I'm sure you've heard about the potential impacts of The Food Safety Modernization Act from other informational outlets, but we just wanted to remind you and link to some resources for more information. This is a good chance to get in touch with your customers or CSA members to tell them about the impacts that these regulations will have on your farm.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was a signed into a law back in 2011 and was the first revision of federal food safety laws in the United States since 1938. The Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA as it is also referred to, authorizes new farm regulations and gives the Food and Drug Association (FDA) new controls to prevent food safety issues and new power & responsibility to detect and respond to these issues.
There are two major regulations that will affect farm level producers, the Produce Rule, which outlines standards for produce production (growing, harvesting, packing, and holding) and the Preventative Controls Rule, which requires new safety measures for facilities that process (manufacture, pack, or hold) food for human consumption.
Passing this bill took a vote from Congress, but turning it into a law with rules and regulations has taken much longer. Now, the FDA has reached the rulemaking stage and has released a draft of these new rules which it is currently accepting public comments on. This is a critical time to weigh in on the proposed rules, since the final rules will affect all produce farms and food processing facilities across the country. However, time is running out as the comment period ends November 15th, 2013.
As with all new laws, the new regulations are being highly debated. Many people who have spoken out about FSMA feel that the new rules may be unfairly burdening family farmers and conflict with organic and sustainable growing practices.
FSMA will change the food system in America very soon, so it’s important to understand what’s going on. It's everyone's responsibility to speak up to make sure that our food supply remains safe, our natural resources are used sustainably and our family farmers are supported in their work. To learn more about FSMA check out some of these great resources:
The governemnt website about food safety issues can be found here (albeit not updated since 9/30/13): http://www.foodsafety.gov/news/fsma.html
The official Food and Drug Administration's webpage about the FSMA including factsheets: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm
They are even running a free webinar this Thursday, October 10th to help everyone stay informed: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/697410614
The journalists that make up www.foodsafetynews.com contribute news and opinion articles on FSMA: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/tag/fsma/#.UlMSGT-CpQ2
Welcome to 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. In this edition, we feature interns & volunteers at Earth Spring Farm.
"Our interns and Work Shares (volunteers who commit to working 6 hrs/week the entire season at the farm in exchange for a large box of produce each week), hard at work! They are packing CSA boxes in our barn for delivery the next morning."
- Jamie Flickinger, CSA Manager, Earth Spring Farm
We're very excited to roll out a new tool that many of you have asked about: a Member/User Login page for your farm website. Your members now have a one-stop shop that they can visit to review and edit their account information. Not only will it be convenient for your CSA members & website customers, but it also saves you the trouble of hunting down their information from your admin area and sending it to them. It will be useful for both Member Assembler sites and E-Commerce enabled sites.
To access their account information, members will log in at the same link they use to access private website areas. This is simply your website url with "/login" at the end (for example: http://www.farmnamehere.com/login). If you are using Member Assembler, a Member Login link has already been added to the Membership Actions widget which you can enable in your sidebar, if you don't have it there already. The Member/User Login looks like this:
Now, there will be two options: You can either assign your members or customers a password, or they can log in using an email address and then confirm their identity through a link. If you only want your users to use their password for access, you can disable the link option in the new administrative page for the Member/User Login at Administrate > Users > Member/User Login or Member Assembler > Members > Member/User Login. For a refresher about how to give your members passwords, check out the Assigning User Passwords article in the Knowledge Base.
Once your members log in they will see a page like this:
The settings that you have configured for your farm will determine what links and options your member sees here. Each of the links on the left side menu will bring up a new tab: Home includes the most common links your customer might want; Contact includes a list of the contact information for the membership or user with links to change their info; Memberships includes all of the details for their Member Assembler history, including the ability to update Member Types and link to a map of a Pickup Location address; Payments includes the entire history of your member's payments along with a link to make additional payments or change stored credit card information; Orders includes your member's entire history of invoices and store orders with line item details (see an example below); Boxes includes a view of any boxes you have built for the member's share types using the Box Builder; and Holds includes your member's history of scheduled vacations, temporary pickup changes and/or double box weeks.
