Last time, we discussed how Neversink farm simplified its farmers’ market efforts. In this post, we’ll look at how they simplified by viewing their CSA as a completely separate business.
Why People Visit Neversink Farm’s Booth
Many people would argue that their farm’s story is their edge and that this is what pulls people into their booth at a farmers’ market. But to Conor and Kate, the story can only get you so far. If he had to categorize the people who visit their booth, it would look like this:
The 10 percent. The steady customers who account for 30 percent of sales because they shop for their entire week. They’re the customers who help carry you. They’re the ones who are really easy to keep because you just need to keep them happy by having the products they like.
The 70 percent. These are the people who are just meandering through the market. They’re the ones attracted to the piled-high vegetables, so Conor makes sure to put colorful displays and even sale items at the entrance to their booth. These customers are the ones Conor tries to convert into regulars.
The bottom 20 percent. These are the ones who probably came to the farmers’ market on a whim and likely are not coming back. They might only come up to the stand because the vegetables look nice. But it’s important to reach out to these people as well because every dollar counts.
Transferring Markets and Neversink Farm’s Edge
Conor and Kate have transferred markets fairly often over the years because they found that the smaller farmers’ markets just weren’t providing enough traffic. Their ideal farmers’ market is a good balance of having enough (but not too many) produce vendors and enough customers to meet the demand.
As for their farm’s edge, Conor and Kate are pretty confident about how they create a beautiful environment for the customer to shop in. They make sure that everything looks the best it can. And their strategy works well for them because it does drive a lot of traffic into their farm’s booth.
Many farmers’ markets in their area were already saturated when they started farming, so they had to think of something that would give them an edge. One strategy they developed was leveraging fresh carrots. They decided to get really good at growing carrots. When most growers at farmers’ markets are selling storage carrots, Neversink is still selling fresh ones. And when customers buy fresh carrots, they naturally buy other goods as well.
It’s little tweaks like this that increase their sales throughout the season.
Looking at the CSA as a Separate Business
Conor and Kate tried doing a CSA, but they decided to drop it after a while because Conor looks at managing a CSA as a separate business. It didn’t make sense to manage two businesses at the same time if there was a potential to hurt the income stream of one of them.
Also, selling their produce at the farmers’ market is just more profitable than putting their vegetables into a CSA. Case in point: tomatoes. If they decide to do early tomatoes and sell them at the farmers’ market, they can get top dollar for them. On the other hand, it would hurt their profitability to add tomatoes to the heavily discounted CSA boxes.
Not only that, but CSA members would get upset if they saw that the farm was selling gorgeous tomatoes at the farmers’ market but giving them kale. And explaining that growing those tomatoes costs a lot of money—which the CSA membership can’t pay for—isn’t going to help appease them.
So to make things easier, they dropped their CSA altogether and kept things simple by just selling at the farmers’ market.
We hope you enjoyed this series on simplifying for farm success.
You can learn more by checking out our podcast with grower Conor Crickmore:
And you can find all our market gardening podcasts at Farm Small, Farm Smart—the longest-running podcast on market gardening in the world.