Blog

Sep 29, 2011

Member Assembler 2012 Will Include Ecommerce Tools

Posted by: Small Farm Central

There is a lot of ecommerce news lately! We've talked about the new features we've added and the pros and cons of Authorize.net.

Next up, all Member Assembler accounts in 2012 will include access to the ecommerce tools to sell items to their members at no cost beyond the normal service fees for Member Assembler. We are trying to make it as easy as possible to service your customers and drive sales, so it was a no-brainer to package these services together and remove another barrier to your entry into the world of online sales.

If you are already delivering CSA boxes to your customers, selling "extra" items like honey, flour, or soaps is an obvious way to get great products into the hands of your customers that do not make sense for a CSA box. It is also a way to drive a little extra income for your CSA! Our ecommerce tool takes all of the burden of the ordering aspect of this off your shoulders -- so it is just up to you to print the report and figure out the logistics of actually getting the product into your customer's hands.

It's not just "extras" sales, the ecommerce tool could be used as full CSA box customization if you want to allow your customers to do this! Box customization is another logistical hurdle but I know many CSAs are moving in this direction as competition for CSA customers increases.

I just wrote up an extensive "how-to" on setting up your online store for sales to your Member Assembler customers. Read it here:
http://www.smallfarmcentral.com/help/csa-sales-how-to

We're looking forward to another great year of Member Assembler -- our industry leading CSA member management tool -- let us know if you have any questions on the service generally or the changes we are making for 2012.

Sep 27, 2011

Better Email Deliverability with Amazon SES

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are always working with the newest technology to improve our services for our farmers. One of our latest innovations is adding support for Amazon SES to improve our email service.

What is Amazon SES?
Amazon SES (stands for Simple Email Service) allows web applications like ours to quickly send and deliver large amounts of email. They handle a lot of compliance and technology to make sure that each email is delivered and that it goes into the inbox of your customer, rather than the SPAM filter.

Why Amazon.com?
Amazon.com has many aspects to it's business; it's not just about online retail. One area they have moved into over the past few years is providing "cloud based" services to technology companies like ours. Many of the sites you visit on the a daily basis use Amazon.com's web tools for file storage, computing power, and more.

Getting Started
If you already have a Small Farm Central account, you don't need to do much. Login to your control panel and navigate to:
Connect / mailing list / SES Support

Choose the email address that you use as the FROM field when you send mailing list emails and click 'Send Verification Email Now'. At this point, Amazon SES will send you a message to your inbox and all you need to do is click on the verification link in that email. That will approve your email address to be used by SES and from here on out, it will be completely transparent to you and all your mailing list emails will go through SES.

To verify that Amazon.com SES has been set up correctly, navigate to:
Connect / mailing list / send mail
Now take a look in the FROM drop-down menu. The email address will look something like this:
"youremail@farmer.com --SES Verified--"

The "--SES Verified--" label will tell you that all email from that address is going out through Amazon SES. It may take an hour or two after verifying the email address for the SES verified text to show up in the dropdown menu.

How much does it cost?
This service is included in your normal service fees for websites, ecommerce, and Member Assembler so you will not be charged at all for this service.

Sep 27, 2011

Thinking about Authorize.net for credit card processing?

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We've had a lot of inquiries over the past few days about using Authorize.net for credit card processing on Small Farm Central sites. It's great to hear the interest, but we need to put a little bit more information out there about the advantages and disadvantages of using this advanced checkout option.

Some items to consider:

  • This is a full-blown credit card processor that requires a merchant account with a bank.
  • There are monthly fees that authorize.net charges (in the range of $40/month).
  • You may get rates as low as 1.7% for some credit cards (such as a standard VISA card), but it is not as simple as that. Each card will have a different rate; it can be as high as 3.5% in some cases (such as American Express). These rates are negotiated with your bank and we cannot guarantee any rates.
  • You can use the same authorize.net account for ecommerce payment processing as for Member Assembler.
  • As a rule of thumb, if you are doing less than $50K per year of credit card processing, Paypal is still a better option as far as your rate per transaction.
  • Customers will never leave your site to make a payment when using Authorize.net; all credit card numbers are sent securely through SSL encryption.
  • It takes time to set up an Authorize.net account and get a merchant processing account with your bank. Be prepared for a little bit of education on credit card processing as you are evaluating your options -- of course we are there to help when you have questions. Expect a minimum of 7-10 days to get everything set up.
  • Once you have a merchant account and an authorize.net account, you can easily take payments through an online terminal or even get set up to have a swipe machine at your farm stand.

