There are few more discouraging feelings than telling the world your CSA is open for business and then crickets.
Those of us who do CSA throughout the main growing season (April to November in most places) are eager to get the season going in January—just about the time when our prospective customers are getting their first credit-card bills from the holidays. So perhaps the excitement can be a little lopsided.
Not to fret. With some good planning and execution, even the most exhausted customers can get excited about fresh, local produce coming their way.
Spend the winter cleaning up your website. This is a great a place to start. Make it look like new, and hire someone to help you with it if you have to. Add new pictures, new features and update your information. It doesn’t have to be much—people just want to be inspired to support you when they come to the site. If you keep a blog, update it. Again, with pictures. Lots of pictures.
How are your business cards looking these days? Be honest. Are they outdated and coffee-stained? Make them look nice. Give potential customers something they want to put on their fridge, not in their garbage. In fact, if you can make refrigerator magnets, all the better.
Assuming you’re going to need to get new customers, make sure you have some flyers ready to go. I would recommend making something glossy and clean that contains your farm number, your website (including social media handles), your values, your prices, and a general description of what the CSA is and how it works. You should have these already ready to go before you ever announce your CSA.
Coffee shops, churches, bookstores and libraries generally have community boards for small posters. Have a nice set of posters printed for your CSA but nothing too large. Community boards are often starved for space, so the poster has to fit, but it also has to stand out among the others and be easy to read from a distance. Make sure this poster has your website and relevant contact info. It must be clean and well-designed––let the flyers that you leave with the poster do most of the farm description.
Make A Video
These days, you don’t need to have any real skill to make a nice video. Your phone can likely do the job. Take some pictures or footage of your farm and your family, and use iPhoto or a similar software program to put together a CSA announcement video. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything blockbuster—it just needs to be pretty, clean and show that you’re a real person with a real farm. Then use it strategically.
Make A Release Plan
Never expect all of your CSA members to roll in as soon as you announce that you’re open for business. If that happens, great, but be prepared to have to work at it. Every week you should prepare a new way to announce the CSA or encourage people to sign up. First, announce the CSA via your website and social media. That week, put flyers and posters around town. The next week, put out the video. The next week, perhaps write a blog post––any sort of content you can share to nudge people in the direction of signing up. Announcing a CSA is a bit like farming: First you plant the seed, and then you cultivate it and encourage it to grow.
Notably, National CSA Day is Feb. 24, 2017. Use that day to promote your business heavily, as well.
When it comes to CSAs, it is not necessarily better to get an early start. If you’re a new, it will likely take you longer to fill up your subscription, so an early announcement can be good, but if you’re an established CSA, you have a little more wiggle room. Announcing too early, may just lead to general apathy from exhausted holiday shoppers. If you can hold off a little longer, perhaps allowing people to recover from the holidays, the announcement may be met with more enthusiasm, sparking a little momentum.
My recommendation is to announce your CSA no less than 70 days before your first delivery. Plant that seed and get it growing.