If you don't want your customers to access any particular one of these tabs, you can change the settings at Administrate > Users > Member/User Login. Additionally you can customize a login page header which appears at the top of the Member Portal. This is a great way to post timely messages to your customers & members perhaps to remind them of an upcoming schedule change or a special offer.
It is our hope that customers will utilize this new feature often and cut down on the time you spend on customer/member support. We want to hear your feedback and suggestions on this new development so that we can continue to improve it's functionality. Feel free to let us know what's working and what could be better about the new Member/User Login page. Call 412-567-3864 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your suggestions lead to system improvements & new developments!
As we mentioned in the blog earlier this month, Small Farm Central is hosting a series of online webinars on various aspects of the Member Assembler service this fall. Join us next month to learn how to use new Member Assembler features, get a refresher about Member Assembler Seasons and to see a review of our current online payment options. Here is the schedule of sessions:
Walk through the process of creating your next Season for sign up. Tackling this task now means you can collect CSA members all winter long and have more time to prepare for next year. Get ahead of the game with help from our staff.
Explore the options for payment processing including invoice only payment, Member Assembler Payments with Authorize.net, Paypal and Dwolla. Learn about the costs and trade-offs of different approaches so you can decide what's best for your farm.
Come check out our most recent developments like the option for multiple quanties of your membership shares and the new Member/User login page. We'd love to hear your feedback on these recently released features, so join in the discussion!
While this will be most helpful for our current CSA farmers using Member Assembler who want to learn tips and tricks, we invite all farms interested in the service to sit in on the webinars as well. Everyone can learn something new about Member Assembler and how it makes managing your CSA member information quick and easy.
Register for the sessions that interest you by following this link!
As fall rolls in you are likely to have a lot on your mind and it's easy to become distracted by the mounting tasks of harvest time. That's why September is the perfect time to focus your attention on farm safety. The National Safety Council recognized this fact back in 1944 when they encouraged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign the first National Farm Safety and Health procalmation. Since then, we've recognized the second week in September as a time to pay closer attention to the daily hazards of farm work. The National Education Center For Agricultural Safety officially hosts the week and this year's theme is "Working Together for Safety in Agriculture" which reminds us of the old addage "safety in numbers". Working in teams and groups can take more coordination than working alone so that accidents don't increase. Each worker must make sure that their actions are safe, not only for themselves, but for the people around them. But, on the flipside, working with a companion can ensure that if an accident does happen, there is some around who can help.
There are some startling statistics about accidents and injuries that happen on farms. Even on a small scale it can be overwhelming to think of all the areas, machines, and equipment that are potentially hazardous on your farm. Here are some helpful resources to get you thinking about how you can take steps to make your farm safer for you, your family, your staff and your visitors:
In closing, we'd like to include a quote from the folks at the United Farmers Cooperative, because we couldn't have said it better:
"Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the world...In the upcoming months, workloads may get greater due to the harvest season. Please keep safety at the forefront of your daily activities. Have a safe harvest season."
-Small Farm Central
Welcome to 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. In this edition, we feature the hard working interns at Devon Point Farm.
"Devon Point Farm apprentices, Henna Garrison, Adam Petercsak, and Saba Juneja harvest broccoli raab for the farm's 200+ CSA farm share members."
- Patty Taylor, Devon Point Farm
In response to some great feedback from our farmers, we've introduced a new change to one of the core functions of Member Assembler. You may have already noticed it when you went to Create a New Season last week.
In the past, in order to have someone sign up for two or more shares, you will have had to create an option called something like "Double Share" and set the price for twice the cost of the regular share. We've now reprogrammed the Member Types so you can enable a type to have multiple quantity choices for each option. Signup for types like this will appear something like this:
This is a powerful new tool, especially for add-on type shares like eggs or meat. It provides more flexibility with your Member Types, as you can choose between enabling quantities or using the old method of creating options. In some cases, using the "option" method will be necessary, like if wanted to offer two shares at a lower cost than just twice the cost of a single share. The quantities simply act as multipliers that carry through to invoices, pickup labels, reports, and overall counts of shares. So, the cost of two shares will simply be double the cost of one, and so on.
