“You’re Really Going to Pay That?” or How I’m Going to Make your Farm More Profitable

[Also in this series: The Albatross of Vegetables,  “We sold out 7 weeks before first delivery…”, Here’s how I help market farms  ]

(No time to read? Harvie is the kind of cost that makes you money.)

Dear Farmers and Supporters,

At the root, my work for the last 12 years has been about helping local farms achieve profitability. That’s my ultimate vision: that farming the way we do can and should be economically sustainable to the farm family and the people who work on the farm. (Read One Dollar, One Vote.)

I want to help farm achieve financial success, but to do that we need to charge for our services.

So, the case I must make with farms is, while you pay us, Harvie will at least maintain profit margins, if not increase them. If I can’t make this case, your farm should not adopt Harvie.

Here’s what farms using Harvie say about the cost of the service:

“The cost of Harvie seemed steep, and we definitely hesitated before signing up.  What we’ve realized is the cost isn’t just for great software, it’s for marketing assistance and customer service support, too.  I’ve spent significantly less time answering and solving basic questions like how to put a hold on a box, how to set a vacation hold, questions about payments, and so much more.  Our customers, even longtime members who would support us no matter what, have been extremely happy with the Harvie system, and tell us all the time how much they love it.  It’s hard to imagine going back to the old way of doing things, and I love giving our customers what they want.”  – Barr Farms

“We’re loving everything about Harvie. I initially was thinking my goodness a % of my sales goes to a tech company…and geez, another % to credit card processors??? In all reality, it works so well and the support that you receive with Harvie is amazing. You know when you finally get to that point that you can buy a really high quality tool that works so well in so many conditions….that’s Harvie. But that’s not it. They have people on their team that help create promo and marketing material for your farm. Its really exciting to be part of a great network of enthusiastic farm people. I’m a total cheerleader for Harvie because its helped my business.” – Sustainable Harvest Farm

“As a farmer using Harvie I can tell you that the fee is pretty easy to justify in saved time. I suspect I am one of the smallest farms using the platform, but this year for about $150/wk I’ve cut my share administration time down to about 30min/wk, increase customer satisfaction by miles and take two mornings off farming a week to spend at home with my toddler. I no longer have to track payments, deal with a complicated inventory system like when I used Farmigo, or even answer customer emails most of the time as Harvie support has usually answered and sorted requests or problems before I even sit down for lunch and check my messages. Best of all, almost all my work time is now spent farming! I haven’t tracked hours to be sure but I believe I’m saving several hundred dollars per week.” – Daniel, Country Thyme Farm

How much does it cost?

$500 one-time set up fee

7% of sales, with discounts for farms over $250,000/yearly revenue

3% fee for credit card transactions

Simple. We only get paid when you get paid.

What does this include?

  • The technology platform to run a high retention CSA / farm share program
  • Cooking Suggestion Engine: members get recipe and cooking preparation suggestions based on their box
  • We’ll set up your Harvie site for you
  • Marketing / sales assistance, consultation, and resources
  • High quality customer support both to you as the farmer and your consumers
  • Training from set up to setting delivery estimates to delivery logistics
  • On-going support from my team to make sure you are using Harvie

How to pay for it?

This is an increased cost, so you must account for this in your margins. There are a variety of areas you could look at to justify the added cost:

  • Many of our farms increase prices to cover the fee since this is a service to the customers.
  • Many farms give 10-30% more retail value in shares than members pay for. With Harvie’s technology and customized shares, members get what they want and they get retail value. This means that our farms can generate 10-30% more revenue off the same production.
  • Decrease in admin time means saving on staff costs – many of our farms report not needing a dedicated farm share manager.
  • Harvie helps farms grow membership so the same equipment can be used to serve more members which increases profitability.
  • Moving farm sales from low margin channels like wholesale to high margin farm share sales increases profitability.
  • Reduced marketing expense due to higher retention rates.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

If you are a “numbers” person you will appreciate this Cost-benefit analysis spreadsheet to quantify the added costs and benefits of Harvie. Download your own copy and edit with your own numbers using these instructions or I can work through this with you.

For example, an average 250 farm member farm will see a yearly net-benefit of $72,000 by joining Harvie.

Harvie is the kind of cost that makes you money.