For the right farm, Authorize.net is a great option, but it is important to remember that there are some extra costs and extra set-up time. Contact us to get started with authorize.net. For more info read the following help docs:

Further documentation:
-Paypal vs. Authorize.net price comparison
-Authorize.net for Member Assembler
-Checkout options explained

Sep 21, 2011

New E-Commerce Tools!

Posted by: mikecuccaro

We've got some good news for folks who are using Small Farm Central's e-commerce and those who are thinking about starting it up. We've just completed a wide variety of upgrades and new features to really expand your capabilities to sell your products and services through your web site. Log in to your site and see what you think!

Here are some of the highlights:

Live Shipping Calculation for UPS, FedEx, and USPS:

Your customers will now see a variety of shipping options, whichever ones you've chosen out of UPS, FedEx, and USPS services. When your customer checks out, the cart shows the live-calculated retail rates for those shippers.

shopping cart

Coupons:

You can now create coupons to pass to your customers that can be for a percentage discount, flat amount discount, or for free shipping. You have full control over what dates and times the coupon is valid for and for what minimum amount of order.

Live Credit Card Processing:

You now have another option for setting up your checkout - live credit card processing through Authorizenet. Whatever credit cards your merchant account is set up to receive, you can limit on your checkout page. Small Farm Central will be happy to help you set up a merchant account through Authorizenet and configure secure server encryption protocols for your web site. Payments made through Authorizenet or PayPal are also now recorded for your users in the Payments and Balances administration.

checkout

"Sold Out" Messages:

Many of you have mentioned that you would like to still show customers "what they missed" when your inventory runs out of product. Now, under your Departments administration, you can set your own message to display when items, or even just specific options below items, sell out.

Streamlined Item and Inventory Management:

Instead of having to go to multiple areas to create an item and also put that item into your stores' inventories, now you can do it all at once: either through the new item creation/edit page or the new inventory management page.

Even items with options can be updated all at once to save you time. It is easier than ever to get away from the computer and back out farming!

If you have any questions or concerns at all about how to get started with the new tools, please give us a call at 412.567.3864 or email us.

Sep 16, 2011

Member Assembler FAQ No. 1: How do I collect balances from a subscriber that owes me money?

Posted by: shannon

Does one of your customers have a remaining balance that you'd like to remind them about (and receive?!) It's easy to send payment requests through Member Assembler. Here's how:

1. Head to Member Assembler in your Control Panel and click on Accounting / Payment Request.

2. Click on Add New Payment Request in the yellow bar.


3. Walk through the questions.
- What Type of Payment Request is this? Is this a set amount? (do you need a customer to pay set amount such as $100?) or is this a percentage? (would you like your customer to pay a percentage of their remaining balance such as 50%). If you want them to pay all of their remaining balance, use 100%.
- User Must Have Type: Did you want this payment request to go out to everyone? (No Member Type Narrowing); or just to your ½ shares? The pull down menu will populate all the member types you offer.
- Payment Request Email Subject: Enter in the subject title for the email (For example: Remaining Balance info for your CSA
Now it's time to draft what the email will say. You’ll see some crazy looking variables (like this: %%primary-member-name%%) Don't delete these. These will populate for each of your members.
For this example, your member's name will be populated between the %%)) There a number of different variables you can add:
%%primary-member-name%% - The name of the primary user in the membership.
%%payment-request-amount%% - The amount of the payment request.
%%current-balance%% - The balance of the membership before any payment has been made.
%%cc-payment-url%% - A unique link to your website for the member to pay online with Paypal or Member Assembler payments (Authorize.net). Remember to delete this variable if you are not using credit card processing.
%%member-id%% - The unique number that identifies a particular member.

When you're asking for a request for payment, you could enter this into the body of your email:
%%primary-member-name%%, We are requesting a payment of %%payment-request-amount%%. Your current balance is %%current-balance%%. Click the following link to pay online with your credit card: %%cc-payment-url%%
Sincerely,

Your Farm Name here.

