust email marketing tools to send your weekly mailing lists, for example. Find this feature in your control panel under: Connect / Mailchimp Sync.
What is MailChimp?
MailChimp is a online mailing list service. MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results.
Why would you use it?
Small Farm Central offers mailing list tools with our website and Member Assembler products. Depending on your mailing list needs, you may want options that our basic mailing list tool does not provide. MailChimp is dedicated to great email marketing tools and provides additional features such as templates, statistics on how many people actually opened your email, and the ability to share your emails on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Small Farm Central has created a tool to allow you to sync your SFC generated lists, either user groups or Member Assembler member lists, with MailChimp. By combining these tools, you greatly expand the ways in which you can reach out to your members and other customers.
A basic MailChimp account is free of charge. As of this writing, the “Forever Free” account allows you to have up to 2000 people on your mailing lists and allows for 12,000 e-mails to be sent each month.
If you would need to expand beyond the 2000 subscribers, current plans start as low as $30 and these paid plans include unlimited emails.
A full Knowledge Base article can be found here.