PHOTO: Tim Sackton/Flickr
Jesse Frost
August 12, 2016

If we’re being honest, there are only a set number of people who are interested in joining a subscription-style farm at any one time. And those people have access to increasingly more options of how to get their produce, so standing out among the crowd is essential in converting some of the available customers into your CSA members. Here’s what to consider when managing that oh-so-important task.

Defining Your Demographic

“Knowing who is in your community might influence the products you will offer, drop off points, what kind of shares you are offering, events you may have, and how you communicate with your shareholders,” writes the Pennsylvania State University Extension service. Indeed, marketing to the right audience in the right way is the most efficient way to stand out. And knowing that crowd will make subsequent decisions easier.

Creating Your Brand

Once you know your demographic, you can create your brand. Areas dense in young professionals may prefer a different experience and aesthetic than, say, retirement communities or rural communities. You should let your own personal style influence your farm brand, but knowing who you are selling to can guide just how far to take it.

Engaging Your Customer

Ben Hartman, farmer and author of The Lean Farm (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) writes: “Remember, the service aspect of your farm is just as important as the product.” Making your customers feel like they belong at your farm—like it’s theirs, too—can really add a level of engagement with the food you grow that keeps them coming back. If they get to have some part in the decision-making process, customers respond well to that.

Distributing Your Product

Standing out may also be as simple as doing a different type of CSA. Does your demographic prefer the convenience of a delivery service or do they enjoy weekly trips to the farmers market to get their CSA? If you find that your demographic is primarily busy people, they may want someone to drop their food off and not have to deal with the market every week. Others might love a reason to bring the family out to the market and may want to pick the veggies themselves rather than having a pre-packed box of food. This may take some experimenting, but it’s important to know what your customers value most. It’s also important to do what works best for you, so don’t go crazy trying to cater to everyone.

Finding Your Location

Few things will make you stand out more than being the only CSA in town, so it’s worth looking at the outskirts of saturated markets: the suburbs. These places often have a lack of good farms and farmers markets, and they might be a perfect places to start your new business.

Promoting Quality

The most obvious and perhaps most important way to stand out is by having the highest quality of food possible. If what you grow is better than everything around you, then standing out is not going to be a big problem. Hopefully, the problem then will be keeping up.


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