Creating and editing your Member Types is still done at Member Assembler > Configure > Member Types. You will see the new options there. We will soon be offering some resources that will cover best practices for the feature and, of course, we'll be here to help you decide what's the best strategy for setting up your particular membership sign-up. Let us know what questions you have by calling 412-567-3864 or emailing us at email@example.com.
As summer turns to fall you're likely to be thinking about the upcoming autumn harvest, but we'd like to add an extra assignment to your workload: create a new Member Assembler Season. Whether you are offering shares for a Winter CSA or trying to retain your members for next year while they are still being seduced by sweet corn, now is the time to get set up for the next session of your CSA program. It may be ages since you were standing in front of a blackboard or had to carry textbooks on your back, but it's time to go back to school and refresh yourself with the Member Assembler curriculum.
The Small Farm Central Knowledge Base is a great place to start learning about helpful Member Assembler tools, especially the Member Assembler Tools section and the Creating Seasons document. If you just started to use Member Assembler this year, the concept of "Seasons" may be new to you, so here's your first lesson:
The Member Assembler system uses the concept of "Seasons" to delineate periods of time. Whenever it is time to start a new sign-up period you will create a new Season that holds all of the information for the shares that you offer during the period of time that you choose. For example, a Season could be a whole year, or just the few months that you offer your CSA program. This system of Seasons allows you to archive older data (which you can access when needed), allows you to create new pickup locations, new prices, and allows returning members to sign up again.
Creating your new Season now, instead of when things slow down this winter, allows you to get a head start on the sign-up process. Imagine the piece of mind you will have if all of your memberships for the spring have been bought and paid for even before the winter snow melts.
Stay tuned to the blog next week as we publish posts about some brand new Member Assembler features we're rolling out and for a schedule of upcoming Member Assembler focused webinars. Both are great opportunities to learn more about how our tools can help you prepare for your future CSA programs and really stay ahead of the class!
Greetings CSA farmers!
As one season ends and another begins, you might be thinking about ways to improve your CSA program. Perhaps you've been considering using Member Assembler to make your CSA sign-up faster and your program management easier. If you'd like to learn more about what Member Assembler can do, join us online to see it in action. Through this Fall we'll be offering live online demonstrations every Wednesday afternoon. This is a great chance for you to see the inside of Member Assembler and learn how the system can work for you, so sign up now.
Each demonstration will include a 20-30 minute live walk-through of how Member Assembler functions and will include highlights of some of it's most useful features. Afterwords, there will be time for Q & A, so you can ask us more specific questions about the software. Each session is limited to 10 farmers, so everyone is sure to get the chance to join in the discussion.
Sessions begin as early as Wednesday, September 11th. Reserve your spot today!
The retention rate is a key metric for a successful CSA program because it very accurately measures member happiness - satisfied members come back year after year - and determines how much effort and expenditure must be undertaken each Spring to attract new members. If your CSA can retain most of your members from year to year, there is little marketing to do and less member education each year because members know how to be CSA members. This was an important topic at the CSA Expert Exchange and something we need to continue to explore. It seems the farmers I talk to acknowledge that this is an important metric, but are unsure how to measure their rate and what they can do to nudge this rate higher.
There are a lot of different reasons that a CSA member leaves a CSA and the farmer does not have control over all of them. A few members move each year; some people are on vacation much of the summer, so a CSA doesn't make sense; some kids won't eat vegetables; and some members just like to try different CSAs each year. However, there is a percentage of the retention rate that a farmer can affect by delivering high quality produce, excellent customer service, and high community involvement, among other factors. I plan to keep exploring this issue this Fall by talking with managers of high retention CSAs and see if I can extract a little bit of their secret sauce. I'll report back here on the blog, so stay tuned.
Calculating Retention Rates in Member Assembler
Before evaluating how to improve a retention rate, you will need to what your current retention rate is. We have just built and released a new statistics tool in Member Assembler that calculates the retention rate of your CSA, assuming you have at least two seasons worth of membership data in the system. Find this new reporting under: Member Assembler / statistics / retention.
The report will then give an overall retention number (ie, what percentage of memberships in Season A also joined Season B) and break that down by pickup location, length of membership, and member types.
Here's a sample report: