2011 21.2 Farmigo Software Gains Efficiencies for Southwest Washington CSA

Goodbye Index Cards

This year, Helsing Junction Farm in Rochester started using one of the new data management systems designed specifically for CSA farms. We thought the 18-year old system of file cards and a Microsoft Access data base we had been using worked pretty well, but once we test drove the new software, we realized that we had basically been using a shovel to till our 30 acres instead of a tractor. The new system does many things; most importantly, it saved us time and made us more money. The system our farm currently uses is called Farmigo. There are several other viable systems out there, including CSAware from Local Harvest and Small Farm’s Member Assembler. CSAware and Farmigo seem to have some similar features and cost the same amount to use. Small Farms Member Assembler is more of a CSA sign up assistant that tracks your sign ups and payments. These systems take some of the most cutting edge data management technology and put it to work in service of CSA farms and their members.

That ’s a Lot o’ Potatoes

Helsing Junction has used Farmigo Pro for the last year. One of the reasons this system was developed in the first place was to not only increase CSA sales to new members, but to sell more locallyproduced products to existing CSA members. Since we began using Farmigo last March, our farm has increased its membership from 800 members to 920 CSA members and has taken in an additional $35,000 in sales via our new webstore and our ability
to add options to our shares.

Tell Your Members Where to Go

Our members seem to like Farmigo too, as it makes signing up really easy and gives them control over their own accounts. One example of how life has gotten easier is that we used to get a ton of questions from people who were trying to sign up about which drops site was closest to them. Farmigo provides a link to Google Maps and a little box in which you can type your zip code. It then tells you how far you are from each drop site and provides you with a map. We now get zero calls about this issue. We also believe that the new program makes it easier for people
to sign up spontaneously. Each member does their own data entry, which really cuts down on errors. This has become increasingly important as we now communicate with our members almost exclusively through email.

Webstore Feature a Big Success

Members also have access to our webstore, and can place orders to be delivered along with their CSA box. We started out by selling honey and sauerkraut and eventually anything we could scrape up off the barn floor and sell. Members really seem to like having the option to buy locally-sourced food and we are tapping into a ready and willing pool of consumers, something we have long dreamed of doing but have been unable to manage properly on our own. We used to list something extra for sale in our newsletter, and then members would have to call or email us to order it, usually resulting in several back and forth phone calls, as well as a reminder for payment. Now members go to our webstore, view what is for sale, then order and pay for it immediately. When we are sold out of whatever it is, they are automatically wait listed. Then we can print out a list of all the extras each delivery day along with stickers that list what the order is, along with the person’s name and drop site.

Not So Expensive , All in All

One of the main complaints I have heard from other farmers is that the system seems expensive. Our farm spent about $6,000 last year, but we felt like we did a good job of fully utilizing the system and making it pay. The Farmigo system was easy to learn how to use and the customer support was very good. The truth is it IS expensive! Our farm looked into building our own data management system which would not have had half the cool features that Farmigo does and that would have cost a lot more up front. Farmigo shares the cost of development amongst the farms that use it, each farm paying 2% of their gross during the delivery season. Since our farm had already added a $15 nonrefundable
administrative fee to the cost of our CSA shares, in essence our members were the ones paying for the convenience of using Farmigo. There are improvements being made all the time. For example, there is a new service called Bank to Bank transfer that allows you and your customers to set up automatic bank transfers. This service only costs 1% of the transaction as opposed to the 2.7-3.5% that PayPal or credit cards charge, making the net cost of Farmigo somewhat affordable, especially if you already take credit card payments.

In summary, signing on to use this software and utilizing it through an entire season has demonstrated its utility for our farm and we thoroughly intend to continue using it in the future. While it may seem costly initially, when the cost analysis is done, it more than pays for itself, not only monetarily, but in customer satisfaction and allowing new ways of doing business. Guess it pays to trade a shovel for a tractor when the fit is good!

Tags: CSAware, Data Base, Database, Farmigo, Local Harvest, Small Farm's Member Assembler