The American Farmland Trust is running it's "I Love My Farmers Market" campaign again this summer in order to continue to raise awareness about supporting local farms. The campaign asks market-goers to pledge their commitment to their local market by recording what they anticipate spending that week.
Check out their infographic about the increase in Farmers Markets across the country and visit their website to learn how you can get involved in the campaign.
Check out these beautiful stamps that will be offered by the United States Postal Service in August:
The stamps were designed by artist director Greg Breeding and illustrator Robin Moline to honor "America's agricultural bounty" and to commemorate the long tradition of farmer's markets across the country. The following description of markets accompanied the amouncement of the stamps at the end of May:
"Stalls brimming with fresh produce, shoppers engaged in conversation with vendors, neighbors catching up on news—farmers markets are so much more than just places to buy fruits and vegetables. They are spaces that foster community, support small farms, and boost local economies, and they offer consumers the opportunity to interact directly with the people who produce their food."
These stamps make the gang here at Small Farm Central want to stop sending emails and start sending more letters! We think they would be great to use in mailing campaign to your customers. For farmers using the FarmFan Rewards Program they could even be used as one of the incentives for your fans. For example: earn 175 points and trade them in for a book of 20 farmers market stamps!
1. Live Chat Support. When one of our support staff is available, you will see a chat option on the lower right of your control panel so you can ask for help with whatever you are working on at that moment.
2. Custom Form Answers on Member Assembler Pickup Lists. You can optionally include a column for any of the answers your members supplied during their signup process. This would be most useful if people marked themselves vegan, for instance, or noted any allergies.
3. Checkout Coupon Counts. With Member Assembler checkout coupons, there is a count of how many invoices are using each coupon along with a list of the invoices for you to track use or abuse of a code.
4. Archived User Groups. When you archive user groups now, they will move to their own list rather than staying on one gigantic list. This way you can more easily access whatever groups are currently relevant.
5. Payment Request Emails. You can save the text of a new payment request email to use as a default in future payment requests.
6. Deleted Members. If you've accidentally deleted a Membership you can type "Deleted" in your Search box on the upper-right of your control panel to find a list of Deleted Members. You also have access to all of the Member Notes for that member should you need to recreate their details.
7. E-Commerce Calculated Shipping. You can add on an additional Handling Fee to cover your costs when using the UPS/FedEx/USPS calculator for E-Commerce shipping rates.
We Love Our Farmers! And we love seeing photos of what's goin on "down on the farm". With April feeling more like March this year, we're glad that May is finally bringing us the weather we've been waiting for. Everything is blooming, hatching, and arriving. Here is a photo of a new lamb from The Farm Institute in Massachusetts.
"This is a Katahdin ewe and her lamb. Katahdins are heritage breed hair sheep that shed instead of needing to be sheared. The farm institute raises 100% grassfed lamb on their nonprofit teaching farm on Martha's Vineyard." - Julie Olson Scott, The Farm Institute
While it's still a little rainy and gray in some place on this first day of May, the weather's not stopping farmer's at markets across the country from beginning to open their stalls for the season. Eager customers have begun to pull their tote bags out of closets and dust off their favorite shopping baskets in anticipation of Spring's bounty. This year, however, they'll be sure to bring a new tool to market in their purses and pockets, their mobile phone. In their bags and baskets they may gather groceries, but their cell phone will help them collect something new from their favorite farmer: rewards points.
FarmFan gives farmers and vendors the tools to drive more traffic to their market with reminder text messages, a customer rewards program, and valuable sales data. You will more about who your customers are, what they like, and reward them for shopping with you! Learn more on the FarmFan website and by watching this short video:
FarmFan has been in a beta release period since January with 20 farms across the country, and we've been learning and tweaking to get FarmFan ready for Spring. As we tested the software at winter markets, the reception from farmers and customers was overwhelmingly positive! Check out some of the testimonials from fellow farmers here.
