Carrot Cashflow: Tying Up A CSA Share with an On-Farm Project (CC15)

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Episode Summary

When you’re a small farm, what’s a good way to incentivize your local community to support you and what you’re doing? How about tying up a CSA share with a project you want to do on the farm?

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow, we’re talking to farmer Jeamette Lock of Pack River Farm in Sandpoint, Idaho to talk about how their community showed up to help them build a greenhouse and what they do in return to show their appreciation.

Today’s Guest: Jeamette Lock

Jeamette Lock is the farmer and owner behind Pack River Farm in Sandpoint, Idaho. Together with her husband, they go beyond growing certified organic fruits and vegetables by enriching and re-mineralizing the soil to maintain its health. With their farm, they hope to connect their community with their local farmers.

Relevant Links

            Farmstand Revival Marketing – Website | Instagram | Facebook

In this episode of Carrot Cashflow:

  • Diego introduces the episode’s guest, Jeamette Lock (00:46)
  • How Pack River Farm fits in a local food system (01:54)
  • Pitching local food to a customer (02:23)
  • How the community helped Pack River Farm arrive where it is today (03:16)
  • Adding another layer of support for the farm (04:20)
  • Tying a project to a purchase (05:30)
  • Granting flexibility with a non-expiring CSA share (06:47)
  • Becoming more invested and involved in the farm and the farmers (08:37)
  • How Jeamette Lock arrived at their current CSA model (10:53)
  • A traditional CSA vs a credit system CSA (12:02)
  • Crop planning for the CSA and the market (13:13)
  • Executing CSA order fulfillment (14:31)
  • The varying frequency of redeeming CSA credits  (16:16)
  • Flexibility in planning which crops to grow (18:57)
  • How Jeamette keeps track of the CSA credits (20:28)
  • Updating balances and reloading credits (21:11)
  • Coming up with a 17% retail discount (22:32)
  • Going the extra mile to show customers appreciation (23:39)

Check Out My Book: Ready Farmer One: The Farmers’ Guide to Create, Design, and Market an Online Farm Store (2022) by Diego Footer & Nina Galle

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CC15 - Jeamette Lock

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Carrot Cashflow: profitable farm business starts here today. It's all about connecting your customers directly to the farm by tying their CSA purchase to a farm improvement project. More on that coming up.

[00:00:34] Welcome to carrot cash flow. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. We're going to Sandpoint, Idaho to talk to farmer Jeamette Lock and her husband had a unique idea. They decided to tie their CSA membership directly to an on-farm improvement. In this case, a greenhouse, it gave customers another incentive to support their farm.

[00:01:00] Going beyond just purchasing the product because they knew when they were purchasing that product, those purchase funds were directly being channeled into one specific project that they helped make a reality. Jeamette's gonna talk about how that worked and some other ways she bonds with her customers and connects with her community. So let's jump right into it with farmer Jeamette Lock.

[00:01:27] Jeamette Lock: Hi, my name is Jeamette Locke. I am the owner operator of pack river farm located in Sandpoint, Idaho. We're about 15 minutes north of Sandpoint in the valley called the sell valley. We are certified organic farm. We are also a part of the real organic project, and we are working with lecter herbary to grow the majority of their medicinal herbs.

[00:01:54] Diego Footer: How do you view a farm like yours fitting into the local food ecosystem?

[00:01:59] Jeamette Lock: Our mission statement on our Instagram page is we want to connect our community with their local farmer. We feel like today so much there's a food disconnect about where food comes from and the challenges it causes that it takes to grow food or herbs. And so we just really wanna be a part of the community and we feel like we've been fitting into that a little bit more.

[00:02:23] Diego Footer: In terms of connecting with your customer and, and having local food be important, how do you pitch a customer?

[00:02:35] Jeamette Lock: Usually you just have a rapport and you resonate with each other and they're searching and they're asking questions.

[00:02:41] Do you put any chemicals on your food? We're like, absolutely not. We don't use any chemicals certified organic or otherwise on our food. We, I have a, we did have a large egg business and I started off all of my baby chicks with no corn and no soy. There were customers that would drive quite a distance to come and get our eggs because we did it that way. And we just to educate and share our passion. And I think that people just start to connect with that passion over time. And it takes time.

[00:03:16] Diego Footer: With your farm as it stands today. How important has the community been to help you get the farm to where it's at?

