Jul 19, 2012

Community is our Differentiator

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I visited Greg and the team at Blackberry Meadows Farm this week. They run a 100ish member CSA about 20 miles from Pittsburgh. His farm is focusing heavily on the community aspect to differentiate the farm from other CSAs in the area. We were talking about how many CSAs are allowing box customization and other schemes: Greg emphatically said, ".. they are still going to get the turnips from us!". He aims to offer cooking class and build a community of committed customers.

Here is community on display:
Interns, volunteers, and work share members weed beans in 90F+ heat!

Every Tuesday is a community work day that is followed by community lunch. Even better, some days they fire up the brick oven to bake pizzas!

I think the key to think about here is that there are many ways to differentiate your CSA. Offering more choice may be one way, but Blackberry Meadows is sticking firm as Pittsburgh's "Most Community-Oriented CSA".

Jul 16, 2012

Charging More for Credit Card Sales Now Allowed

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We think a lot about credit cards here at Small Farm Central because we help farmers take online orders for CSAs, buying clubs, and everything in between. We've written about credit cards a lot on the blog here, here, & here.

One approach that is popular with our CSAs is charging customers more to pay with credit cards versus paying by check or cash. This covers the bank fees for credit card transactions that can run as high as 3% or more of each transaction. This can make a lot of sense for a CSA share because it is such a large ticket item. However, until this point, charging extra for credit card sales was against the contract each merchant signs with Visa and Mastercard. This has changed:

The New York Times reports:

Under the credit-card settlement on Friday, worked out over months of negotiations, merchants can charge higher prices to consumers who decide to pay for their purchases with credit cards.

A customer, for example, who buys a $100 item with a credit card might be charged an additional $2.50. A judge still needs to approve the settlement.

Until now, the card companies banned merchants from adding such a surcharge, although gas stations and other retailers sometimes offered a discount for customers who paid in cash.

Kevin drum writes:

Until now, credit card companies used their monopoly power to prohibit this. Merchants could discount for cash, but their contracts with Visa and MasterCard flatly prohibited them from charging credit card customers more to cover the swipe fee — and card companies have been adamant about enforcing this prohibition. There's an obvious reason for this: they're afraid that if merchants are allowed to do this, people will use credit cards less. And if people use credit cards less, then banks and credit card companies make less money.
What's more, consumers and merchants get a lot of benefits from credit cards: consumers get convenience and merchants get guaranteed payment. No more bounced checks! Maybe a 2.5% fee is a reasonable price for those benefits.
Some merchants will almost certainly start charging more for credit card purchases, and after a period of experimentation we'll end up in a new equilibrium. What will it be? Perhaps consumers will start avoiding stores that charge for using credit cards, and those stores will lose enough business that they'll give up. Or maybe they'll gain enough cash business that everyone else will follow suit. Maybe merchants will end up charging higher prices for small items but routinely waive the fees for larger purchases. Maybe stores in competitive markets will swallow the fees while other stores don't. Or vice versa. Or maybe it will end up putting pressure on banks and card companies to lower swipe fees and then everything will revert to the status quo, but with no more ridiculous rewards programs. (This is my preferred outcome: keep the convenience of electronic payment, but with swipe fees basically covering the cost of running the network, not acting as a hidden profit center.)

So you can now legally charge extra for a customer paying with credit, a practice many CSAs have already implemented, but of course it is a trade-off. I'll save thinking about the balance of the trade-off for another post!

Jul 2, 2012

New Premium Template Available

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We have a new Small Farm Central template ready. This one was designed by our very own Shannon who you may have had the pleasure of interacting with if you are a current Small Farm Central customer. For most of our designs, we hire outside design firms so it was nice to do this one in-house.

We are calling it "Polaroid".

See below for a sample screenshot or visit the sample page at

Let us know what you think!

Jun 19, 2012

Creative CSA Marketing Found in Bathroom

Posted by: Small Farm Central

The following poster was found in the bathroom of a local eating establishment:

Although the placement in the bathroom is an interesting touch, that is not why I think it is particularly creative. When Clarion River Organics printed these posters, they left a space for "pick up at" blank to be written in for each poster. So when I look at this poster, assuming I live in the neighborhood, I know exactly where I can pick up my share. This is really smart because many people will choose a CSA largely on the basis of pickup proximity.

With the wonders of mapping software on phones, they could take this the extra mile and put the distance from this location to the drop-off (ie 0.76 miles from here) in case it is not immediately obvious to the reader where Hampton Avenue is.

Try this with your posters and let me know how it works!

Jun 8, 2012

Hearing from Fisheries after CSF Summit

Posted by: Small Farm Central

The National Summit on Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) was last week in Rye, New Hampshire. We've been working with a couple of CSFs over the years such as Off the Hook & Eastman's Fish with our Member Assembler service that works as well for fisheries as farmers.

Apparently Member Assembler was heavily mentioned because we've spent a lot of time talking with CSFs this week! It is inspiring that fisheries -- maybe one of the few industries with more challenges than agriculture -- are working off of the momentum that small-scale agriculture has created to find their customers and community.