Also check out:

Here’s how I help market farms

[Also in this series: The Albatross of Vegetables,  “We sold out 7 weeks before first delivery…”, “You’re Really Going to Pay That?” or How I’m Going to Make your Farm More Profitable ]

Dear Farmers and Supporters,

Hello, Stefanie here!  As Simon mentioned in the previous email, I’m the community manager for Harvie and my primary job is to help you sell more shares while simultaneously ensuring your members are the most successful farm share members they can be.

While it’s true Harvie certainly can “sell itself”, if your community doesn’t know, you’ve missed the opportunity! We realize farmers wear multiple hats and marketing efforts have a tendency to fall to the wayside when there is planning, planting and harvesting to tend to instead.

That’s where I come in.

I’ll work with you one-on-one to develop a strategy to meet your individual business needs. We’ll do a consultation call to get to the nitty gritty of your business goals and then we’ll work together to implement it.

Some of the key things we’ll help you with include:

Email drip campaigns

Social media strategy and images

Customized print materials like postcards, brochures, rack cards, and posters

Templates for press releases, lunch and learn presentations and farminars

Weekly marketing calls with Harvie staff and fellow farmers

Website reviews


“Why I Farm” social media campaign series

Want to hear it for yourself? Here is what Ford from Sustainable Harvest Farm has to say about the work we’ve done for him this year:

“Harvie not only provides a great software system for managing your CSA Shares, they also provide tremendous support on marketing. The team at Harive is there to help you promote and market your farm. In the past I would have had to hire a person to do that work, now I’ve got a wonderful team that helps me and understands my needs. Just this season alone the team at Harvie has created… farm place cards that are great for leaving with new contacts, a farmers market banner, a 3×4 sticker for my box trucks, a food storage guide for everything that we grow, a private Harvie only members FB cooking ideas group, and email content ideas for connecting with more customers. It’s so cool to work with a company that truly succeeds when you succeed. It’s a win win for everyone.  Thanks Harvie!” ~ Ford Waterstrat, Sustainable Harvest Farm

Think email marketing is dead? Think again! We generated close to 200K in sales from warm lead campaigns for the 19 farms who participated!

Joan at One Straw Farm said  “I would be very encouraging to anybody to try the warm leads (Harvie marketing lead) campaign. It blew me out of the water. I have people coming back from years ago. I’ve even been getting emails from people saying they are sorry they moved away. I’m happy all the way around. I’ve gotten 188 shares with Harvie’s marketing campaign.”

Diane Riehm of Riehm Produce Farm feels like we are part of her farm staff: “Stefanie has been a plus as the Harvie Farm’s community manager when it comes to marketing. She responds quickly. Works tirelessly to make sure that our farm gets the best looking materials and tutorials for our CSA customers so they are comfortable with the customization and personal profile tools. She has gone beyond our expectations with her skills in putting together for us drip campaigns and sales funnels tools. It feels like she is part of our staff here at the farm. If you want to bump up your CSA game just pick her brain and you will love what she does”. ~ Diane Riehm, Riehm Produce Farm, Tiffin OH

We also help your members be the most successful farm share members they can be: because what’s the point in spending all that time on marketing and sales if they never return?

A few key things we’ve done this year are:

Launched a Harvie Member private Facebook group that has seen lively daily conversation from members all over the US, Canada and Australia.

Provide your members with a thorough customer training series to get them familiar with the new system for you.

Ongoing creation of weekly recipe cards, storage tips, and videos to help members cook with their farm share.


Where to Store Your Farm Share Reference Guide


First recipe card


Harvie members being inspired by other Harvie members on the member Facebook group

When your farm joins Harvie, you are not only getting a great software system: you are getting a whole personalized marketing team right at your fingertips, because we don’t succeed unless you do!

Have questions about the marketing services we provide our Harvie farms? Feel free to reach out to me at stefanie@harvie.farm.

-Stefanie Jaeger
Harvie Community Manager
stefanie@harvie.farm

Also check out:

 

“We sold out 7 weeks before first delivery…”

[Also in this series: The Albatross of Vegetables, Here’s how I help market farms ,“You’re Really Going to Pay That?” or How I’m Going to Make your Farm More Profitable ]

Dear Farmers and Supporters,

In my last email, I talked about the retention gains of 15-30% that Harvie farms are seeing. However, there is a second question of equal importance: are farmers able to attract members and increase sales?

Yes!