[00:03:25] Jeamette Lock: Oh my goodness. Amazing and incredible. So part of our CSA last year that we that's made our CSA the way it is today, we did our CSA last year.

[00:03:39] And what we did was we said, we are gonna take the funds from our CSA and we put it out to the community and we said, let's build a greenhouse together. And so our community came together. They gave us the money for the CSA we built, we gave them produce, but they built a greenhouse last year by supporting us and being able to take that chunk of money.

[00:04:05] We were able to build a greenhouse and we were able to build it during the summer, which is our busiest season and planting it for the winter. And we harvested greens from that, for this winter, for our CSA people.

[00:04:20] Diego Footer: I really like that concept, but it takes, I'm just giving money to a business in exchange for a product, which is great.

[00:04:25] If you love the product, I go. XYZ store. I buy something, I get the product. I'm happy, but it it's. The next layer of cool is okay, I'm gonna give it to them. But I also know what I'm contributing to with that purchase. It's very much like a Kickstarter, GoFundMe, a Patreon type thing where you're trading product, they're getting the product that they want. They're giving you funds in exchange, and they know what those funds are gonna direct directly go to be used for.

[00:04:56] Jeamette Lock: Absolutely. And we have an open-door policy on the farm. If you ever wanna come out and see what's going on, what we're doing, the greenhouse that was built, you are welcome to come out and see that.

[00:05:08] And so we encourage people. To be more involved if they want to be. We do also a work share program. So not everybody can afford a CSA, but if they're willing to give us four hours of their time every week consistently, we'll give them $40 worth of food to take home.

[00:05:30] Diego Footer: Do you think that a lot of the success of that run was due to putting a project behind it?

[00:05:38] Jeamette Lock: I think so. I think that people really got to get behind that and know that they are making a difference, not only for themselves and the food that they're getting, but they're making a difference for their entire community. Because if we, anybody can come and get the food that was grown in that greenhouse, or if we have a surplus, it goes to the food bank.

[00:05:56] So everybody gets a benefit here, not just the person giving the money they're spreading the love just as much as we are.

[00:06:06] Diego Footer: I guess it also gives you a cool story to talk about throughout the season, instead of just your normal CSA updates. Here's what's going on the farm, it's, here's the progress towards the goal that you helped make a reality.

[00:06:23] Jeamette Lock: Absolutely. And once we get our Norths finished on the outside, we're going to put everybody's plat name of everybody who contributed to that particular greenhouse so that anybody who comes out at any time can see. because we wanna thank them and honor them for the funds that they were so willingly giving us.

[00:06:43] And we've had people that buy two CSA shares and. They've got, and our CSA doesn't expire. That's the beauty of it is that, for example, we ha our full share CSA is $600. We give you a hundred dollars credit and it never expires. So in the summer when people have so many choices of all these different, wonderful farmers to choose from, and everybody grows something different.

[00:07:11] I can't grow fennel to save my life. It doesn't do well, but there are beautiful farmers that have absolutely gorgeous fennel, but now our customers have the opportunity to go to these other farmers and not worry about am I missing a week? Did I get my box? Am I going on vacation? They don't have to worry about any of that.

[00:07:30] They can go and enjoy. all the other farmers and come back to us in the fall when everyone's closing up shop, cuz because we grow year round. So we still have carrots and potatoes and onions and greens and broccoli and cauliflower that the everyone else is closed up. But we still have growing through the winter.

[00:07:53] Diego Footer: So it's a credit based system where you get that credit up front, you spend it as you want when you want. So there's no expiration or is there, do you have to use it within like a season? Is there a one-year time? So just, good forever.

[00:08:08] Jeamette Lock: Good forever. We feel like we wanna give people the flexibility. We do have a lot of influx.

[00:08:14] We are a bit of a. So sometimes we get a huge influx in the summer or during the ski season, we get a lot coming in on the ski season. And so people can come and go and have the freedom of that, but they've also then helped us because we've had the capital to move forward on a huge project.

[00:08:37] Diego Footer: It's a really cool project to hear. And it just goes to show that there's so many people out there in local communities willing to help. People doing something that they resonate with. And I noticed it with the conferences I did. I noticed it through paper pot. I've seen it all along. Sometimes people wanna just do something for you because they believe in what you're doing and wanna help.

