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I have been asked quite a bit about marketing for Small scale farming and commercial gardening.  Marketing for small scale farming success is very important.

Beth from Kenya Africa sent us this email after an email I sent regarding marketing:

“Thank-you for such great insight. I live in Kenya Africa and I am passionate to farming. But marketing has always been my greatest challenge. How can I employ the CSA for success. Thank-you.”

 

So let me share with you the email I sent out about the Fires we are having close to my home and how I see the smoke and how it compares to marketing:

 

 

Joseph Marsh followed the Black Forest Fire and posted this photo just south  of the evacuation zone. (Credit: Joseph Marsh/Twitter)

Joseph Marsh followed the Black Forest Fire and posted this photo just south
of the evacuation zone. (Credit: Joseph Marsh/Twitter)

 

 

We are surrounded by fires once again here in Colorado. My
wife and I are in the voluntary evacuation zone.   Smoke fills the
skies and brings confusion and doubt to many.

So how does that help you create a profitable small scale
farm?  How is marketing a tool to use?

 

Have you heard the term CSA? Community Supported Agriculture?
This is one way to create marketing for small scale farming success.  This is  marketing method where you actually partner with your
customers and pre-sell your products: Produce, fruit, tools,
services.  You are actually becoming partners with your
customers before they receive their products.

But to do this effectively, they must Know, Like and Trust you.

Marketing for small scale farming is not smoke and mirrors.

Just as the smoke brings confusion and uncertainty,  the marketing of today brings about confusion.  There appears to be so much “smoky”
marketing, to know what is healthy and beneficial is clouded by hype and
splashy headlines.

Marketing is a way to reach those people who want what
you grow or produce.  It is a process of meeting those people and sharing
with them the quality of what you have and the Benefits of what
you have to give them in exchange for value or appreciation.  We
use money, whether it is in the form of cash, credit card payment
or by trading (exchange) for what you need.

We do what we do, not just to make money, but to make a
difference in other peoples lives.   Yes,money is nice since we use
it to pay for living and growing, but it is not the end
all of our efforts.  How many people do you know
live a healthy life eating money?

Marketing is meant to build relationships with your
customers.  Find out what they want and need, so that you can
supply it to them.

So my point is this:

Get to know your customer. Build a relationship with them, then
over deliver on what you have promised.

Think about the businesses that you support.  The ones that you love
to go to and rave about, if that is the type of business
that you want to grow. Then Build a profitable small scale farm by
creating value and marketing honestly about who you are and what you produce.

 

You can see how the smoke draws your attention away from the rest of the picture.  Your customers may be looking for one solution.  You may have THE solution for them, you just need to share your dream and plan with them.

But for CSA’s, the hope and risk is dependent upon how you set up your business and who you partner with.

 

Community supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to market your products and services.

Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org/csa/)  Shared this following article about Community Supported Agriculture.  I have read many articles, and have plans for a good CSA.  I have been blessed to speak and interview many people who have started their own CSA.  Just as with any business, there is risk, but when you are truly serving your customers, it becomes a community.  Read the article from Local harvest!

 

For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many CSAs there are in the U.S.. LocalHarvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 4,000 listed in our grassroots database.

Variations
As you might expect with such a successful model, farmers have begun to introduce variations. One increasingly common one is the “mix and match,” or “market-style” CSA. Here, rather than making up a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer lays out baskets of the week’s vegetables. Some farmers encourage members to take a prescribed amount of what’s available, leaving behind just what their families do not care for. Some CSA farmers then donate this extra produce to a food bank. In other CSAs, the members have wider choice to fill their box with whatever appeals to them, within certain limitations. (e.g. “Just one basket of strawberries per family, please.”)

CSAs aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers include the option for shareholders to buy shares of eggs, homemade bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies. Sometimes several farmers will offer their products together, to offer the widest variety to their members. For example, a produce farmer might create a partnership with a neighbor to deliver chickens to the CSA drop off point, so that the CSA members can purchase farm-fresh chickens when they come to get their CSA baskets. Other farmers are creating standalone CSAs for meat, flowers, eggs, and preserved farm products. In some parts of the country, non-farming third parties are setting up CSA-like businesses, where they act as middle men and sell boxes of local (and sometimes non-local) food for their members.

Shared Risk
There is an important concept woven into the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. That is the notion of shared risk: in most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant box of produce each week. If things are slim, members are not typically reimbursed. The result is a feeling of “we’re in this together”. On some farms the idea of shared risk is stronger than others, and CSA members may be asked to sign a policy form indicating that they agree to accept without complaint whatever the farm can produce.

Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm – like they do in any kind of business – and the expected is not delivered, and members feel shortchanged. At LocalHarvest we are in touch with CSA farmers and members from all over the country. Every year we hear get complaints about a few CSA farms (two to six farms a year, over the last nine years) where something happened and the produce was simply unacceptable. It might have been a catastrophic divorce, or an unexpected death in the family. Or the weather was abominable, or the farmer was inexperienced and got in over his/her head.

In our experience, if the situation seems regrettable but reasonable – a bad thing that in good faith could have happened to anyone – most CSA members will rally, if they already know and trust the farmer. These people are more likely to take the long view, especially if they have received an abundance of produce in the past. They are naturally more likely to think, “It’ll be better next year,” than are new members who have nothing to which to compare a dismal experience. The take-home message is this: if the potential for “not getting your money’s worth” makes you feel anxious, then shared risk may not be for you and you should shop at the farmers market

 

 

From this article, you can see how marketing is really a tool to communicate with others about your passion and how you serve others.  The media  and  “Marketing Agencies” complete intensive studies on how to get people to buy.  They spend millions of dollars to pinpoint who is going to purchase, when they will purchase, and who makes the decision to purchase.

Healthy Organic and nutritious food is becoming once again a very important issue.

Thank you for taking the time to research and decide to be part of the Solution community.

 

If you just want to grow your own food but do not know how to start, I recommend  Food4Weath (for growing the easy way).  I have been using  the food4wealth system to greatly reduce my workload in the garden.  The system works great for me.

 

Have a Great Day

Turning Your Dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs, the Caretaker

Founder hisfarm.org and Ambassador of Natural News and Sustainable Living on How to Live on Purpose.com

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