Robyn at Park Ridge Organics said , “We sold out 7 weeks before first delivery which was a huge relief and let us focus on farming. Harvie is worth every penny for marketing alone, let alone the efficiencies in managing members. It is saving me a ton of time.” She said that “Harvie sells itself” to members.

From Bart at Falcon Ridge Farm, “We completed our 10 week spring season back in June and are now nearing the end of our summer season.  Memberships are definitely up.  Last year for the summer season we were packing on average about 100 boxes per week.  This season we are averaging about 175.  So I am pleased with the growth.”

Heritage Family Gardens, “We are SOLD OUT for our 2018 summer season!”

Jade Family Farm, “I’ve exceeded my membership goals for the season…”

Looking at the numbers, between 2017 and 2018, the average farm increased their sales on Harvie by 235%. Part of this is huge growth number is due to farms bringing more of their existing business to Harvie, but every farm using Harvie increased sales by a minimum 20% between 2017 and 2018.

So how did this happen?

Two factors:

1) A more attractive program for members. It turns out, if you give people what they are asking for, they will pull out their credit card and buy. For example, custom shares, vacation holds, flexible share costs, payment plans, etc.

2) Increased marketing: Harvie is not just a piece of software, it is also a marketing service for the farmers. It’s like having a full time marketing staff behind your farm.

As I’ve said before, I think a major blind spot to grow CSA / farm share is that we don’t spend enough time and money on marketing. Harvie is giving farms a viable way to invest in marketing.

Also check out:

“The Albatross of Vegetables”

[Also in this series: “We sold out 7 weeks before first delivery…”, Here’s how I help market farms ,“You’re Really Going to Pay That?” or How I’m Going to Make your Farm More Profitable ]

Dear Farmers and Supporters,

The blunt truth is that CSA has a negative reputation in the marketplace. For example, there is this cartoon that calls a CSA membership the “albatross of vegetables”:

Image

Ouch.

There was a vigorous discussion in our CSA Farmer Discussion group on Facebook when, in an article in the Chicage Tribune about the challenges faced by farmers competing with businesses selling “Imperfect Produce”, CSA was disparaged as a way for farmers to get rid of ugly produce saying,

“For years, farmers have been selling imperfect produce in boxes. It’s a practice known as community supported agriculture, or CSA…”

We’ve been customer unfriendly in general and it has led to this negative perception of CSA, especially now that there are many more opportunities for consumers to buy food they feel good about, resulting in declining membership numbers for many CSA farms. For an entry point into my thinking on this topic read “CSA: We Have a Path Forward”.

So “CSA is dead”? (This is a phrase I’ve heard from many long-time CSA farmers over the past few years).

Yes and no.

The old CSA where farms could pack a box full of whatever came off the farm, not worry about customer vacations, accept full payment up front, etc is dead, except for a few farms that have been able to build out that community and sustain it. In my experience, those farms are few and far between.

However, consumers still yearn for high-quality food from a local farmer they know and trust.

I’ve found through developing Harvie, when we listen to the concerns of members, when we learn why they have not joined, when we build a robust marketing and communication program, they will join and stay.

I can say this empirically now because I have retention rate data from farms before Harvie and now year-over-year retention data for farms using Harvie.

The farms that have adopted Harvie have seen a 15-30% increase in retention rate.

Retention rate has been my key metric for many years as I’ve thought about how to improve CSA programs. To see this number increase so substantially validates that I’ve been on the right track for the last four years. That is essentially what Harvie is: I’ve taken all my customer research and built a platform to fit the needs of the consumer while still retaining what is special about CSA.

I hate to use cliched terms like “game changer”, but this is a game changer for CSA.

Beyond being a true representation of member happiness, having higher retention rates makes it easier to grow or maintain membership and reduces marketing and customer acquisition costs because it is much more expensive to find a new customer than to retain an existing customer.

So, no more “albatross of vegetables”. There is so much room to grow our market. My analysis estimated 0.4% of U.S. households were in CSA programs in 2015. I still believe we can grow that to 5% over the next few years.

Also check out:

A Vision for 5 Million CSA Members by 2030

By Simon Huntley

Originally published on the Small Farm Central blog on 02/17/2017 

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the future of CSA farms over the past few years. With CSA Day 2017 upon us, I wanted to take time to reflect on where we are, where we are going, and why we are doing this.