[00:09:06] And if you can give them something in exchange. Great. But there's even a small percentage, just, Hey, we just wanna help you out. We don't even need anything in return and it's, I'll give you this or use it when you want. But I think with so many farmers, I hear about really struggling out there for equipment or greenhouse infrastructure.

[00:09:30] Like you built. Then, if you make this story known and give people a value exchange and say, we're struggling with this, we wanna make this happen to improve our farm. So we made this kind of win-win you get some product, we get this and it helps go towards this goal. It takes it from just being this mundane, financial transaction.

[00:10:02] Even beyond the normal relational business that small farms have with customers, it's they are now super invested in what you're doing because it's not just, Hey, we're getting vegetables from Jeamette. We're helping to change their farm in their lives.

[00:10:22] Jeamette Lock: And within that, even in the community, they're making a difference in their own community. They've contributed to it. So it's just, I think it's a great win-win and we've enjoyed getting to know so many people. And just like you said, we do have people on our list. And we've seen them twice, maybe three times to come and get. And so it's there. Their credit is waiting for them whenever they're ready. And so we just appreciate the gift that they've given.

[00:10:53] Diego Footer: When you were coming up with a model for a CSA, there's a ton of ways to run a CSA out there. How did you arrive at this one?

[00:11:00] Jeamette Lock: There was another local farmer, and she did something similar, not quite the same. And so we're like, okay, let's try this. And over the past six seasons, our CSA has definitely.

[00:11:14] Morphed and changed. And we listened to our customers and listened to the community and okay, let's do this one a little bit differently. How can we make this better? What can we do? And that's just, we just came up with it that way fell into it in a sense. And then my husband is the one who had the great idea about doing the building of the greenhouse and the contribution of that.

[00:11:38] And we don't build. A metal greenhouse. They're all my own husband's designs. So they're all built out of wood. So that also gives us a little bit of flexibility. We can watch lumber prices a little bit easier. We can buy as funds are coming in and just have it stacked and waiting and then put it all together all at one time.

[00:12:02] Diego Footer: with the way you're running the CSA with this credit system. What are the advantages for you as a farmer versus say a traditional CSA that's payment upfront weekly box?

[00:12:16] Jeamette Lock: I love having the flexibility of not having to worry about getting a box together. And I was talking to another gal who just didn't like she's five weeks call Robbie is just a little too much for me in a box.

[00:12:30] And I enjoy just seeing customers being happy about what they're getting and that we don't feel the pressure of. Oh my goodness. We need to have 12 different things going into this box for this week. and whether or not the customer may or may not like that. So it's nice. We also have a lot of cans up here.

[00:12:51] And so if they want 50 pounds of tomatoes at the end of the season, we're able to do that for them. And if that's exciting and it's fun to see that they're taking all of our hard labor and work and they're canning it for their winter season. And it's just, it's fun to just be a part of the community. I'm enjoying it so much.

[00:13:13] Diego Footer: So for farm planning, you have your farm store, like an online store. You have farmer's market. You have this, do you just grow? You can successfully grow what you wanna grow and then just say, Hey, this is what'll be available to the CSA members. We bring it to market as well. So the market will have access to this.

[00:13:34] And then the CSA members can pick from that versus some CSA box are more designed, right? Cause they need some of that variety in there.

[00:13:42] Jeamette Lock: Pretty much the online store. This will be the first year that we're gonna keep it going through the summer. Usually, we only do it from like October to the end of April, but this year we've decided to give the CSAs a little bit more flexibility and a little bit on the first.

[00:14:02] It's come first, serve base or not first come first serve basis, but a little bit heads up, especially when strawberry season and tomato season are available. We'll keep the store updated for them. And then they can pick before everybody, before market, they can pick their, what they would like to have. The strawberries are quite a big hit up here.

[00:14:21] So it's, they go rather quickly and that will give the CSA first choice and then everything else will go to market after.

[00:14:31] Diego Footer: How do you actually execute fulfillment on your side? So CSA customer decides, all right, strawberries are coming this week. I want 'em. Is that non-farm pickup? Do they pick up at market? How does that work?

[00:14:44] Jeamette Lock: We do a Wednesday pickup, which is online, ordering only. So from they, they have, the email goes out every sun or Saturday night, they have to order by 10:00 AM on Tuesday. We harvest on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and then we meet them in town. Since we're a little bit out of town.

