Lauren Kaplan - Jan 30, 2017

Marketing your CSA (Part III): Oh the Places You'll Go

Photo credit to Working Hands Farm

This is the third of a four-part series on marketing your CSA, loosely following the four P’s: product, price, placement and promotion.

When marketing your CSA, there are two main places that come to mind: the places where you will promote or advertise your CSA, and those where members receive their shares.

Let’s start with places where you will promote and advertise for your CSA.

Start with making a list of farm marketing outlets you already have. This includes both physical places (a farmers market you participate in, your farm/farm stand, restaurant accounts, confirmed pick-up locations if you have any) as well as your website and any online or social media platforms where you can share information about your CSA.

Next, expand your list by adding established outlets around your target community. Churches, fitness centers, libraries, laundromats, coffee shops, breweries and universities often have a central message boards. What local publications and media do you have access to? Is yours an Edible community? Are you on LocalHarvest? Are there any business or organizations that host pop-up markets? If you’re marketing to a bigger city, chances are there’s some organization out there that could help, perhaps adding your farm to a list of CSA’s in the city (or in a specific neighborhood or borough) or promoting you in an area where the demand for CSA exceeds the available shares.

Now focus your list. Which of the places on your list will help you reach potential new members in the most targeted, efficient, and effective manner? You could start by bumping to the top of the list any places with which you are most familiar, well-versed, or where you have a strong presence or good contacts. These will require less input of your time, effort or resources. Also make note of those places that might speak more directly to a targeted audience. Prioritizing in this way focuses your list on outlets likely to get you highest returns for the least amount of input.

Next, let’s look at the place where CSA members will pick up their produce.

Aside from having members pick up at your farm or at market, there are a number of ways members can pick up their shares. Take a look at that list you put together for promotion and advertising your CSA, and use it (if you like) to brainstorm a second list for pick-up locations. Physical places (such as churches, fitness centers etc) might be a good place to start when looking for potential pick-up locations. Do you know of any other places well-suited for a pick-up site that aren’t included in that list?

In searching for good pick-up spots, you’ll likely want locations that:
  • are shaded or allow you to set up tents
  • are conveniently or centrally located for members
  • have sufficient parking
  • allow for entry and maneuverability of farm vehicles
  • offer restrooms for your staff or the CSA pick-up coordinator
  • can commit to the whole season, and/or
  • have someone on staff or otherwise who wants to work with you and support your farm
These and other factors will help you to either weed certain places out, or include additional locations, from parks and parking lots to waterfronts and workplaces. Clearly much of this will be dependent on factors such as who your members are, where your farm is located, and whether you’re packing boxes or setting up a market-style pick-up.

Wherever you secure your sites, remember it’s always a good idea to get (and stay) on good terms with whomever owns or runs the space. Be courteous and respectful of that space, and ask both your employees and members to do the same. Some CSA farms also give a complimentary CSA share to whomever owns or is managing the site.

Finally, creating your own list of places and outlets that are most accessible, familiar, effective and/or targeted (for both promotional/advertising purposes as well as a list of appropriate pick-up sites to pursue) will likely help guide you as you develop a promotional strategy -- to be explored in the final post in this series.

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After graduating from UCSC's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Lauren Alexandra Kaplan spent a season at an organic CSA farm in California before returning east to farm in the Hudson Valley. Prior to pursuing farming full time, she worked in book publishing and helped to launch an urban farm in NYC. Alexandra is an avid salsa dancer and maker of jams, pickles, and kraut.

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