Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CSA Business Help is at Hand!!!

We were just recently introduced to some really neat software from The developers have created easy to use spreadsheets and programs as well as website development so that your CSA book keeping can become a lot easier! Take a look to see how they can help you become more accessible and reduce your stress.

From the minds of Small Farm Central:

Top Ten Ways You'll Love the Member Assembler
Posted October 22nd, 2009 by simon.huntley

1. Your own site: It's your own site and it's your data -- customers will never know about Small Farm Central and the Member Assembler. Your online CSA sign-up page is customizable and at your own address, such as

2. Cost-effective: At $1/per member per season the Member Assembler will pay for itself in saved time within a very short period. You are billed as your membership grows, so you don't have to worry about paying for members than you will need. Read more about pricing.

3. Easy to use: The Member Assembler is designed with the needs of the non-technical farmer in mind -- you don't need to know all the technology, you just want to manage your members.

4. No risk: Free for the first 25 members and no billing until January 2010.

5. Payment processing: Automatically process payments through Google Checkout or PayPal -- once payment is made, the payment is associated with the member in the Member Assembler so you can easily keep track of balances and payments.

6. Or no payment processing: Don't like the idea of sending 2+% of your CSA sales to the credit card man? Use our invoice only payment processing (ie no payment is processed online) and take checks in the mail.

7. Integrated: The Member Assembler is tied right in to the Small Farm Central website development service, so you can run your website with the member service right on top of it or you can run the Member Assembler as a stand-alone service.

8. Export Data: Download excel spreadsheets of all your membership data to import into other applications such as accounting, to print, or process in any way you like!

9. Small Farm Central: We are the leading web services company geared only to the needs of the direct marketing farm -- with over 250 sites and 1 million views per month we are always improving our services and provide personal, understanding customer support.

10. Mailing Lists: Quickly send out blast emails to your membership with our mailing list tools -- even send specific messages to individual pick-up locations

Friday, December 10, 2010

A one day workshop to explore business decisions Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers need to make to be successful, addressed by experienced CSA farmers and agricultural professionals.

When: Monday, January 24, 2011, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Where: Berks County Agricultural Center, 1238 County Welfare Rd., Suite 110, Leesport, PA 19533
Cost: $ 30.00


8:30 – 8:55am


8:55 – 9:00am
Welcome & Introductions

9:00 – 10:00am
CSA Planning: Budgets, Equipment & Labor
Mike Ahlert, Red Earth Farm
Peggy Fogarty-Harnish, Penn State Cooperative Extension
10:15 – 11:15am
Management Strategies
Tianna Dupont, Penn State Cooperative Extension
Heidi Secord, Cherry Valley CSA

11:30 am –12:30pm
Promotion, Communication & Planning
Stina Vosburgh, Robyn Van En Center
Lisa Kerschner, North Star Orchard

12:30 – 1:30pm

1:30 – 2:30 pm
Exploring CSA Models - Multi-farm CSA’s
Alex Jones, Greens Grow
Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative

2:45 – 3:45 pm
Exploring CSA Models
John Good, Quiet Creek Farm
Mike Ahlert, Red Earth Farm
Jill Landis, Living Hope Farm
Eric Benner, Wilson College CSA

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Brian Moyer, Penn State Cooperative Extension (610) 391-9840 in advance of your participation or visit. For more information visit: CSA School

Monday, November 8, 2010

How does time fly? It's the season's end already?

It seems that September and October have flown by and all of a sudden we have stumbled into the month of November. In that time, many CSAs have wound down their growing season and are now working on winter preparations. Perhaps you as a CSA farmer are wondering what you can do to make next year better or maybe you are completely thrilled with the way this season went. Either way, it can be very beneficial to ask your CSA members if they agree with you. Emailed, hardcopy, or web based surveys can be very helpful to see what you can do even better in future seasons.


Check out other CSA surveys online - Google "CSA Surveys" and you will be able to see sample questions of what you might want to know! Ex:

Survey monkey is very beneficial for web based surveys. The downside is that you are only allowed 10 questions.

