The Dirt on Harvie Farms Pittsburgh’s Sourcing Standards

Harvie Farms Pittsburgh has done a lot of growing in the past year. As we scale this new model for local grocery distribution, we are faced with the exciting new challenge of meeting the full grocery needs of our 1500 customers while maintaining sourcing practices that align with our values and those of our customers. Today’s post comes from Harvie Founder and CEO, Simon Huntley, sharing his thoughts about that challenge along with the sourcing standards we’ve committed to for products in our Harvie Farms Pittsburgh Local Grocery Boxes.

The way we eat determines how our land is used and who our economy supports. Good food brings joy and health to our lives and those of the people we love. It shapes the way we connect with each  other and with the place we call home. 

I grew up in a rural community south of Pittsburgh, on the PA/WV border with very few job prospects beyond the dying coal industry. The central question of my work over the last 15 years is: how can a family make a living on the kind of rural farm where I grew up? If we can get this right — improving farm viability, strengthening rural economies, and prioritizing people who are not served by our current economic system — we can make this business, and your grocery dollars, a mechanism for powerful change. 

This business model began as a tool for small farms to sell their products to more customers by making their CSA / farm shares more consumer-friendly, but over time it has grown into a full local grocery delivery service. As more people join and buy a higher percentage of their weekly groceries from Harvie, it’s clear that we need to expand our product offerings.

We have a chance to build a revolution with our dinner plates in a way that fits into our daily lives. For me personally, I am eating significantly more local food year-round than I was in the past using CSA programs and farmers markets. In fact, this month I’m taking the #EatLocalJuly challenge and I’m going to eat exclusively from my Harvie box for an entire month. 

The work ahead for Harvie is how to develop a whole new supply chain that can support local, regional, and smaller producers, while ensuring our customers can rely on Harvie for all of their groceries. As we continue to expand our offerings, we are beginning to formalize our sourcing guidelines to steer our decision making. As we do this, we want to give you full transparency about how we choose what can go in your box. It’s important to us that your grocery spend goes directly to producers who are making the world a better place. We are passing along a higher percentage of your dollar (4 times more!) to the people behind your food than typical grocers.

How do we choose which products and producers to work with? We are always trying to improve, but today I want to share with you what we are thinking so far. We will stand on these principles in all of our sourcing:

Quality — We strive to source the best tasting, freshest, and most nutritious products.

Local Economy — We prioritize purchasing from business owners who have a direct connection to your community. When a product you need is not available locally, we’ll find the best version of it that we can according to our standards.

Good Stewardship — We work with producers who are good stewards of their land and animals. Whenever possible we will source from farmers who use organic and regenerative growing practices, and will always avoid those that abuse pesticides and the people and animals under their care.

Human Impact — As Harvie grows, we aspire to build relationships with producers that raise industry standards for transparency, living wages, diversity, equity and inclusion.

Viable Rural Communities — We strengthen rural economies by connecting rural producers with consumers in urban areas.

Story — We build connections between you and your producers by telling the stories behind the food and the people who create it and by inviting you to connect in person when possible.

Transparency — You deserve to know everything you can about what you put on your family’s kitchen table. We always label products accurately, verify certifications and tell you everything we can about the products you purchase.

Resilience — We believe in building a diverse network of producers and products and shortening the path between producer and consumer to create a more resilient community food system.

This is how we will ensure your grocery dollars have the most positive impact for your dinner table, your community, and our food system. And you can be a key part of shaping the next phase of this movement. If there’s something you want to eat that isn’t currently available on Harvie, let us know — our Facebook Community Group is a great place to post your thoughts, or feel free to send an email to support@harvie.farm. 

We have an exciting few months of local food coming your way — July, August, and September are the best months of the year for eating in Western PA. Get ready to fill your boxes with sweet corn, eggplant, and tomatoes. And on the grocery side of things, we will have crackers, pierogies, pitas, potato chips, dried fruit, nuts, and more snacks coming your way soon!

Thank you for being a part of the movement.

-Simon Huntley

 

Pittsburgh: Meet the Local Grocery Box

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to build a food supply chain that works for everyone involved, and it’s challenging work. After hearing from members and producers, we took a step back and the Local Grocery Box stepped up. Before the Local Grocery Box at Harvie Farms Pittsburgh, we offered various subscriptions for vegetables, meats, and add-ons like coffee and bread. It was a lot for our members to keep straight, and we questioned how scaleable that model was. Now, with the Local Grocery Box, our Pittsburgh members can get their entire grocery haul all in one subscription and we can better support more local producers. By having one subscription type, we can purchase more regularly and consistently from producers so that they can count on us as a market for their products. 

Harvie Farms Pittsburgh local grocery boxFor members, it’s like ordering online from Whole Foods, except every single item you purchase is carefully selected from small, regional producers and curated to fit your tastes. The Local Grocery Box comes in five sizes so that members can order as much food as you need each week; choose from vegetables, meats, pasta, preserves, beverages, snacks, dairy, and more! Add exactly what you want in your box, and then wait for it to be delivered to your doorstep. The Local Grocery Box subscription also comes with unlimited delivery skips, meaning that you can easily create a schedule that works for you. Going on vacation? Still have plenty of food from last week? No problem, just skip a delivery with the click of a button. 