4. Click on Save and Select Users


This next screen, you'll get to see a preview of what your message is going to look like. If you see anything you'd like to change, click on "edit this payment request" in the yellow box. The final step is to select the members that should receive the payment request. This list should be populated from your “User Must Have Type:” section, from the previous screen. Simply click on the box to 'check' it, next to any of the names you'd like the email to go to.

Click on Send Email to send the email.

Still need help? We're happy to answer questions. Give us a call at 412.567.3864 or email us at support@smallfarmcentral.com.

Sep 15, 2011

Greenhorns Screening Poster

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Here is the poster for the Greenhorns screening I just mentioned!

SFC Filmfinal Web
Sep 15, 2011

We're Sponsoring a Screening of the Greenhorns October 6th

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I know not too many of you are in Pittsburgh, but we're putting together a screening of the new documentary about young farmers called 'The Greenhorns' on October 6th at the Melwood Screening Room. I've met Severine (the creator of the movie) at various farm conferences over the years -- I think everyone at these conferences meets Severine. She has the kind of personality that meets everyone.

"The Greenhorns documentary film, completed after almost 3 years in production, explores the lives of America's young farming community - its spirit, practices, and needs. It is the filmmaker's hope that by broadcasting the stories and voices of these young farmers, we can build the case for those considering a career in agriculture - to embolden them, to entice them, and to recruit them into farming." -- from the Greenhorns website.

The screening will include a happy hour featuring local food & brews and proceeds will benefit Grow Pittsburgh.

Here are details about our screening.

Here is the trailer:

For more information on the Greenhorns, visit http://www.thegreenhorns.net/. There are screenings going on around the country this fall, so maybe there is one in your area.

Sep 6, 2011

Time to Start Sign-up for Next CSA Season!

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We hope you are having a productive high harvest season! It feels like things are turning just slightly towards Autumn, so it's time to start thinking about your 2012 CSA sign-up.

When possible, it is smart to capture your CSA customers commitment for 2012 while the taste of ripe tomatoes are still fresh in their mouths. It may be tempting to not think about CSA sign-up until February or March, but if you can get that deposit now you are in a much better position to retain more of your membership from year-to-year.

Member Assembler (our CSA membership management tool) has the concept of "seasons" so each time it is time to start a new sign-up period you will create a new "season" that holds all of the information for those shares. This archives 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.

For a full explanation on how to create seasons, go here: http://www.smallfarmcentral.com/memberassembler/help/creating-new-seasons

When do you start your sign-up process? If you wait until the Spring, what are the factors that stop you from starting sign-up a the end of summer?

Aug 26, 2011

A CSA-Inspired "Iron Chef?"

Posted by:

You probably won't be surprised to learn that everyone at Small Farm Central gets a CSA share each week. Not only do we love to support our local farmers, but we all enjoy meeting the challenge of creating delicious meals that feature whatever seasonal treats might show up in our vegetable boxes.

Our new web developer, Mike Cuccaro, especially loves playing "Iron Chef" with his CSA box every week, where he tries to quickly use everything in his share and not much else in preparing his food for the week. He thinks it would be fun to stage an "Iron Chef" type of event where two or three chefs are given the same CSA box, with two hours to prepare a meal that features everything in it.

An event like this could be a great way to raise money for a local charity, while providing an innovative way for farmers to connect to their communities.  Have you ever hosted any kind of food or cooking event on your farm? Tell us what you think!

Aug 11, 2011

Small Farm Central Celebrates National Farmers Market Week

Posted by:

The Small Farm Central team celebrated National Farmers Market Week (August 7-13) with a visit to one of Pittsburgh's largest and busiest places to buy locally grown food -- the East Liberty Farmers Market, managed by Pittsburgh Cityparks. You can meet some of the friendly local farmers by visiting the market's new Farming Faces site here:

http://eastlibertymarket.farmingfaces.com/

We enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know some of our local farmers better, and use Farming Faces to extend western Pennsylvania's agricultural community beyond the marketplace.

Fine Family Apiary

Sand Hill Berries

Who Cooks for You Farm

Twitter

  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    45 weeks 2 days ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    46 weeks 1 day ago