I’d love to have some feedback on a few rough spots in how we run our CSA administratively.
1. For a few years now, we’ve relied on our Change Order link for add-on requests (like eggs, honey or juice oranges) as well as Credit Card updates, vacation skips, and subscription holds/cancellations.
We instituted the Change Order system a few years back so that I could spend days at a time working on the farm without having the rosters blow up in my face, as well as the ability to go on vacation. For many years I couldn’t do either, and eventually it caught up with me. Literally, I hadn’t gone on vacation for 10 years when Beth took over. I don’t handle rosters or roster changes at all now, adhering to the Change Order system is an important part of keeping communications current and rosters error-free. (And me sane.) Beth is a full time librarian and does a meticulous job of keeping it all straight for us. She downloads the Change Orders every week and is totally on top of all this, leaving me to the occasional vacation and several-day farm projects without avoidable roster goofs. As some of you know, I had to take a months-long sick leave earlier this year; had I not had this in place, we would have had quite a mess on our hands when I returned. Most folks that emailed my personal email accounts during that time period, weren’t acknowledged during my hospitalization. It doesn’t matter that a member SHOULD know how their farm works, because in the end, all the matters is that many don’t. How a farm works is the boring part of a CSA, and our Welcome Note is lengthy and boring, I'm told. :/ I'm hoping we can get the word out more effectively with some subscriber input. What can we do differently?
Here’s what I’m doing currently:
I blog about our Change Order system, I print out the link onto a Welcome Label on the first box picked up, I include how our farm works on our website and the individually emailed Welcome Note sent to each new subscriber.
Still, many participants send emails which are not always caught in time to be included in the roster for which the change/add-on/cancellation/vacation skip was intended. I’m reaching out to our CSA membership to ask how we might get the word out, so no subscriber’s needs are left unattended to. What can I do to differently? Feedback and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
2. Quarter System:
Our farm is run on the quarter system.
1st quarter is January-March
2nd quarter is April-June
3rd quarter is July-September
4th quarter is October-December
We assume our subscribers are continuing into each new quarter as a default, because most do. This is no different than a gym membership or an apartment rental. Cancelling a subscription at the end of any quarter is easy: just use our Change Order link.(www.morningsongfarm.com, click on CSA Boxes, Click on Change Order. Your cancellation is immediately acknowledged via automated email response, and we manually acknowledge it on the roster. If anyone needs clarification, of course emailing us here makes sense.
3. Vacation skips: We currently offer 2 vacation skip credits to Every Week subscribers, and ask that those that don’t order weekly, or need more than 2 weeks of vacations… allow us to donate their box to the homeless shelter we serve. We’d like to make this more generous, but ran into problems with biweekly subscription vacation skips causing roster/pick-up/miscommunications. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
The traditional CSA model started in Japan, was based on a quarterly billing/commitment concept; which we started out doing many years ago…and we eventually added monthly billing for those that needed/chose to have their quarterly CSA payments spaced out into each month. We start billing at the end of each month for the following month’s boxes, and usually end the billing process in the first week of the current month that we’re delivering in. Occasionally the billing takes longer when there are a lot of credit card declines, changes or new starts. Some farms manage to do this automatically, but when we tried the auto software it just didn’t work for us. Manual transactions take longer, but each account is reviewed and the transactions are manually done to assure accuracy. Even New Starts are entered manually from the order form; they are not instantly charged to the credit card provided. This allows for a review of the order and making sure that unusual requests/start dates/add-ons are properly billed for; avoiding refunds.
5. Rosters: The roster at each drop point includes all participants of that drop point, whether they are picking up that week or not. The roster indicates a YES or NO by each person’s name. ALL means the subscriber is picking up every week, 2/4 means picking up in the 2nd and 4th week of that month, and 1/3/5 means picking up in the first, third and 5th (if there’s a fifth) of that month.
6. Signing off: It’s not a problem until it’s a problem: signing off that you have collected your box aids your volunteer host in tracking down an issue such as a missing box or a biweekly subscriber being on the wrong track.
7. Recycling: About HALF our CSA membership does not return their boxes, which means our CSA’s landfill footprint is considerably more than it needs to be, and adds to the cost of running the farm unnecessarily. Please return your empties each week. Some participants are choosing to transfer the contents of their boxes directly into bags so that they don’t have to return the box at all.
We’d appreciate our subscribers’ feedback on how we might improve communication and ideas that might improve how we run our farm administratively. Please let us know!