Financial success requires that production and profitable sales are reasonably balanced. Millions of small family farms have already disappeared because they failed to create that balance.
Some are excellent but most are not. In general, markets have several serious drawbacks:
- They are VERY time consuming.
- They require harvesting produce without knowing if it will sell or not.
- They typically put farmers in competition with each other, or limit what each can sell.
- Most of all, the customers "belong" to the market, not you. If the market closes or you can't be there, your income evaporates. The customer relationship is fleeting.
All too often, markets are a sales treadmill for farmers. They feel they can't stop, but no forward progress is even possible. And time marches on.
In contrast, CSA's create a direct farmer-customer connection. However, in order to attract enough families, farmers often sacrifice their profitability.
At the end of the year, a lot of produce has been transferred. Yet, often times, when all the expenses are accounted for, the net wage proves to be far too low.
Implimenting our Market Style CSA system can raise your wages. It features greater labor efficiency, more profit per product, easier marketing and a higher retention rates year to year. It isn't the only way you can use our system, but it has strong advantages.
Offering Choice Creates New Opportunities!
Family food shoppers want choice. Any model that forces food on them every week, or defines what food they receive, inherently discourages them from signing up and returning year after year.
On the other hand, if their CSA pre-payment allows them to choose what they spend it on during the season, it becomes a lot easier to find subscribers and keep them happy.
But how can a farm prosper under such a system?
The highly automated system we offer makes the ordering, harvesting and transfer process efficient. And the $15 per month cost is afforable for any size farm. But most importantly, you are able to get your full retail price on every product ordered.
Imagine The Following Example.
On a set day (Monday) each week, you post by bedtime an online list of available products, and an estimate of the quantities of each.
The next day (Tuesday), CSA subscribers place online orders between set hours - say 5AM and 10PM. All products are first come, first served. When any product quantity reaches zero, it's sold out and can't be ordered.
The next day (Wednesday), the harvesting is done. The orders are packed and ready for pickup or delivery by late in the day, or the next day. Or, the customers arrive and pack their own orders from the harvested goods.
Customers get full choice on what they buy. You harvest only what they order. ALL PRODUCTS ARE ORDERED AT THE RETAIL PRICES YOU SET.
Our online software:
- has easy on/off checkboxes on your product master list
- makes updating available quantities simple from that same master list
- allows restricted ordering window times (example: Tuesdays 5 AM to 10 PM )
- creates a Pick List to cover harvesting for all orders
- creates a concise and printable Assembly List to make individual order fulfillment simple
- provides you and each customer with an automated ledger that shows past orders and current $ balance
So once an assessment is made of the available products and their quantities, it's a simple matter to update your online master list.
The checkboxes on the left are "checked" for the products available, while the numbers on the right show the quantities you are making available for ordering.
WIth a click on the Save button, the available inventory is instantly updated on your EFF website. And as orders are placed, the available quantities drop, while the pick list builds.
Our belief is that most small CSA's sell their products at sub-retail prices. The annual CSA income divided by the total weight of products sold is too low for a profitable operation. Conversely, pre-selling products creates harvest efficiency while retail pricing yields pre-calulated profit margins. And customers have full freedom to choose the products they value most throughout the season.
Simple and inexpensive --- $15 per month plus a small set fee for each order placed through our system. Plus we have a farmer referral program that can lower your cost even more.
Yes, you can also incorporate products from other producers into your offering at no additional cost. Plus, if you give them a free sub-account, they can update their own inventory. Collaborating with other non-competing producers makes sense. You can choose to offer your CSA customers a whole farmers market of products, making it easier to attract subscribers.
Key Customer Points.
Customers are able to order just what they want in the quantities they want, based on availability.
They can skip weeks if they will be away or won't have much time to use the produce. There is no guilt about wasted products and wasted money.
They have 24 hour access to their account ledger, showing their past expenditures and current balance.
Key Farmer Points.
Offering a "full choice" system makes it easier to find subscribers and retain them from year to year.
Of course, grow what your customers want to eat, not what you want to plant
! And only harvest what's ordered and pre-sold.
Sell your products at full retail price.
Our farmer friendly software makes the process flow. Pre-season, you create your entire product list for the year, along with pricing and description. (Our Product Library really speeds up that process.) Then, as the year progresses, you turn on products as they become available, turning them off when they're done. And next year, you turn them on again!
Changes To Your Routine.
You will need to estimate quantities of the available products the day/night (Monday) before the order day(s).
You will need to click the Finalize button on each order in your EFF account. That does the bookkeeping to keep the ledger up to date.
You will need to pre-pack individual orders for customers _OR_ you can simply harvest what's needed and let your customers assemble their own orders. Our printable EFF Assembly List makes that packing process efficient for you or them. It shows the products and quantities needed to complete each order.
So yes, it does involve a bit of computer or iPad work for someone, but it's highly organized and farmer friendly.
Our system includes a handy feature called "bundles".
A bundle sells at a preset price. It includes more than one inventory item. Each product is assigned a point total. The customer can choose any mixture of products offered in the bundle, up to the allowed point total.
In general, it's easiest to make each point equal one dollar. So a $2.25 product would be 2.25 points. If you have an overabundance of some items, you can put them in a bundle and offer savings to get a larger order.
And if you're set on offering a "box" option, you could create $18, $25 and $32 bundles with common products, allowing customers to select more or less of any items up to their point total.
There is no obligation to create bundles, but it a very useful feature offered in our system.
Q. Can the EFF software support more than one CSA group or location.
A. Yes. You can have as many as you want. For many farms, it makes sense to have two weekly harvests so that the produce can be picked at the peak of ripeness.
Q. I have 80 different products I sell. Can I have them all in the EFF system?
A. You can have as many as you want. That said, it's likely that any business consultant would tell you to reduce your number of products to the ones that sell best. As Ben Hartman says in his book "The Lean Farm", grow only what you know you have a market for, and can sell at a profit. It's less work, more results.
Q. It's not fair if someone buys all the strawberries. What can I do?
A. You can do what a grocery store does - say "Limit 2 per customer" at the beginning of the product description.
Q. Customers are used to being told what they can take, without seeing any costs per product. Will they object to seeing prices on the items they order?
A. Making pricing judgments is their trade off for having complete freedom to buy whatever they want. They will spend their money wisely in accordance with their values, just as they would at a supermarket.
Q. What if they end up with a balance at the end of the season?
A. Make it clear from the start that their balance does not carry over to next year. They'll spend the money!
Q. Can they add more money to their account if they run out before the season ends?
So You Have More Questions...
Give George A Call.
Not THAT George!!
We are not an expensive consulting service looking to take over your business. We offer guidance, sometimes totally free, as well as some very economical tools and services to make your farm business work better.
Our EFF farmers are reaping benefits, but in each case, it started with a conversation about their farm business.
Simply call THIS George.
Now it's YOUR opportunity. Tell me about your farm and I'll explore the possibilities with you. If we can't help your business prosper, I'll tell you that. Otherwise, I'll make a proposal for your consideration.
Now is the time to consider alternatives for 2019 and beyond. Call me right now, even if it's 2:00 AM. If you put it off until "later", it's likely you'll never make the call. Don't make that mistake. Opportunity is knocking. Commit to investigating our EFF service AND our help by dialing 518-326-1638 now. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.
Eat From Farms
431 Old Best Road
West Sand Lake, NY 12196