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.
I have been thinking a lot about how video can teach people about how to prepare good food and how video can be used as marketing for farms and CSAs. I came across the great video from Kitchen Vignettes. Not a single word is spoken. It is just video of harvesting, chopping, and packing sauerkraut. This is great! You can embed this on your site or send the link to people:
The URL is: https://vimeo.com/49789524
Here is the video:
We've heard from several of our customers who operate on Apple products that they have had a problem generating an Excel spreadsheet export of data in their admin: orders, members, invoices, etc. We believe we have corrected the issue and you should be able to generate exports now without issue. There will just be one extra step, however, when you open the file and that is to choose the delimiter: Just choose tab, not comma or semi-colon. Many of your notes and other fields in your data use commas so to get everything to line up in the right place, you need to select tab and only tab. Please let us know if you need any help with this or if you continue to have problems with exports.
In our last blog post we told you about the Slow Money Alliance’s 'Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year Award' contest and asked you to help us out by voting online here: http://bit.ly/XVT97v
The end of the online voting is near! (Tuesday April 16th to be exact.) That means that there is not much time left to show your support for Small Farm Central and help us to create a ‘Fresh Food Fund’ with the winnings.
There has been some serious competition and in the past two weeks SFC has climbed up and down the ladder of the competition. We are currently in 8th place out of 25 contestants. Getting as many votes as we can will help us in the contest, which will also be determined by an audience vote at the Slow Money Alliance National Gathering and by a jury.
Thanks to all of our friends who have voted so far and don’t forget to show your support one last time: http://bit.ly/XVT97v
Big News! The Slow Money Alliance is now entering all people who voted on Monday and who vote today, Tuesday in a contest to win $100. Go Vote now!
-The Small Farm Central Team
Greetings friends & farmers!
Small Farm Central has been invited to attend in the Slow Money Summit at the end of the month and be featured in their Entrepreneur Showcase. With this honor comes the opportunity to win the 'Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year Award'.
If chosen as the winner, Small Farm Central will use $25,000 of the award to create a 'Fresh Food Fund'. The fund would be used to purchase CSA shares from our farmers that will then be delivered to low-income members of our communities and to local food pantries.
You can help us win this award by showing your support and voting for Small Farm Central on Facebook here: http://bit.ly/XVT97v. More importantly, you can show your support by sharing this information with your network of CSA members, and/or mailing list members. We have included some shareable information below and on our online toolkit page, but to make it even easier simply login to your Control Panel and click the link on the homepage to automatically generate an email that you can edit and send to your user groups.
We hope that you will help us in this endeavour to connect farmers to food banks, and to provide fresh, high-quality food to our neighbors in need.
-The Small Farm Central Team
Text you can email to your members and customers:
Our farm uses the technology services of a company called Small Farm Central.
They contacted us to let us know about an opportunity they have to raise $25,000, which they will use to buy CSA shares which will be delivered to low-income families and food pantries across the country.
But to get this funding, they need your votes! Read the text below how you can help.
Small Farm Central has a chance to win the 'Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year Award' at the Slow Money Summit at the end of April, which comes with a cash prize of $50,000! We would like to use the award money to support small farms & local communities, but we need your help to win!
How will this help?
If chosen as the winner, Small Farm Central will use $25,000 of the award to create a 'Fresh Food Fund'. The fund will be used to buy CSA shares from our farmers that will then be delivered to low-income members of our communities and to local food pantries.
What do I do?
Simply give us your vote on Facebook here: http://bit.ly/XVT97v to help our chances at winning. You can vote every 24 hours! And don't forget to pass this on to your friends so they can vote too. To help you, we’ve created a toolkit page full of content that’s easy to share with your networks.
This is a win-win-win, so help us help our farmers & local communities!
-The Small Farm Central Team
Want to learn more? Here are some helpful links:
Small Farm Central: www.smallfarmcentral.com
Slow Money: http://slowmoney.org/
Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year Award on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SlowMoney? sk=app_177914495580579
Mamma Chia: http://www.mammachia.com/
(We've been doing a series of signature recipes from members of the Small Farm Central staff. See the staff page for the other signature recipes.)
Today's signature recipe is Shannon's Green Smoothie! Shannon is recently back from maternity leave after having baby Edith around the New Year.
Need a detox? Sometimes a cool smoothie, packed with mango & spinach, is just what the doctor orders. Plus, cramming in a serving of vegetables is always a plus! Just make sure you puree it a bunch, so it's nice & smooth!
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 big handful of raw spinach
1/2 cup of water or milk
1 tablespoon sugar (or agave syrup. or a date.)
Throw all the ingredients into a blender and puree for a few minutes.
On Friday, March 15th, Small Farm Central and PASA held our first online CSA Expert Exchange with presentations by Elizabeth Henderson, Lynne Rossetto Kasper of Splendid Table, Gary Brever of Ploughshare Farm, Jody Bolluyt and Jean-Paul Courtens from Roxbury Farms and our very own Simon Huntley. We crammed a lot of material into a four-hour session. Overall the feedback has been extremely positive and we think it helped stimulate a lot of great conversations about the state of Community-Supported Agriculture in 2013. Here is some feedback we received 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), 61% of respondents said it was very useful, with an overall rating of 4.44.
“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), 49% of respondents said it was a very good value, with an overall rating of 4.02.
“Do you feel the material was appropriate for your experience levels?”
Almost 89% of respondents said the material was “just right” with the remaining 11% 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, 80% of respondents said that the “Format worked out well.”
Based on this response, we will definitely be working on more online events in the future. We asked our attendees what format they would like future events to have – a multi-hour single day event, three one-hour evening sessions during the spring, or a series of one-hour sessions over the course of the year. While the majority of respondents (70%) said they would prefer the single day event, there was also significant support for the other options as well. We are currently a series of shorter one-hour sessions throughout the year along with a more comprehensive multi-hour event again next year in late-winter/early-spring.
Some topics that respondents wanted to hear more about included: how to select and purchase equipment, packing and distribution methods, marketing your CSA, hosting a successful on-farm member event, general workflow efficiency, and legal issues.
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.
Member Assembler farmers and fishers, did you happen to notice a seemingly small addition to the top of every page in your Member Assembler control panel?
Go ahead and type all or part of one of your members' names or email address. Or try some text of a Member Assembler tool where you would like to navigate to like "payments" or "export". We built this to save you time in navigating around your control panel because we know how little time you are going to have, very soon!