Dec 3, 2012

CSA Conference in Wisconsin, January 2013

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We're proud to be sponsors of the Midwest CSA conference in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, January 10th & 11th. This is the only conference that I know of to focus specifically on CSA and I'm excited to be a part of it!

If you are going to there, be sure to stop by our table and say hi!

There is a great line-up of topics:

  • Is CSA Right for Me? Things to Consider for Starting a CSA.
  • Production Basics for Beginners - Key systems that CSA farmers have in place to ensure production.
  • Filling your box: Figuring out how to plan, provide and price a full season of CSA shares.
  • Pick-up Site Logistics - Lessons from on-farm, farmer's market, workplace, and neighborhood pickup sites.
  • Planting to packing - On-farm logistics, efficiencies, tricks, and equipment to get the work done and the boxes filled.
  • What's in your box: A moderated round-table discussion of farmers of various sizes about what and how much and how often some common items are in their boxes.
  • Mulch systems and weed control for CSA farms.
  • Member involvement-Best practices from farm events, field days, and celebrations.
  • Incorporating low-income members in your CSA farm - Recipes for success.
  • Communicating with members, Websites, newsletters, social media, and blogs.
  • Guerilla Marketing your CSA business.
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA I: What indicators should you measure to understand if your CSA's is heading toward the point of profitability? 
  • Measuring the financial success of your CSA II - Diversification of your CSA and the CSA model.
  • Legalities for CSA farms: Liability, employment and taxes.
  • Strategies for Sustainable Growth of your CSA: Rightsizing your CSA farm.

Hope to see some of you there!

Nov 27, 2012

Simon's Refried Beans

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I thought it would be fun for us to do a series on the blog of 'signature recipes' of the staff members here at Small Farm Central. Starting with me!

Refried beans are a staple in my house for a quick burrito meal or to make nachos. I almost always have these around. Since I find myself cooking beans so often, I splurged on a spanish olla (clay bean cooking pot) this summer. This brings even more pleasure to this process.

You can buy wonderful heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, but for these every day refried beans I use basic pinto beans from the grocery store.

This a vegetarian recipe for refried beans, but I'm sure they would be wonderful refried with lard, too!

Simon's Signature Refried Beans


  • 1lb dry pinto beans (or black beans)
  • 1 large onion, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 stocks of celery (optional), roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed cumin (for best flavor, crush whole cumin seeds in the mortar and pestle) or 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Cover beans with cold water and soak 6 hours or more (or use your preferred bean soaking method).
  2. Strain the beans from the soaking water and add enough fresh, cold water to your pot to cover the beans with 1-2 inches of water.
  3. Bring the beans to a boil. While the beans are coming to a boil, roughly chop the onion, garlic, and celery and add to the bean water.
  4. Allow beans to boil for 5-10 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.
  5. After about an hour and the beans have begun to soften, add one tablespoon of salt (or to taste).
  6. Turn off the heat once the beans are very soft (usually takes 1.5-2 hours on low simmer).
  7. Often I'll eat some of the beans at this point and then refry the next day.
  8. To refry the beans, melt the butter in a large skillet and then transfer the cooked beans to the skillet and bring to a boil. Allow the beans to boil the cooking liquid away until it reaches a pretty thick consistency. While the beans are boiling, use a potato masher to mash some of the beans (but not all! I like my refried beans a little bit chunky). Near the end of the refrying, when the beans are thick, you will need to stir often to keep the beans from burning on the bottom.
  9. When thick consistency is reached, add the cumin or cilantro and taste for salt.

Eat beans on tortillas, in nachos, or in any mexican dish that uses refried beans!

It is my habit to make 2lbs of dry beans and freeze 1 or 2 quarts of the cooked beans before refrying. Then I can pull the frozen beans out in a week or two for another round of delicious beans!

Nov 21, 2012

Happy Feasting!

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Wishes of a happy Thanksgiving weekend filled with friends and family from Small Farm Central. You've earned it this year!

Nov 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Giving - Small Farm Central Style

Posted by: shannon

It's that time of year again...time to start thinking about holiday gifts and wish lists. We keep coming across lovely goods featured on our many Small Farm Central websites, so we thought we'd do a quick post about a few products. Farm products are a great solution for the hard-to-buy-for relative or friend.

1. Beeswax candles from Full Moon Honey. 2. Lemony Sage Mustard from Twin Oaks Farm. 3. Salami Gift Box from Foothill Farms. 4. Honey Oatmeal soap from Cherry Valley Organics. 5. Peach, Tarragon, Tangerine Sage Jam from Heritage Line Herbs. 6. Maple Syrup from Spring Harvest Maple. 7. Door County Whitefish Caviar from Ruleau Brothers, Inc.

Oct 31, 2012

Get Educated on Member Assembler

Posted by: Small Farm Central

This fall and early winter, we are hosting a series of online webinars on various aspects of the Member Assembler service to make you a member management expert! This is specifically for farmers already using Member Assembler who want to learn tips and tricks, but farms interested in the service who are not current subscribers, can also sit in on the calls. The goal of these sessions is to make you more confident and successful with Member Assembler!

This will be a "screenshare" type of meeting where you will log in and be able to hear me (Simon) talking and see my screen as I talk through the topic at hand. I will try to record these and have them available at a later time. Read about the sessions and register for the ones that interest you!

