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Online Conference to Focus on CSA Member Retention Strategies
February 19, 2013
CSA Expert Exchange online conference will feature discussion by Gary Brever of Ploughshare Farm
Nationwide, the conference is expected to engage between 500-1,000 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers. The conference will be accessible via any web browser; attendees will be available to watch video of presenters, view powerpoint slides, and interact via chat to ask questions. The fee is $45 and registration is open at csafarmconference.com.
Conceived by Robyn Van En as an antidote to industrial, monocrop agriculture, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept offers farms the opportunity to become centers of more sustainable communities. CSA has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Generally a farmer offers a certain number of shares or memberships to the public for purchase. Each share may consist of a box of vegetable or other farm products that the member picks up on a scheduled basis.
Retaining those members in a CSA operation is a key to success for the farmer. Research indicates that many CSA farms are experiencing member retention rates between 50% and 60%, while other farms see retention rates as high as 90%. A low rate of retention makes it difficult for a CSA farm to thrive and grow and may endanger the whole CSA movement as people try CSA and decide the concept is not right for them. The CSA Expert Exchange online conference will broadly explore the reasons people join and leave CSAs and how to increase member satisfaction by drawing on the best practices utilized by CSA experts from across the country.
Gary Brever, CSA farmer from Ploughshare Farm, a certified organic farm located north of Alexandria, Minnesota will share his knowledge of how to keep CSA members coming back each year. He was named the 2012 Outstanding Farmer of the Year by the Minnesota Jaycees. He was also awarded “Farmer of the Year” status in 2009 by Edible Twin Cities magazine.
Brever’s website offers an area for CSA member comments, so with endorsements such as this, we will learn his proven methods for success, "There is no comparison in value when the CSA is stacked up against buying organic in the store. The CSA wins handedly. This is especially true of the frozen shares in the winter. Absolutely love them,” said a Ploughshare Farm CSA member.
The CSA Expert Exchange will consist of four sessions, each one hour in length, focusing on the following topic areas; CSA management, member retention & maintaining a profitable CSA operation, certifications & equipment and member education.
“One oft-touted advantage to CSA farming is that the farmer spends less time on marketing and more time on farming. A farm that experiences low retention spends too much marketing each spring to stay at the same membership level, so focusing on keeping members happy and in the CSA next year pays dividends,” says Simon Huntley from Small Farm Central.
Small Farm Central is also offering 20 scholarships to new and beginning farmers to help offset costs to participate in the CSA Expert Exchange. The deadline for applications is Friday, March 1st.
“Experienced CSA farmers will tell you the importance of having a dedicated CSA member base. They are not only yearly customers, but they are also the greatest ambassadors to help recruit new members for any CSA operation. So offering successful producers, such as Gary Brever, a venue to share his ideas and success is great,” said Michele Gauger, Membership Director with PASA.
Full details about the CSA Expert Exchange: An Online Conference are available at csafarmconference.com.
About Small Farm Central
Small Farm Central is a leading technology provider to small-scale farms across the U.S. and Canada. Started by an former CSA farmer, Small Farm Central provides farm websites, CSA member management services, and more to help increase the economic sustainability of small-scale farmers by creating professional and engaging experiences for the farm’s customers. Small Farm Central’s Member Assembler technology is built to manage the office side of the CSA from online member signup and payment processing to box packing and delivery logistics.