May 29, 2012

Pickup Handling Fees for E-Commerce

Posted by: mikecuccaro

It's Farmers Market time once again and many of you will be delivering your produce to different locations, both near and far. But sometimes the price of delivering to the most convenient spots for your customers is felt pretty hard at the gas pumps. So, we've added on a new option for E-Commerce which you can find under your Shipping configuration: Pickup Handling Fees.

Whatever pickup locations you've already created will show up here for you to set any surcharge for orders. Just enter the dollar amounts and save and the fee will be automatically added to the orders - both in your online store and, if you choose, in orders you create through the admin. You don't have to set a fee for each location. Say, for people picking up right at the farm, you can set it to $0. But for that one market on the other side of the state, a small surcharge will help defray your costs of trucking everything over there. This also may be a nice solution to justify serving locations where you have a lot of loyalty but not a lot of sales volume.

Being on the road this time of year is necessary, but can often feel like unproductive time away from your farm. If there are any other options you can think of ways we can help make it more profitable for you, please contact us with suggestions.

May 22, 2012

American Meat Screening, Wednesday night at 7pm in Pittsburgh

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Small Farm Central and Penns Corner Farm Alliance are sponsoring a screening of "American Meat" to benefit PASA on Wednesday night. I know most of you are not in Pittsburgh, so you will not be able to join us. However, if you are, please come and join us at the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland at 7pm for a happy hour and then the movie.

Full details can be found on the Penns Corner blog

Here is the poster that was put together for the event:

May 21, 2012

Help Us Decorate the Small Farm Central office

Posted by: Small Farm Central

As we make some changes to our office space here in Pittsburgh, we would like to get some large format photos of our subscriber farms printed to put on our walls. It's a good reminder day-in-and-day-out of the reach of our network and the people that we are working for.

Right now, we have strings of 4"x6" photos on the walls that look a bit like this:

However, there are some open walls right now and we are getting some new space that is just right for some large format images.

We need you to help us! Do you take great, high-resolution photos of your farm? (Any file directly from your digital camera will be high quality enough for us.) Are you willing to be featured on the walls of the Small Farm Central office? Please send over 2-3 of your best shots in the original format from your digital camera and we'll post a blog entry with the ones we chose to put on our walls.

Submit images to Thanks for helping us decorate!

May 7, 2012

Working with Who Cooks For You Farm

Posted by: shannon

We had the pleasure of helping out at Who Cooks For You Farm last week; it always feels good to get out of the office and remind ourselves of the hard work that our customers do every day. Special thanks to Chris & Aeros who allowed us to help out and feed us lunch!

Green onions harvested.

Greenhouse work.

We hope your early season harvest work is going well! Here's to a great spring and summer for all of our farmers!

Apr 23, 2012

Our New and Improved Pick Up List Tool

Posted by: mikecuccaro

Have you seen our new and improved Pickup List tool for the Member Assembler? Among the new features:

  • Exclude certain member types from a list (for example, hide Week B pick-ups in a bi-weekly CSA)
  • Print columns with future pickup dates so you can leave the list at the pick-up location and have members mark their names off each week.
  • Include information about items ordered in the ecommerce store over a specified time frame to make "extras" ordering even easier.
  • Create and save a pickup list that includes multiple pick-up locations so you can send a whole list along with the delivery truck.
  • And more!
One CSA manager claimed that this new tool saved her six hours during the first week of CSA pickups. Lets see how!

1. Head to Member Assembler  /  Members  /  Pickup Lists.

With our new and improved system, you can create super specific lists, which will help when packing boxes!

2. Most of the time, you will likely choose 'Just Pickup Lists' but this new system also has the ability to generate packing labels to print onto Avery sheets to stick on boxes.

3. Here's a major time-saver. Instead of having to do each pickup location individually, choose as many pickup locations that you want all at once. The generator is smart enough to know what days your pickups are on and will adjust all the dates accordingly.

4. If you want to display what options members have chosen, choose which types to display.

5. You can now exclude members with specific options. For example: You might have split shares, so you don't want to see those members on a particular pickup week.

6. Choose the range of dates for the pickup lists. You could print out the next two weeks or the whole season or just next week's pickups. The generator will get the right dates according to your pickup days.

7. You can choose any sort of info you'd like to have on your list, by checking the checkbox. These will appear as columns on the list.

8. Have customers that ordered Extras? The new Pickup List tool will now pull those from the ecommerce section and add it to the lists. Enter the date of how far back you'd like to include Extras orders. Orders from that day through the time you generate the lists will be included on the list.

9. Add any custom text that the delivery driver or site manager or customer should see when they get the list. Some farmers have even added their logo here to brand each page as it is printed.

10. You can now save all of these choices as well so you don't have to duplicate your work as the season goes on. Just pick a name for the list at the end and it will be saved automatically. Later, when you return to the generator, you can just click that name to go right to your lists.

We've rebuilt these pickup lists according to a lot of the feedback we've gotten from a variety of farmers. We've heard they are already saving them lots of time and we hope they will do the same for you!


  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    1 year 16 weeks ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    1 year 17 weeks ago


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