[00:15:06] We meet them in town from four to six and they can come and pick up whatever they've decided to order online. And then Saturday is a full booth setup, but they can also still order online and pick up on Saturday in town, if they would prefer. Anybody's welcome to come out to the farm and farm pickup is on Thursdays and Saturday, Thursday through Saturdays.

[00:15:29] And what they can do is once they've come, once we show them where we put every, we have a cooler specifically for orders, and then they can come at their convenience and pick up their order.

[00:15:43] Diego Footer: There's a lot of pickup options. Do you just have something at checkout where it's all right. Here's your option? Wednesday in town, Saturday at market on farm pickup.

[00:15:54] Jeamette Lock: Yep. That's pretty much what it is. And we even have a discount where they can put cash in. And zero out and pay us at the farm and cash or at their pickup. When they pick up, they can pay us in cash. If they prefer, we wanna give people the options, not everybody likes to put their credit card online and things like that. And we completely understand that.

[00:16:16] Diego Footer: How have you found the CSA credits have worked out in terms of. Averaging out the spending. I think one concern could be, everybody wants to redeem in a very tight timeframe, and you just don't have the product available. What have you noticed in terms of redemptions? Do they just average out to. More or less the same amount each week.

[00:16:41] Jeamette Lock: Everybody's a little bit different. Some people I don't see all winter and some people order every week, it really has worked rather smoothly for us. And I'm grateful for that. And sometimes we are limited on what we have. And so it goes into the store.

[00:16:58] Like the winter is definitely online only, and it just goes into the store. People know when the store's updated and they, if they really want something they'll jump on and they'll make sure that they get it. So it's been a pretty smooth haven't had any haven't had any complaints about not having.

[00:17:16] Product. Some people are like, why don't we have tomatoes in February? It's hard to go tomatoes in February and north Idaho. But you though there's certain things that are just seasonal and we have no control over that. But as soon as they're out, we definitely do our best to make sure our CSA has thing that they might want.

[00:17:33] And we get to know our customers. And so we're like, oh, Arthur really loves two pounds of spinach every week. Let's make sure that he, that we get that for him. We just have that. Kinda get to know the ins and outs of your customers.

[00:17:47] Diego Footer: Sure. How many members do you have in the CSA right now? Currently

[00:17:52] Jeamette Lock: 35, which some people might say that's pretty small, but for us, it's just, we've just been incrementally growing and it's been.

[00:18:01] Perfect for where we're at on the farm and how we grow and what we've learned this over these past six years, I feel like it hasn't been an too much where we can't handle it and it just is steadily growing. And I'm appreciative of it.

[00:18:19] Diego Footer: Is that 35 limit by choice limit or that's just where sales ended up?

[00:18:26] Jeamette Lock: That's where it is right now. The thing about our CSA is that anybody can join at any time. So the last two weeks we've had two more additions. Two weeks before that, I think we had three people come on. So it's just constantly. An a flow, which allows people to join whatever they want and start. And they, as soon as they're paid in full, they can start using all of their credit.

[00:18:57] Diego Footer: I guess that's a nice thing about having a credit-based CSA is you're not planning out based upon box delivery. So if you had 35 boxes delivery each week, you need to crop plan for that. You have 35 members that can buy whatever, whenever. So you don't necessarily have to have a 35 member box CSA farm plan in place.

[00:19:22] If you had to do a box program, do you think your farm would be big enough to handle that right now, or do you think you're operating at a smaller level? Just because of this flexibility?

[00:19:35] Jeamette Lock: We have about an acre and a half in production, so that's a pretty good size. Sure. And about nine, 9,000 square feet is covered in greenhouse.

[00:19:47] So for, because of our seasons here, I think we, we could definitely do that. We're also. We also do a large amount of wholesale. There's several restaurants that we're in on top of a few grocery stores. So if we would pull in so to speak, we would be definitely be able to handle a 35 person CSA box with micro greens and the greens.

[00:20:19] We would have definitely variety. It may be a smaller variety currently, but we would definitely have variety for a 35 person CSA.

[00:20:28] Diego Footer: With 35 members, what are you using to manage the credit and keep track of that? There's a lot of software packages. Some people do it manually. How are you doing it?

[00:20:38] Jeamette Lock: Pretty manually.

