CSA Member Research: Recommendations for Troy's Community Farm

Capitalize on Troy’s Positive Attributes

These data indicate that current CSA members are very satisfied with their membership and they have provided examples of what is working best for them. Thus, the first recommendation to Troy Community Farm is to keep up the good work. Below there are a few ways to accentuate Troy’s positive qualities that were provided directly by the participants in the study or extrapolated from the data. Some of these have already been instituted and others have been recognized and/or revised by Claire Strader, the managing farmer, who has agreed to apply them.

  1. Market Troy’s convenient location and uniqueness as an urban farm.
  2. Recruit as locally as possible to capitalize on the convenience factor and encourage environmentally sound shopping habits.
  3. Market the personal interaction members get to have with the farmer and the farm.
  4. Give Claire more time to interact with the members at the stand by having the Farm and Field workers be responsible for the logistics of setting up and distributing produce.
  5. Market the general benefits of CSA: Fresh, organic produce and supporting local farmers.
  6. Market the benefits of receiving pre-selected produce such as exposure to new foods, menu planning and inspiration, healthier eating habits, etc.
  7. Market to individuals that want to make changes in their life, i.e. eat better, cook more, etc.
  8. Incorporate more recipes in the newsletter as they are very popular and promote the benefits of pre-selected produce.
  9. Provide a recipe drop-box at the farm stand (or another method of collection) to encourage members to share their favorite recipes.
  10. Encourage members to include a photograph with their recipe to help members get to know each other.
  11. Market Troy’s connection to FTG.
  12. Include recipes (plus photographs) from individuals that are involved with other aspects of FTG to help connect CSA members to the organization.
  13. Continue to facilitate the Core Group as it enhances member satisfaction and provides support for the farm.
  14. Empower the Core Group and other members to help to enhance the community aspect of Troy by organizing food sampling at the farm stand, or other simple activities like that.
  15. Continue to print the newsletter and include updates from the farm as members really enjoy reading and it helps connect them to the farm.
  16. Remember to be honest, but not too dreary in the newsletter updates – members want to know what is going on and hearing about the hardships helps them gain a appreciation for farming, but too much bad news might overwhelm them.
  17. Find simple (time and cost effective) methods of promoting community, like setting out chairs at the stand so that people will be encouraged to sit and chat with each other.
  18. Revise the yearly survey to include questions that address changes made and reflect the findings in this study (see Appendix C in the full document for a revised survey).

Address Specific Concerns Raised in the Focus Groups

A few members had specific experiences and concerns that were brought up during the focus group discussions and some former members mentioned that these factors contributed to their decision to leave Troy CSA. Thus these recommendations address these directly and have been amended and approved by Claire Strader. For some concerns I have included the comments made by Claire to help flesh out the problems and solutions.

  1. Organize “gleaner” hours when members can come out and pick the extra vegetables that would not be harvested otherwise. (Note: Claire expressed that there is rarely any harvestable food left in the field, and that there is often a misperception of waste. The produce left in the field is low quality and not worth harvesting. However, she recommended offering gleaner hours for the worker share members, as they are in the field anyway.)
  2. Institute, and provide transparency for, a policy on food distribution among farm laborers (worker shares, Farm and Field, and interns). There is currently no policy and this has caused some feelings of inequity in the past.
  3. Ensure that there is transparency of policy for food distribution among paying members as well. For instance, emphasize that the CSA shares are the farm’s first priority and explain that if there is not enough of one vegetable, that variety gets sold as an “extra.” This way members do not feel slighted when they see items at the stand that are not available for them to take as part of their share.
  4. When there is not enough of certain vegetables to divide among the members, allow members to choose one variety on a first come first serve basis, rather than selling them as extras (also addresses the concern mentioned above).
  5. Ensure that there is transparency in the distribution of labor among the workers on the farm and that all members are contributing equally.

Other Specific Recommendations Made by Focus Group Participants

This last set of recommendations were mentioned by members, but did not seem to pertain to “make or break” concerns. However, I have included them here because they could improve the farm. Claire has agreed to address them unless otherwise noted.

  1. Consider partnering with other farms and offer other items to the shareholders, i.e. fruit, eggs, etc.
  2. Allow worker share members to pick up their share when they fulfill their hours so they do not have to come to the farm twice during the week.
  3. Provide half-shares again. (Note: Claire said that this is not possible.)
  4. Provide extended hours for pick-up. (Note: Claire said that this is not possible.)
  5. Make exceptions for older workers and allow them to sit on the ground rather than squat while working. (Note: Claire said that this is not possible. She believes that the loss in efficiency is too great when people sit on the ground. She also wants the older workers to set an example for the younger ones.)