You're done taking signups and may have even delivered a few weeks of shares... it's official, the Summer CSA season is underway. While your CSA tasks shift from planning and marketing to harvesting and packing, your days will be dominated by the familiar tools and machinery of farm work.
But don't forget that Small Farm Central has it's own set of tools that you can use throughout the season to run a smooth CSA program. In addition to the Box Builder, which we talked about in the blog last week, this summer we'll be writing about other features of our websites and Member Assembler software that can make your season run smoothly.
Additionally, Small Farm Central wants to help your members get the information and tools that they need to be successful CSA subscribers, so look for more posts that include content that you can use on your websites and share through newsletters. Here are two videos that we created with simple cooking recipes for two of the early share items: radishes & asparagus.
Visit the Small Farm Central YouTube channel here: http://bit.ly/csafarmhandvids to view the video descriptions, which include full recipe instructions. To learn how you can embed these videos on your website, check out the article "Inserting HTML Code into Your Website" in the SFC Knowledge Base. Need some help? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more recipes and videos soon!
World Environment Day happens every year on June 5th and while it may not be as popular as its cousin, Earth Day, they are both centered around the idea of raising awareness for environmental protection issues.
This year's WED theme is "Think, Eat, Save: Reduce your Foodprint" and it aims to encourage people to become more aware of the environmental impact of food waste and food loss in the food supply. The World Environmental Day website has many suggestions for how people can make changes to reduce their "foodprint", and pinpoints buying naturally grown local foods one of the most important ones:
“Making informed decision means, for example, that you purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.”
Since your CSA members and Farmers' Market customers are already taking this vital first step, here are some other ways that you can help them to reduce their "foodprint" even further and prevent the sin of wasting the fruits of your labor, literally. In honor of World Environmental Day, consider adding the follwoing information to your website, or include it as a blurb in your next newsletter.
-Encourage food waste composting. If food must be tossed, this is the most responsile way to process it. You may even be able to accept food waste from your members for your own composting system, if your local government doesn't have restrict it.
-Educate about proper food storage and preservation. This can reduce the anxiety of recieving too much of something in their CSA and encourage customers to buy more seasonal items and freeze or can them for future use.
-Make meal planning easier. Use email to let people know what will likely be in their CSA share or availalbe at the next Farmers' Market. This helps your customers plan Meal planning and list-making reduces impulse purchase and over-buying, which can lead to uneated, waste food.
Happy World Environmental Day! Thanks for being good stewards of our Earth!
We quietly built and released a new feature for Member Assembler last Fall - the Box Builder. This tool allows a CSA to design each week's CSA box as far as what products will go into each size of box, target an overall box value, and then retrieve harvest amounts needed to fill the boxes for the week.
This feature is available in the control panel right now under: Member Assembler > Box Builder. Check out the Box Builder help document for more details about how to use this tool.
As May turns to June, many of our CSAs will start delivering CSA shares, so this tool will now become useful. This is certainly not a tool that you need to use with your CSA and the Member Assembler system does not force you to use this, but it may help you be more organized and keep precise records of what went into each box. It also spits out a report that you can hand directly to your field managers so they know what to pick for that delivery day.
We are still learning how people will use this tool, so please give me some feedback as you try out the box builder by emailing simon*at*smallfarmcentral.com. I am especially interested in what kinds of statistics you would like to gather from the system.
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/