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: email@example.com. Many thanks!" – Dr. Tim Woods, Extension Professor
The CSA Member of the Year Award brought us many stories of outstanding CSA members and the many ways that they support their farmers. You can read about the nominees on the CSA Expert Exchange website. While we want thank all of them for their commitment to Community Supported Agriculture, we chose J.R. and Ashley Hernandez as this year's winners. They will be recieving a $400 credit to use toward their CSA share at Riehm Farms.
J.R. and Ashley were nominated by their farmers, Diane & John Riehm, who had many examples of how the couple has made the farm an important priority in their life and helped out in times of need. Here are a few examples:
"JR and Ashley Hernandez approached us at the Bowling Green Farmers’ Market in 2011 to volunteer there services. JR was a line chef at the Bowling Green State University and could help along with his wife for the summer. They quickly became an advocates for our CSA. Ashley helps with display tables and seems to know a lot more people in the community than we do making the community connection for us. JR used his chef skills to help CSA members with recipes in 2013 and prepared samples for them to try each week during the CSA season. Ashley also took over writing the weekly newsletter, recruited CSA renewals to join the following years’ CSA, plus the weekly 4 hours they spend each week with us at the pick-up sight. All done after her full day at work."
You can read more about what the Reihms had to say about J.R. and Ashley here.
Thanks again to all the farmers who took the time to recognize some of their most passionate CSA members. These champions remind us all of how fantastic Community Supported Agriculture is!
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.