I am passionate about CSA farming because I see the special connection between farmers and eaters, but also see a path to an economically sustainable small-to-medium scale farm. I believe that economic sustainability is tied extricably to agricultural sustainability and that CSA is an important part of that puzzle because it allows a farmer to control his or her market with a degree of certainty and margin that no other marketing channel allow.

In addition, CSA is the most direct connection that an eater can have with his or her farmer and is a connection to the land that an eater can’t get in any other way. Through CSA, we imbue food with meaning, story, and connection. In a world of intractable problems, being a CSA farmer or CSA member is an act we can take to make life better for our land, economy, and community as a whole.

The CSA Market Right Now

However, CSA only touches a tiny minority of households. I was focused on this fact through the Local Food Marketing Practice Survey that was released in December by the USDA (hat tip to Elizabeth Henderson for emailing the data to me). This data is for the United States only, but I think the lessons can be applied anywhere in the world.

They list the total sales of all 7,398 CSA farms at $226,000,000 in 2015. In a lot of ways, I look at that data and think CSA has been a huge success in 30 seasons in the United States. This is a concept that has resonated with the public without any corporate, governmental, or moneyed interests behind it.

On the other hand, let’s look at that data in terms of the overall food marketplace.

If we take the average share price data from our CSA Farming Report of $450, then we get the number of approximately 500,000 CSA shares sold in 2015.

There are 124.6 million households in the U.S., so that means approximately 0.4% of US households purchase a CSA share each year.

So, despite the huge success of the CSA concept, it is still very niche. Looking at these numbers, I can’t believe that 0.4% is the ceiling of CSA.

I think CSA farming is so important for farmers and eaters, so I am setting a goal of growing the overall CSA market by 10x, to 5 million households, by 2030.

Even with this exponential growth of CSA, we will still be serving only 1 in 25 households in the United States. That is still a small slice of the population and I believe that is possible for us to get there.

However, what got us to 500,000 CSA members, will not get us to 5 million. We need to reimagine what CSA is to appeal to a much wider demographic and we need to get better at articulating the values of CSA. Your customers and potential customers work hard for their money too, so we must appeal to their values and their interests as we plot a way forward.

While we reimagine CSA, we can’t lose sight of what has made CSA such an impactful concept. I believe that if we simply compete with the grocery stores or the Blue Aprons of the world, we lose. CSA must be about more than a simple box of food.

What will this growth of the CSA market mean for your farm? What will this growth mean for the overall local food market? How do we get there?

I ask these questions, but I don’t have the answers. I have some guesses. However, I believe that reaching this goal it is possible if we all work together on the local, regional, national, and international scale. I want to start the conversation with you because I believe that this growth is essential for a thriving local food economy and, I worry that if don’t radically grow CSA, it will become more niche and eventually wither on the vine.

I firmly believe that when we all do better, we all do better. Your success is my success.

I would love to hear from you: how do you feel about this goal? Is it reasonable? Do you have ideas on how we can get there?

I can be reached at simon@smallfarmcentral.com. We can continue the discussion on the CSA Farmer Discussion group on Facebook (request access here), at winter conferences, and in the fields.

I look forward to growing with you over the next 13 years!

Interested in getting useful information for your CSA sent to your inbox? Click here to get access to the CSA Solutions Hub.

 

Let’s talk business

By Simon Huntley

Originally published on the Small Farm Central blog on 05/24/2017 

In every business, there is some “customer acquisition cost” (CAC from now on) — in other words, how much do you spend to acquire a single customer?

In my experience, for most CSA farmers this number is close to zero and not something you think about.

Even if you are not spending money on traditional advertisements, there are costs to find new customers. There is a website hosting fee, staff or personal time to develop content for the website, Facebook boosted posts, email marketing software like MailChimp, time spent developing content for email marketing, and on and on. So even at a basic level, if you think your cost of customer acquisition is $0, it is not.

I asked farmers on the CSA Farmer Discussion group on Facebook about their CAC and answers ranged from up to $100 to as low as $2.

Here is where it becomes a major blind spot and perhaps a systemic problem within the CSA movement/industry. The meal kit companies like Blue Apron, food hubs, and grocery stores have the economies of scale, the marketing expertise, and cash to spend $100s to acquire a single customer. So they can spend money on Facebook ads, Google Adwords, direct mail and whatever they can figure out to acquire a cost at less than their target CAC.

