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Farmigo: Removing The Pain of Running a CSA

| Friday June 3rd, 2011 | 0 Comments

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We are right in the middle of prime growing season for farms in the northern hemisphere. For an increasing number of people, that means signing up to get produce directly from farmers via CSAs.

On paper, it sounds like a good thing: Consumers get fresh, local produce, often exactly what they specify. It’s typically organic. The food miles compared to typical store bought produce are drastically reduced.

But there’s a problem: It’s quite cumbersome for farmers to manage a CSA program. The logistics of handling hundreds, perhaps thousands of individual customers, answering their questions, meeting their requests, and retaining their membership year to year turn into a giant logistical addition to the already busy life of a farmer. CSA farms may have many advantages over large corporate farms, but depth of resources is not one of them.

Somebody ends up doing most of the work keeping the CSA going, keeping them away from doing what they enjoy most: working the land. Farmigo looks like a brilliant solution to help make farms more profitable while making the customer experience more smooth, professional, and self service. Basically, it automates what would otherwise necessity emails and phone calls to the farm from customers, while simplifying the running of the actual farm.

I know I’ve often shied away from CSAs, since they often require an upfront payment, often several hundred dollars. Farmigo allows farmers to give their customers a range of payment options, from weekly to the entire season, with billing managed through Farmigo. Farming margins are slim, but Farmigo’s payment processing cost is a low 1% per transaction, which is low enough to save farmer’s money on labor costs and more time to do what they love best.

You as a customer can locate and choose your pickup point via a map generated based on your location and get directions to the pick-up spot. Holiday stoppages, switching pickup points, changing plans are all self service. Farmers have the ability to offer coupon codes and adjust the pricing to address additional fuel costs for longer distance pickup sites. Farmigo also gives farmers additional income possibilities like special add ons and speedy delivery.

The back end administration for the farmers is geared toward minimizing time while still maximizing customers personal interaction. Member data can be quickly filtered for particular attributes, so farmers can quickly find members who are behind on their payments and send a customized email following up with them.

Having volunteered on a farm, I can say that every minute a farmer can save on administrative time means more money in his pocket. It’s clear Farmigo has thoroughly thought through how to best serve both farmers and their customers, thus helping make small, local farming more sustainable as a business.

Readers: Are you a farmer? Would you/do you use Farmigo? What other tools have you found that are helping farmers and their customers better connect, and make smaller scale farming more viable, enjoyable?

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Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.


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