Back on March 6th and 7th, Small Farm Central along with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture held our second annual CSA Expert Exchange online conference. This year's event was held over two days. We had about 130 people register for the event overall. About 50 people attended the event live during the Thursday night sessions and about 90 attended live during Friday's daytime sessions. The sessions were recorded and are available for all registrants to watch and re-watch at their leisure.
The Thursday night sessions were focused on new farmers and those new to Community-Supported Agriculture. We had two sessions – one featuring Dave Liker from Gorman Produce Farm who talked about the first five years of his farm and CSA in Columbia, MD. Dave discussed the challenges of taking his farm from just a couple dozen CSA members their first year to over 400 over the next four years. Then Shannon Jones from Broadfork Farm in River Hebert, Nova Scotia presented on their experience finding proper farming land to purchase. Her story highlighted many of the challenges faced by farmers looking to find land including water and soil issues and the indifference of banks and other lending institutions in helping out young farmers.
Friday's sessions began with Karla Pankow of Bossy Acres farm in Northfield, MN, talking about how best to use marketing and social media to get the word out about your CSA and building connections with your members. Chris Brockel from CSA FairShare Coalition in Madison, WI talked about what it means to be a CSA coalition and the projects that their group has worked on to improve CSA's for both members and farmers in Wisconsin. Then there was a session on the legal issues faced by CSA farmers presented by Rachel Armstrong from Farm Commons. Pam Dawling, who writes for Growing For Market, talked about crop planning with an eye on ensuring the necessary timing of product and growing the right mix of product to meet your customers' needs while still making a profit. The day's activities were capped off with Michael Kilpatrick of Kilpatrick Farms in Middle Granville, NY, talking about the growing trend towards customizable CSA's and some of the different models that are currently being used.
We've learned quite a bit over the two years of doing this conference. We feel strongly that this is a great way of using technology to bring a variety of people together to learn about how to continually improve the CSA model. The online conference model allows farmers across the US, Canada and beyond to get together without the time and financial costs associated with going to an in-person conference. Over the course of the coming months we'll be analyzing how we can make improvements to the conference. We'll be looking for our next batch of “experts” to work with for 2015 and we'll be looking for new ways to make the conference engaging and educational for the CSA community.
We want to again thank all off the presenters for sharing their knowledge and PASA for their help in making the conference happen. This year we also worked with some great farming organizations that have helped get the word out about the conference including AgSquared, Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), FairShare CSA Coalition, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the Land Stewardship Project, and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming. Thanks to them for their support.
Here's some feedback from our post-conference survey:
“How useful was the CSA Expert Exchange? What was your overall impression of the event?”
On a scale of 1 (not useful) to 5 (very useful), 35.7% of respondents said it was very useful, with an overall rating of 4.0.
“Based on the price you paid for the conference, do you feel this was a good value?”
On a scale of 1 (not a good value) to 5 (very good value), 26.9% of respondents said it was a very good value, with an overall rating of 3.5.
“Do you feel the material was appropriate for your experience levels?”
77% of respondents said the material was “just right” with the remaining 23% saying the material was “too basic”.
“Did you find the format of the online conference worked well? Did you have any problems?”
While there were a number of concerns and suggestions about how to improve the online format, 76.% of respondents said that the “Format worked out well.”
“Would you register for another CSA Expert Exchange?”
70.4% of respondents said they would attend another CSA Expert Exchange.
The archived video version of the event is still available if you are interested in still checking out the conference. To purchase the archived version, go here.
If you didn't attend this particular event but have feedback on what you'd like to see from future online seminars and conferences, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Here is a roundup of information that can help you with your final membership push as we close in on the beginning of CSA season. (If you haven't started already!)
- Member Assembler has a great tool for sending renewal reminder emails to past members. Read about it in the Member Renewal Time blog post from last March.
- The article "Finding and Keeping your CSA Members", from the Penn State Extension, outlines how your marketing tactics should be driving potential members to your farm website so that they can learn more and sign up.
-Facebook and Twitter are great ways to get quick messages out to your followers about how many available shares you have. Try a countdown campaign to push people to sign up before your CSA is sold out. Knowing that there are only a few slots left can encourage people to act quickly. Not familiar with social media tools yet? Check out this list of resources from The Land Connection.