Public Sign-up Process Tweaks: We'll look in depth at the public Member Assembler side (where your customers sign up for your CSA) and detail what parts of the site can be edited. This session will also include information on customizing the emails that go out to members as they sign up and using membership updates to allow members to add on shares or change contact information.
Date: Tuesday, November 6th 2012, 1pm EST

Payment Processing Options: from Credit Cards to Dwolla: Learn about options for payment processing including normal mailed checks, credit cards, eCheck, Paypal and Dwolla. Learn about the costs and trade-offs of different approaches.
Date: Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 1pm EST

Accounting Tools: Learn about balance tracking, adjusting invoices, payment requests, and the financial reports.
Date: Tuesday, December 4th 2012, 1pm EST

Managing the CSA Process Throughout the Season: Review pickup lists, automated reminder emails, mailing list emails, and other reports that you will use throughout the season on a week-to-week basis.
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 1pm EST

Extras and Ecommerce: Sell weekly extra items each week with the ecommerce tools. We'll cover creating a web store on your Member Assembler site, allowing members access to the store, and reporting to deliver those items to your customers.
Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 1pm EST

Register for one or all of the webinars now!

Oct 10, 2012

Sample Member Agreements for CSAs Available Online

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I came across these sample member agreements for CSAs put together by University of Illinois professor of agricultural law A. Bryan Endres and his wife. Contracts and paperwork probably are not at the top of your list, but as Endres notes, your CSA can't build community and grow food if you get put out of business due to legal problems.

"Some CSAs are highly organized, very professional," Endres said. "In my own CSA, the member agreement we signed had elements of legality, but it was very unclear. Even simple things like how much money we needed to send in and when to send it weren't clear in the membership agreement. It got me thinking that the membership agreement is a key part of the CSA, and an unclear membership agreement can create a barrier to people joining CSAs. It's actually a contract between the farmer and the CSA member who wants to get the vegetables every week, so a well-written and clear contract is much better for everyone."

These sample contracts can be downloaded at Endres' website along with a variety of other documents like worker share agreement and volunteer liability form.

The sample CSA contract is very detailed covering growing practices, expected products, risk of crop failure, crop surplus, how to pick up shares and more.

Andres is asking for feedback on these forms in a survey. Visit his website to download the forms.

Sep 27, 2012

Website Theme for Autumn

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Seasonally Fresh!

Perusing our farm websites, we spied a lovely autumn themed header gracing Brookdale Farm's website. Changing the photos in your header is an easy way to keep your website fresh and up to date. A number of our templates allows you to update the header yourselves. Just head to Display > Template Settings > Template Settings - Customize. Some of our templates might require our assistance...if you're not sure, drop our graphic designer, Shannon, a line: shannon (at)

Brookdale Farm's autumnal header.

Editing a template header.

Sep 19, 2012

Some Press about Us and Using Google Alerts

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We made the local news in northern Missouri!

I never would have found this video on my own, but I came across this using a Google Alert for "Small Farm Central". Whenever Google finds a new web page that matches "Small Farm Central", they send me an email with a link to the new page. As you are trying to understand how customers or the media talk about your farm online, setting up a Google Alert for your farm name or specific keywords that you are targeting is really smart. Best of all, it's a free service and you can always unsubscribe.

Sep 17, 2012

Our Support for 'Real Farm' CSAs

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I would like to reiterate our support at Small Farm Central and Member Assembler for 'real farm' CSAs that grow their own food and cooperative marketing strategies that support local agriculture. This is opposed to the growing number of 'grocery delivery services' that are using the CSA model and sometimes the CSA name itself to market food out of the national distribution network. I don't believe that CSA must always remain small or driven by a single farmer. To serve a wider audience with fresh, local food we must allow the business model to evolve. However, these new models need to support local farmers who take care of their land and employees over national agribusiness.

It is not growers and producers that can create demand for this model that is so important to the livelihood of many small and beginning farmers. Support of 'real CSAs' needs to be driven by eaters. They must demand real CSAs over delivery services. You cannot steer the food choices of the larger culture, but you do have a close relationship with your existing members. I encourage you to continue educating your members about the hardships and joys of growing food and to be thankful for their support. CSA members have unlimited choices on how to spend their food dollars and the fact that they chose your CSA and your farm is a conscious and special choice. Remind them of that: gratitude is free and a provides a high return on investment.

As long as CSAs can continue providing consistently high quality boxes along with the genuine experience of supporting a local farm or group of farmers, I think eaters will continue to go out of their way to join CSAs. This is not the easy way to eat, so it is the story you tell and the quality of your product that will keep members coming back. Happy members will pass on their experience to friends and family and grow the demand for 'real CSAs'.

Here at Small Farm Central and Member Assembler we'll continue to do our part as well. We build software with real farm CSAs in mind, not food delivery services. We'll also continue to support local food advocacy programs (like PASA or the Farmers Market Coaltion) that grow the local food movement as a whole. This is a team effort and we're proud to be a part of that team!

More on 'real CSAs' in this post from March 2012 entitled "Real CSAs Only, Please" and farmer reaction to the posting.

Sep 13, 2012

New Face in Farmer Support

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We're proud to welcome a new member to the Small Farm Central Family! Lauren Seiple came on board to help us revamp our help documentation over the summer months. She is staying on in the position of 'Farmer Support', so you may reach Lauren on the phone or by email when you are asking a question about your site.

Lauren hails from New Jersey, but has made Pittsburgh her home for the past 7 years. Her past work for non-profits (including installation of Rain Barrels for Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and teaching composting workshops for Pennsylvania Resources Council) has given her a broad range of experience that fits perfectly with the Small Farm Central mission. She's excited to be a bigger part of the local food movement, and specifically enjoys the 'hands on help' aspect of her new position. When she's not in the office, you can find Lauren working on her house, learning about fruit trees & perusing vintage clothing about town.

Lauren in action!


  • 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
    1 year 46 weeks ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    1 year 47 weeks ago