Binghamton Farm Share capacity building project
The goal of the Binghamton Farm Share Capacity Building Project is to further refine and expand Binghamton Farm Share to create a sustainable model. This means providing producers with technical training that will help them meet the program’s growing demand for shares while also developing educational materials for consumers to improve customer retention.
This year we held two technical trainings for our farmers based on their own needs-assessment and on customer surveys from the past year. We also worked to create new, easy to navigate educational materials for the customers and disseminated them over the course of the year. Additionally, Cornell Cooperative Extension- Broome County sampled recipes at rotating distribution sites throughout the season. This helped the consumers become more familiar with the produce they were receiving and ways to store and prepare it.
- Increased sales: We increased sales in 2015 by 40% surpassing our stated goal of 30%.
- Program sustainability:
- This season we increased volunteer staffing of distribution sites. Where last year we relied on the Coordinator to be at the sites this year she was able to work on other projects or manage customer service issues during distribution times.
- We added $1-$2 fees to the cost of shares generating $3,500 in program income
- One of our partner farms, Early Morning Farm, allowed CSA members who buy direct-from-farm to donate their early sign up savings to Binghamton Farm Share. This supplied us with an extra $850.
- We included a section on our share agreement that allowed people to donate directly to the program when they were sending in their agreement. This garnered additional funding of approximately $600.
- Improved quality control: Our technical training in October of this year pertained to packaging. We are documenting packaging/quality complaints this year to compare with next year after the farmers have had a chance to implement what they learned.
- Farmers increase knowledge of different marketing techniques: In the spring of this year we provided a technical training revolving around marketing strategies. Topics covered included: creating promotional materials, utilization of social media, what photographs are best to use and how to strategically use limited time.
- Farmers are provided with other technical assistance trainings as needed: This year we were able to visit farms and determine what further technical assistance trainings would be useful to our farmers pertaining to creating sustainability. We have targeted: GAPs training, further marketing, and strengthening of the labor base.
- Overall customer satisfaction, knowledge and retention: Customer retention this year was up to 70% increased from 60% in 2014. We have created some new educational materials for our consumers. The “Care for your Share” flyer was given to all members at the beginning of the season and on a rolling basis as people signed up. One sided and colorful this document lists different produce, how to store them and how long they are generally good for. We also worked to create a freezing guide for our consumers with tips on how to best to freeze and then use the items at later dates.
- Contract with Cornell Cooperative Extension-Broome County created
- Marketing technical training held
- BFS sign-ups open for customers
- “Care for Your Share” educational flyer created
- Customer pre-surveys are disseminated and collected
- “Care for your Share” educational flyer shared with customers
- Weekly recipes and newsletters from farms handed out to share customers
- CCE-BC weekly sampling at distribution sites
- VINES/CCE-BC farm visits were conducted in June and July.
- Creation and distribution of Freezing Guide for vegetables
- October: on-farm training for partner farms was held at Early Morning Farm (this was held later than we first assumed it would be as it isn’t feasible for farmers to leave their farms for a training during the growing season)
- Customer post-surveys are collected and analyzed
- Post season meeting was held with partner farms to debrief on the season, provide feedback from customer surveys, and discuss opportunities for improvement
November 2015-April 2016:
- 2-3 Technical Assistance trainings for partner farms will be held pertaining to GAPs, marketing, and strengthening of the labor base.
- We are continuing to apply to present at conferences for winter and spring.
- Yearly program report will be posted on VINES website
- Article will be published in Cornell Small Farms Quarterly Newsletter or similar resource
- “CSA 101 Workshop Series” will be held by Binghamton Farm Share with the goal of educating customers on different aspects of CSAs: how weather impacts the crops, what produce is local to our area, how to prepare for their CSA each week, how to store produce for the short and long term as well as identifying some local produce which members may be unfamiliar with and preparation tips.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Data gathered thus far indicates that Binghamton Farm Share is continuing to grow in a sustainable nature. 150 families were part of Farm Share over the course of the season – 110 shares were sold nearly every week showing a retention rate of 70% which was an increase of approximately 17% from 2014.
Through end of the season customer surveying 81% of respondents said they would return with only 8% saying they would not and 10% undecided for varying reasons. 93% of respondents learned how to prepare new vegetables or familiar vegetables in new ways, many indicating that the recipes and sampling were the resources they used. This illustrates our nutrition education is helping the consumers utilize their vegetables which is one of the main reasons that people leave the program.
Having gone through the technical training on packaging farmers are using some of their mini-grant funds to try new packaging. This was one of the identified areas which needed improvement. This change is important for preserving the quality of the products that customers receive as some packaging methods have resulted in damaged produce and customer complaints. In addition, better packaging methods will make it easier for farmers to fit more shares in their vehicles, allowing them to deliver more shares per trip. We have discussed different packaging options with our farms previously, and we think farmers were more open to the idea this year because we had another producer present the new packing options at the training and she was able to speak to the real world application of the packaging.
116 North West Street
Homer, NY 13077
Office Phone: 6077490086
1609 NYS Rte 79
Windsor, NY 13865
Office Phone: 6076552074