How we spend our money and how we eat have direct results in the world. We can shape a more sustainable future by supporting small, family-owned farms and artisans with our grocery budget. Members can be confident that their dollars are going right back into our local food community; 50-60 cents of each dollar goes directly back to our producers compared with an average of 14 cents going back to farmers in the national grocery system. Additionally, our members help provide local jobs in the Pittsburgh area. This is impactful change. 

By personally scouting for producers in the area, we’ve been able to bring on a wider selection of groceries to fill our member’s tables. One example is Yarnick’s Farm and Greenhouses in Indiana, PA. Simon went to visit Dan Yarnick’s farm last week with a few members of the Harvie team, and Dan is so excited to bring his products to Harvie members in the new Local Grocery Box! We’ve got his hydroponically grown tomatoes for sale on Harvie Farms Pittsburgh right now. Dan has over 50 years of farming experience and has invested heavily in his operation to grow this quality product. With Harvie Farms Pittsburgh, now he can sell to his local community instead of shipping his tomatoes to New York City! 

For us at Harvie, the Local Grocery Box is a tangible step towards the food system we envision. Learn more about the Local Grocery Box here, and if you’re in Pittsburgh, we hope you’ll join us in the revolution! 

It’s all about the people

Dear Farmers and Supporters,

I have been thinking over the past few weeks about the people who work here and make Harvie possible. Harvie is about helping farmers create economically sustainable local farms and farmers are the soul of Harvie… but it takes a whole team of people to bring Harvie to you.

Part of what we do is build technology systems and software at Harvie, but it is much more than that. Marketing, support, sales, programming, developing new features, fixing bugs, on and on.. it simply does not work without the people. We are now a team of 15 smart and passionate people!

I am deeply grateful for their work and dedication. I hope you get the chance to talk to these people in the coming months and years.

These reflections stem from some employee changes here at Harvie over the past few months, both the sadness of losing a long time employee and the excitement of working with three new people.

Michael “Q” Roth recently left Harvie/Small Farm Central after almost seven years of service in customer support. If you have worked with us, then you have probably been on the receiving end of Q’s support. He became quite popular with our farmers and a few farms took the time to say good bye and thank you in video form:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thKEoWvzKRE

We also have four new people who have joined the Harvie team in the last few months: Lauren (support), Kiera (support), Lucy (support) and Mackenzie (Farm Outreach).

This week, I got everyone together in Pittsburgh for a “Harvie summit” stay-retreat. We have been having some long-range planning meetings so we can continue to grow and serve our farmers effectively. Here is a photo of the team volunteering at Grow Pittsburgh’s Braddock Farms this week:

Image

We are doing big things together and we are all so excited to grow our success alongside our farmers.

-Simon Huntley
Founder and CEO, Harvie

Join Our Team: Support Specialist

Harvie (http://harvie.farm) connects local consumers with local farmers who deliver shares of farm fresh products customized to their personal preferences.

Our company was started in 2006 to meet the technology and marketing needs of local farmers across the US, Canada, and internationally and has served 1000’s of farms in the last 13 years. The Harvie platform was introduced in late 2016 to address the changing landscape of food buying and to help farmers grow sales and profit by making local food more accessible through a customer friendly CSA / farm share model. The concept has grown rapidly. In 2019, Harvie will help 90 farmers deliver over 363,000 shares (roughly 1000/day) with much more growth planned in 2020 and beyond.

To keep up with growth, the Harvie Team is hiring a Harvie Support Specialist.

The Harvie Support Specialists work as the front line of customer support for both assisting our partner farms as well as their customers.  Support requests come in through several channels, primarily email, but also phone and online chat. Support for our partner farms includes everything from setting up new accounts to training farm employees on software features to everyday problem solving.  Supporting our farmers’ end users often involves more mundane tasks such as helping them get signed up, scheduling vacations, billing questions and other account management issues.

As with any small company, this position will be multidisciplinary and will occasionally include work involving other aspects of the company including marketing, product development and testing.  

This is an exciting opportunity for independent, self-starting individuals who are ready to grow with Harvie.

Important details:

Full-time position with some flexibility (32-40 hours/week)

Competitive salary adjusted upward with experience

Health benefits, retirement plan, and paid vacation

Professional development opportunities supported

Harvie farm share paid for by the company from a partner farm near you!

