Here are some of the frequently asked questions about CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that we often hear when meeting with prospective customers. If you are thinking about starting your own CSA market garden, check out the most common questions and our answers here.
By the way, we meet with all our prospective customers, and I recommend you do the same. Yes, this does take a lot of time and planning. We schedule 30-45 minutes for each meeting. But we believe this is key to the success of our marketing model. Note that you only have to do this once, for new customers; we don't plan meetings every year for continuing customers.
Here's why we do it. First, you get to see people in their homes, and (more important) they get to see you and how you present yourself. This helps to create the relationship. I find out out their preferences for veggies. I have also discovered interesting facts like some customers are vegetarian. Some have food allergies.
And in one case there was a family consisting of one adult and one small child that had planned on a full share basket; this would have been way too much food for them, so I suggested they take the half-basket. Finally, you can also find out if there are other farm goodies they might like; this is how I pre-sell my pork and chicken most years.
So, customer meetings are important. On with the frequently asked questions about CSA.
What day do we deliver? We tell people that we deliver one day a week, on a Monday or a Friday, according to the customer’s preference. We recommend that you split your deliveries over 2 days. This helps ensure that produce is always being picked at the peak of taste and maturity, (a good selling point you can tell your customers) and also spreads the farm work out over the week.
What time do we deliver? We tell
people that we pick, wash and pack veggies in the morning, and deliver
in the afternoon. Note that some items - e.g. carrots, cabbage - that
store well, we pick the day before and refrigerate. This is also true
for some lettuces; they will actually last longer for our customers if
we pick them the day before and refrigerate them overnight before
delivery. We keep our delivery runs short - less than 2 1/2 hours - so
that the veggies remain fresh.
When will deliveries start? We tell people our planned first and last delivery dates, and always explain that this tends to vary a little bit from year to year, depending on weather. We give them a range of dates to expect the first delivery e.g. ‘somewhere in the first two weeks of June’, and tell them we will contact them before delivery starts.
What happens if the customer is on vacation? This might be the most common of the frequently asked questions about CSA. We tell customers that, since the veggies are a perishable item, there is no way to ‘store’ them while they are on vacation. We usually suggest to people that they have a friend, neighbour or family member pick up the basket for them, and make use of the veggies. We can halt deliveries for the duration of the vacation, but most people chose the first option.
Do we guarantee quantities of vegetables? In our flyer we explain that while we plan on average to deliver a good basketful of produce, its impossible to guarantee any particular crop or quantity. We also explain all the steps we take to help ensure we deliver.
The the most common frequently asked questions about CSA in our experience; be ready with your own answers when meeting with your prospective customers.
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Where would you find the water to water the vegetables and 3/4 of an acre? Would you have to dig a well? With no electricity and no running water near