So if they are able to do this, they take the air out of the room from a marketing perspective and it does start to pull people away from CSAs and towards programs that have better marketing reach. If Blue Apron spends $100 to acquire a customer and the average CSA spends $3 to acquire a customer, that means on average that a potential customer is going to hear about Blue Apron 33 times for every one time they hear about the CSA! Can you blame them for choosing Blue Apron? They almost don’t have a choice!

It is certainly not getting easier. In the early 2000s, a farm could just show up and tack a CSA sign on their website, get some good press, and fill up their membership. People were actively going out and looking to join a CSA farm in these years, so it was relatively easy to find new customers. In this new landscape, where there is a lot of competition from all angles, I believe that we need to get better at marketing in general and starting to think about CAC and the types of channels you can use to reliably generate new customers at a profit will be important.

This is one of the trade-offs in using direct-to-consumer farm marketing: if you sell wholesale or through a food hub, they take care of finding the customers and you will get a lower percentage of the retail dollar. In a CSA, you are getting close to 100% of the retail dollar, but you need to go out and find those customers and finding customers is not free!

Acquisition cost also needs to be paired with your retention rate and the lifetime value of your customer. So if your retention rate is very low, then you cannot afford to spend as much to acquire each customer because you will not be able to spread that cost over multiple seasons. So acquisition cost and retention are intertwined in this way.

I have seen a couple rules of thumb in the larger business world that may help us to think about CAC in the CSA context. One rule of thumb is that a business wants to see CAC paid back within a year of the initial sale, so in the context of a CSA, if your average yearly spend per customer is $500 and you have a gross profit margin (minus marketing spend) on that of 20% then your aim should be to get CAC to be below $100. Assuming you have a fairly good retention rate (>60%), over the long term this will pay back well for you, although you will need to do some more calculations with your own numbers to make this analysis work for your situation.

There are many ways to view this, but the rule of thumb that I am thinking about is to look for a CAC that does not exceed 10% of the first season that the member is with your farm. For example, if your average price is $500/season then a CAC of $50 should be profitable over the long term.

In some ways, I hate to be the guy injecting all of this business terminology into CSA because these are such high-ideals business. However, I think there is a lot to learn from the wider business world that we can apply to CSA programs so you have the freedom to go out and develop your business to impact more people while building a business that supports your family.

In the end, it is all about the goals you have for your farm business. Are you getting the CSA membership numbers you want? What is your most profitable marketing channel? If dealing with these kinds of issues like customer acquisition is not in your skill set, you may need to hire someone with these skills, delegate, or consider pursuing other marketing channels like wholesale that don’t require this kind of work.

How do you think about customer acquisition cost within your CSA? How much are you willing to spend to acquire one customer?

In your corner,

Simon Huntley

Will Blue Apron (and other meal kit delivery) replace CSA farms?

By Simon Huntley

Originally published on the Small Farm Central blog on 07/26/2016

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is under pressure throughout the marketplace. When I started working on CSA farms in 2005, in many areas of the country there were few options to buy from local farmers besides farmers markets.

In the intervening 10+ years, the market has changed.

We have Whole Foods, grocery cooperatives, farmers markets every day of the week (9000+ now!), food delivery concepts and much more. The plethora of options is changing the way eaters think about joining a CSA farm and their expectations. If CSA does not work for them, there are a lot of more flexible options out there that may work better for them. There is even a lot of confusion about what CSA is and what CSA is not.

We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is changing. The CSA model has evolved since it came to the United States in the early 1980s and we’ll need to continue to change to stay relevant. I’ll write more about the future of CSA in the near future.

One of the new concepts that has taken inspiration from CSA are the meal delivery services that deliver pre-apportioned recipes ingredients to your door step. It’s a meal in a box. One of the biggest of these services is called Blue Apron.

Earlier this summer, I signed up for Blue Apron to learn from their model and figure out how we can use their success to improve the CSA model.

One estimate is that 3% of the US population has tried a meal delivery kit service. From the numbers that I see, that is likely higher than the proportion of the US population that has tried CSA.

Blue Apron’s tagline is a “better way to cook”. It has many competitors including Green Chef (https://greenchef.com/home) “deliciously simple”, The Purple Carrot (a vegan concept) https://thepurplecarrot.com, Freshology “Inspired. Healthy. Living.” https://www.freshology.com. There are many others.