Office on North Shore of Pittsburgh, 10 minute walk from downtown, free parking

Relaxed dress code and office environment

Regular weekday schedule with some regular weekend coverage required

Equal Opportunity Employer

Requirements:

Highly organized to manage multiple goals simultaneously

Puzzle-solving — deductive ability to get to root causes of problems

Comfort with friendly phone support — support is unscripted and requests are often unique

Ability to explain technical concepts in a non-technical manner

Comfortable running demos and speaking on the phone

Ability to write courteous, friendly, and clear support emails

Ability to learn or have experience with web-based utilities such as Google Suite (Gmail, Google Docs, Hangouts, Google Sheets), Zendesk, Atlassian Suite, Slack, and Zoom

Apply

Send resume and cover letter in PDF format to mike@harvie.farm with subject line “Work at Harvie”.

About Harvie Farm Team

Interesting in taking your farm share sales to the next level?

The Harvie Farm Team is a sales team for your farm. The goal is to help you take your farms marketing efforts to the next level by bringing on team members and executing campaigns on your behalf that can assist with promotional activities. There are a couple different ways to participate. Choose one or both!

How it Works

Farm Team Members

Harvie will work with you to find and train “team members” that will act as brand ambassadors on your behalf. This includes

  • Helping craft outreach descriptions for team members
  • Training and marketing materials for team members
  • Monthly call to touch base with team members
  • Monthly reporting for payout
  • Workplace Wellness Farm Share Program

Goal

  • Assist with setting up new pick up locations
  • Community outreach such as helping set up tabling events, postering, handing out literature
  • Blogging
  • Sharing information on social media
  • Set up workplace farm share sites
  • General cheerleader for your farm

Member Acquisition Program

 Harvie will work on your behalf to plan and execute Facebook ad campaigns. This includes

  • Custom ad copy (images and text)
  • Creation and management of the Facebook ad campaign
  • Includes an interactive chat bot, follow up text messaging and email drip campaign.
  • Reporting and analysis

Goal

  • Lead generation
  • Share sales  
  • Specifically targeted geographical areas

Details

Harvie will assess a 10% fee for member acquisition program for the first year and 5% in the second year. This essentially covers our cost to plan and execute the campaign as well as pay for the ads.

Harvie will send you a monthly sales report for all farm team members. The farm will then pay out the 10% commission to the team members on a monthly basis for the first year and 5% for the second year.

Interested in learning about how the farm team can help your farm reach its goals?

Set up a call with our community manager, Stefanie here https://calendly.com/stefaniejo/marketing and please indicate this is a call for farm team!

Join Our Harvie Farm Team!

Harvie is seeking part-time interns for our Harvie Farm Team! Farm Team members will act as independent farm-to-fork sales representatives and help connect consumers to farms in the Pittsburgh area including Cherry Valley Organic Farm, Who Cooks For You, Harvest Valley Farm, Rivendale Farms, and more.

We are looking for motivated, energetic, and dedicated individuals to connect the Pittsburgh community, workplaces, employees and consumers to our Pittsburgh area Harvie farms by building relationships both on and offline. You will get as much or as little as you put into this position. For example – just want to share information on your blog in a more traditional “affiliate”style? We have a place for you. Have some extra time and really want to engage with your community one on one about farm-to-fork eating? You’ll be rewarded for that as well!

We want to work with people who can answer yes to most of these questions:

  • Do you vote with your dollar by supporting your local farmers?
  • Are you always telling family and friends about the importance of local food?
  • Are you considered the “go-to” person in your crowd when it comes to health and local food questions?
  • Do you enjoy working with people and building relationships?
  • Do you already have a platform to spread the local food word on your blog, Instagram,  Facebook or LinkedIn?

Ways to Participate:

INFLUENCER

Engagement Level = Low

Income Potential = Varies depending on number of followers

Are you active on social media with a high number of followers? Do you have a health or wellness related blog? Want to blog about farm shares and share recipes? We’ll give you a customized link to track back sales to your social media and blog activities!

REGIONAL SALES

Engagement Level = Medium

Income Potential = Medium- High

Research, identify and build relationships with community members and organizers, put up posters, distribute literature and table at health and food related events in predetermined areas.

WORKPLACE SALES/LOCATION COORDINATOR

Engagement Level = High

Income Potential = Medium – High

Research, identify and build relationships with HR managers, wellness program managers, office managers or business owners to develop a farm share pick up location. This could include cold calling, setting up and attending meetings, doing educational presentations, securing location sites and promoting membership. Potential to help establish workplace farm share programs, staff a workplace pick up location and act as the point of contact for the farm and members. Other duties may be needed and will be assigned by the farm.

What you get:

  • 10 percent commission first year/5 percent commission second year directly linked back to your sales efforts.
  • Potential for a comped farm share based on a minimum sales requirement
  • Earn other Harvie gear (hats, hoodies, t-shirts, mugs, etc.)
  • Weekly calls with other Harvie Farm Team members
  • Private Facebook Group with other Harvie Farm Team members
  • A dedicated Program Manager to help you succeed
  • Tool kits to help in the sales process
  • Customized tracking link to track back sales directly to you

Other position details:

  • Work as little or as much as you want
  • Independent contractor position paid on commision as a percentage of sales
  • Must be able to do on-farm visits as part of the onboarding process

Fill out the application here. Our program manager will be in touch with you!

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:

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