-Tap your network. Encourage those members who have already signed up to reach out to their friends and family and offer them a referral incentive. Maybe it's an extra item in their first box, or credit they can use at your farmstand. Check out Norman's Farm Market's customer referral program. To make it easy for your members to encourage friends to join, send them an email which includes pre-written text about your CSA that they can easily forward on to their contacts. Don't forget to include instructions for the new member on how to name their referrer (You can add a "Who referred you?" question to your Member Assembler custom form). You might even want to include an incentive for the new member, just to sweeten the deal.
Good luck filling those last few slots!
Earlier this year we announced the development of new Member Assembler tools that allow you to set up a "Buy-Down" or "Market Style" CSA program. We also mentioned that more options for custom programs, like a "You Pick" CSA, were on their way. These new tools are now live in your Control Panel and we're hosting a webinar tutorial this month, so that you can learn how they work. Join Small Farm Central Senior Developer Mike Cuccaro on Wednesday April 23rd from 2:00pm to 3:00pm EST for a live demonstration on our new Buy-Down and Customizable CSA tools. The demonstration will cover the following topics:
-What is a buy-down/market-style CSA?
-How to create a buy-down Member Type
-The auto-assignment of Store Credit
-Departmental privacy settings
-Demonstration of shopper experience
-What is a customized box CSA?
-How to create items with $0 prices
-Enabling/disabling departments & privacy settings
-Setting checkout rules
-Reporting methods: MA Pickup lists, E-commerce new options
The demonstration will also include helpful tips and a question and answer session.
To register for the demonstration, click here or visit:
If you can't join us, read all about these new features in the following articles found in the Small Farm Central Knowledge Base:
Configuring a Buy-Down or Credit Style CSA
Ecommerce Advanced Checkout Rules (Configuring Customizable CSA Options)
There are a lot more farmers markets these days and lot more choices when a family wants to buy fresh, seasonal food. It's great that the rest of world has caught on to the fact that eaters want high-quality food on their plates, but this buffet of choices is one reason that farmers market sales are slack these days at some markets. This is not a foregone conclusion -- your sales at market can get better.
Farmers markets (in addition to CSAs) are still the best way for eaters to connect with farmers and get the freshest local food. It's just that a new approach is needed to get customers to come to the market.
This Spring, we have a new approach for you: FarmFan. FarmFan is a loyalty rewards and text message notification app for farmers market vendors and retail farm markets with the goal of helping you sell more to your best customers.
FarmFan will help you launch and manage a loyalty program where customers get points for shopping and then rewards at farm-generated point levels. In addition, as customers join the FarmFan program, they can opt-in the receive a short text message from you right before each week's market. This combination of rewards and communication drives traffic and sales to your stand.
We are currently in beta testing with 20 farms across the country and FarmFan will be available for anyone starting on May 1st. I encourage you to check out the website at:
Or, sign up for the 5-day email course where I'll teach you how to sell more the FarmFan way:
If you manage a CSA program that has been running for at least two years, please consider taking just a couple of minutes to weigh in on the National CSA Managers Survey. This survey will help document the changes that have been taking place in the CSA business model across the country. Participation is needed from as many CSA operations as possible in order to look at changes across regions and by characteristics of the CSAs themselves.
Don't worry, the survey is short! You'll answer 19 questions and it should take less than 10 minutes.
Here is the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CSAManager
The target closing date is March 31, 2014, so don't wait!
This national project is funded by USDA-AMS and conducted, in part, through the University of Kentucky. A summary report will be made available by the end of May, posted to the USDA-AMS site and also at the UK Center for Crop Diversification, www.uky.edu/ag/newcrops. Small Farm Central will be sure to post about the results on the blog, so stay tuned!
Here's a little farmer love from one of the folks working on the study:
"I’m grateful for your commitments to local food and the CSA business model and hope you will help reflect your perceptions and experiences here. Questions about the survey itself or subsequent reports can be directed to me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks!" – Dr. Tim Woods, Extension Professor