Customizing CSA: CSA 2017 – Week #15
In the age of Whole Foods being bought by Amazon, technology keeps intersecting into the food industry. It leaves farmers like us wondering how much we need to think about adding customization as a dimension of our CSA. Mike and I constantly debate if and how we should change our CSA model.
This is the 13th year of our CSA. We started before the boom of cell phones, let alone smart phones. The main tools of our business to organize customer information and connect to for many years were Microsoft office software and Gmail.
Mike and I often joke that we and some of the more established CSAs in the area are like dinosaur CSAs. We have a pretty simple offering: two share types. We decide the rest. Over the years we have added more things as we have found software that makes this possible – like online signing up and payment, add-on egg shares, and vacation box holds. But for the most part of model is a pretty traditional one: you pay to join, and we keep you fed and healthy with what’s coming from the fields.
Meanwhile, as younger millenials are starting new farms, they are starting from the ground up in the age of smart phones and software choices that allow more customization and choice for their customers.
Mike and I feel sort of stuck, in terms of deciding how to move forward. We do use a more traditional CSA model. However, each year we do sell out. I often feel like we are stuck between two different bits of folks wisdom: ‘don’t fix what ain’t broken’ and ‘it’s better to be proactive than reactive.’
What’s a farm business to do? Well, our first thought was to ask the membership and give them a survey. We did this last year. We explained different ways we could add choice to the CSA experience and asked what they thought.
The results? Only 10% of the members responded. And those that did overwhelming stated they wanted things to stay just as they are. The problem here, is that we still don’t know what the other 90% of folks think.
The experience of the survey told us that we aren’t really ever going to capture what you all want as the membership. So we have to research in our own way, and use what we know about our business and your desires and make a best guess as to how to keep our CSA relevant for all of you.
Our basic premise is that we do think it’s better to be proactive than reactive. We do want to incorporate some level of customization into our CSA shares in future seasons.
How do we decide and create what this might look like? What kind of research can we do? We debate endlessly ourselves. We seek out other farms with different business models and talk to them. When I see CSA members at market, I toss ideas to them and see what they think. I propose ideas to the crew and to babysitters. We talk to friends living in other areas and ask them to tell us about their CSAs and how they incorporate customization. I’m also in the process of talking to various software companies to see what programs might be out there to help us run the kind of CSA we envision.
And of course, we welcome any ideas you all want to throw our way! There’s lots of different ways we can try to incorporate customization into CSA… what kind of ideas do you have?
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your veggies!
|In the Box:
- Beet, Potato, & Walnut Salad
- Sweet Pepper, Carrot, & Potato Soup
- Dark Velvet Beet Cookies
- Arugula Potato Salad
- Green Poblano Rice
- Carrot Tahini Salad with Chickpeas
- Morocan-Spiced Roasted Carrot Hummus
- Radish Olive Bacon Potato Salad
- Fish Tacos with Cilantro and Radishes
- Spinach Salad with Peppers and Buttermilk Dressing