Signing up for Blue Apron

I was impressed by the website experience: you sign up for a weekly plan that will auto-bill each week but you can pause deliveries as long as you remember to pause by the right day. I signed up for a weekly plan for a family of 4 which was probably a bit too much because my young boys (1 and 5 years old) don’t eat as much as an adult or teenager. There is some choice in the recipes you receive or you can just accept the default. There is no vegetarian option.

It is not cheap. My plan cost $69.92/week. That is is $8.74 per meal, per person while the average in-home dinner meal costs $4 per person. So this service does not compete with the grocery store: it competes with restaurant eating and it is probably for the higher end of the market. This is not a service for the family with a small grocery budget.

In the welcome email, Blue Apron promises “Fresh, Seasonal Ingredients”, sourcing from local farms (local to whom? This just is not true), and cooking tips and techniques.

Perhaps it is pedantic to focus on their promise of “local farms”, but here is what the email says about the producers:

I hope that Blue Apron is supporting a local farm somewhere, but it is not local to me in Pittsburgh. This kind of casual deception is disturbing and I’m sure most eaters can see right through it, but as true local farms, you must push against these deceptions and tell your story to your customers. This is one of your largest advantages, so make sure you are clear on it with customers!

Cooking with Blue Apron

The Blue Apron box showed up on my doorstep delivered by FedEx on the day that Blue Apron promised. An email is sent on the shipment day to announce the meals that will be delivered so you can plan for the week.

Everything looks great when it comes to the doorstep: the box is beautiful with huge ice packs at the bottom of the box. Everything comes in pre-apportioned ingredient packs. For example, 2 ounces of butter in a clamshell container. One of my first thoughts is how wasteful all of this is: the home delivery, the cardboard box that I will throw away, the ice packs, and the tiny containers of cheese. It is hard to imagine dealing with this amount of waste on a weekly basis.

However, it is impressive in a lot of ways. It totally takes the thought out of cooking. Blue Apron provides glossy recipe sheets that describe in detail how to cook each dish. I think we can learn from this in our CSA farms: people don’t know how to cook and there is value in completely spelling it out for them! They are clearly willing to pay more to lose some of the stress of figuring out what to cook and how to cook it.

Here is an example of the recipe cards:

The recipes are not super simple. They take some time to put together. I found in the recipes that my wife and I made, it took about an hour to get food on the table.

I’m a pretty good cook. Ever since my first experience in college of living on my own, when I realized that all I knew how to make was pasta, I have gradually built up my skills in the kitchen. However, one thing I noticed about Blue Apron is that since everything was so spelled out on the cards it made me stupid: I put a whole head of garlic in a small amount of salad dressing which overwhelmed the whole salad and ruined it with way too much raw garlic. And I like garlic.

In hindsight, that was obvious, but since the recipes cards did not exactly spell out the amount of garlic to use, I just put the full head of garlic. So I’m not sure if these meal kits actually help people learn to cook on the fly like a CSA member needs to know how to cook: to look at the ingredients available and put together something that works.

However, the meals were delicious. The quality of produce was outstanding. It took a lot of the thinking out of deciding on meals for the week and shopping for the ingredients. It is hard for me to see someone doing this in the long term, week-after-week based on the waste and the cost so I see long term retention as difficult for these services, but it is a really fun and easy way to cook new dishes.

Do Meal Kits Compete with CSA?

Yes, I think they do. They are changing the expectations that members have for food delivered in a box. There is zero food waste — everything is used in the recipes you are given.

Wasted food in a CSA is a huge problem. It makes members feel bad and they decide to go with more flexible options like farmers markets in the future. So I think the cooking education part of CSA is huge. We need to make sure our members are successful with their boxes and that is not easy!

The produce from Blue Apron is of impeccable quality. If a CSA member gets less than the best quality food in their boxes, they will go elsewhere. To compete over the long term, the product in a CSA box needs to look at least as good as the product in Whole Foods or in a Blue Apron box.

However, on your side as a CSA grower is the story and connection that you have to your customers. I think if we try to compete with the Blue Aprons and the Whole Foods of the world, as small, independent producers we will always lose over the long term.

CSAs need to become more customer centric to react to a changing marketplace — we are not the only game in town any more! — but we also need to be mindful not to lose what has made CSA so successful.

The magic and the way forward will be found in balancing those opposing forces.

I’ve been diving deep into this problem, spending time with the research and with CSA members to better understand their experience. Look for more on this topic in the near future!

I would love your feedback. What kinds of competition are you seeing in your local area?