Another option for email or blog based surveys is that you can ask as many questions as you want... and people can post/email/ or print and mail their responses. See the survey below from Oakhill Organics in Oregon:

"What about the CSA program so far has been especially positive for you and
your family?
What about the CSA program or season was less positive for you?
Do you have a suggestion for changing it that might be applicable?
Overall, how would you rate the quality of the vegetables you received this season?
Overall, how did you feel about the quantity of vegetables provided?
How did the amounts work for you and your family?
At this point, do you plan to participate in the CSA again next year? YES / NO
… if no, why not?
Is there anything you would suggest we change to accommodate your needs differently?
Any other comments?
Finally, we’re collecting CSA member ‘testimonials’
to share in our 2010 season materials. In one to four sentences, what would you
want to tell a potential new member about your Oakhill Organics CSA experience?
May we use your name with your testimonial? NO / YES: "

Survey Style:

One thing you must be wary of is asking members too many questions. If you have ever answered a really long survey you will understand that a survey that is too long may just end up forgotten by the wayside. Try to limit your survey to 1-2 pages typewritten.

Anonymity in survey giving can be very helpful for getting honest answers but also leave a space for members names if they so choose so that you can know who to contact if you decide to make changes that might affect their decision to stay.

At the end of the day, handing out a survey is often rewarding to the Farmer... While there may be one or two grumpy or disgruntled members, most are pleased with the benefits of the CSA. That is part of the beauty of the CSA contract: the members know there are risks and rewards when they sign up, and many are left feeling rewarded for the experience.

Till next time,


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We are Ba-a-a-ack!!!

After a few changes in the office and some updates to our programs, the Robyn Van En Center is very happy to be back and running full steam! I, Christina, am your host for today's blog experience!

The summer was a quiet one here at the Robyn Van En Center, but we are pleased to have over 85 new CSA's join our ranks this year! While we are excited at the growth, we would love to see even greater numbers so that local foods are more readily available to all areas of the country.

We have some new ideas for outreach and support that we would like to offer to our CSA farmers and hope to make these available in the near future. We also would love to hear feedback on how we can better serve you - whether you are a farmer, a CSA member, or just interested in finding out more about CSAs and farming.

I'll be back to share more with you soon!

Keep on supporting fresh, local food!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I am contacting folks who I think might be interested in screening my film HomeGrown. I think it's something you might be interested in.
HomeGrown is an award winning film that tells the story of the Dervaes family who are living "off the grid" in the heart of urban Pasadena, California. They harvest over 6000 pounds of produce on less than a quarter acre, while running a popular website that is known around the world. The film is an intimate portrait of what it's like to live "Little House on the Prairie" in the 21st Century.
HomeGrown screened to sold out audiences at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, and recently won the "PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD" at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Northern California. It has also shown at a number of other major festivals and community events around the world.
A sample quote about HomeGrown:
"Homegrown is marvelously inspiring, eminently practical, and one of the finest documentaries I’ve ever seen. Watching the film restored my faith that, even with all the devastation, we can still live thriving, beautiful and earth-friendly lives --- wherever we are."John Robbins, author The New Good Life, and Diet For A New AmericaIf this sounds like something you'd like to see, please check out my website and trailer at I look forward to hearing from you.

All best regards,
Robert McFalls
Producer/Director: HomeGrown

Allies Farm CSA: Helping Those With Disabilities

At the Allies Farm in Hamilton NJ. they are doing more than just growing food for our needs. Allies Farm is also helping people with special needs. Allies and Mercer County Parks have partnered to create a unique community integrated program experience for participants with special needs. This is a wonderful opportunity for individuals with disabilities to buid positive relationships through employment, volunteerism, and horticultural therapy. Allies Farm offers opportunities for people who like to work outside the chance to be part of a viable business and earn money. If you would like to learn more about this program you can visit their website at or contact Amy Watts at Or give her a call at 609-233-5855.