[00:20:39] We do, since we have the online ordering right now, we just use our sheets from our. From our, we use Squarespace for our online store. So we are able to print out those orders each week, make sure that we fulfill them correctly. And then I keep those sheets and I input it into the Google drive on sheets.

[00:21:00] And so we just keep it that way. And then when we're at the market, we just have a sheet with everybody's name on it and we just write down their total and then I'll add it into the computer later

[00:21:11] Diego Footer: with a system like that. Do you have to do. Balance updates on anybody or like when somebody's down to say they'll last 50 bucks or something, you'll let 'em know. Hey, your CSA is almost gone. Thanks for the support. How do you manage it? When it starts to get low?

[00:21:25] Jeamette Lock: Once it gets about a hundred dollars, I will give, shoot them an email. And I have customers who are like, what's my balance. What's my balance. What's my balance. And. I just look at it real quick and send 'em a quick email and let them know.

[00:21:37] And usually, like I said, a hundred dollars, I let them know we've had repeat customers about, I'd say at least half of have signed up again, once we've let them know that they've, that they got low or they'll say, or I've had other customers that say, let me know when I get down to a hundred and I'll just give you more credit. So it's been. To joy to know that they're happy or they wouldn't sign up again.

[00:22:07] Diego Footer: If somebody reloads do they, is it reloading every time at that $600 chunk?

[00:22:13] Jeamette Lock: I've had people who've gone down because they felt like it was just a little too much for them. And so they'll do a half a share and, but then most of them have all done the 600 that. So they, from my perspective, they see value in. And it works for them.

[00:22:32] Diego Footer: So the $600 buy-in, you're giving them a hundred dollars bonus. That's effectively like a 17% discount to retail. How did you come up with that number?

[00:22:46] Jeamette Lock: My husband is the math wizard and that's what he decided we just felt like what's our whole number that would be a good value for people to say that's a, about two and a half weeks worth of product. If you bought like a full share of you've got 12 items, ish. So that's what we felt like. That would be the best option. And then my mother loves to sew. So she makes custom bags for all of our CSA people. And they get to go home with a custom made bag that says pack river farm on it.

[00:23:31] Diego Footer: That's cool. Just a little more personalized, touched everything.

[00:23:37] Jeamette Lock: Yes. It's her contribution to the farm.

[00:23:39] Diego Footer: With a 35 member CSA, what else are you doing besides providing a great product and great service to really show those people that you value them and hopefully get them to stick around?

[00:24:02] Jeamette Lock: I get to know them. We get to know them. We know their family. We let them know that they matter. And there's ones that wanna come out and volunteer, come out and volunteer. If anybody wants to come out and learn. Or we will spend time. We will give them our knowledge that we have. If that's building a greenhouse on your own property, learning how to have your own garden in your own backyard, to where you put us, you don't need us anymore because you're growing your own food.

[00:24:36] We would be ecstatic and want people to do that and have as much. Self-resiliency and sustainability for themselves.

[00:24:47] Diego Footer: How do you let them know you care? And. Let them know that you know them, and this may sound like a very basic question, but I think people can interpret that from like to thank you when they come to, I send a thank you email to on their birthday, they get something special.

[00:25:09] They get a Christmas card, though there's extra layers above that. Do you feel like you guys are doing anything above and beyond to really say, Hey, we really value what you, who you are and what you're doing?

[00:25:25] Jeamette Lock: Pretty much put that in our email, I send a weekly email and there's certain times of the year where I'm just.

[00:25:33] I can get so mushy and I don't, I try not to get too mushy cuz I'm overwhelmed by the support of the community and to say, I don't ever want anyone to say, oh, she's just saying, thank you to just say thank you. I truly mean it from the bottom of my heart. When I tell people that I appreciate them and I'm grateful for them and how blessed we feel to be a part of this community.

[00:25:59] It's. that I usually do that in my email and I let them know that they matter. And I also let them know if there's something that we can do for them. Let us know. I will make house calls if somebody needs their order delivered to their home. And if people reach out and let us know that. I'll do that.

[00:26:30] Diego Footer: There, you have it. Jeamette Lock on building community relationships. If you enjoyed this episode and wanna learn more about strengthening the relationships with your customers, check out my book, ready farmer one. In that book, we talk a lot about the importance of lifetime customer. So how do you get a customer?

[00:26:52] Keep them around for a long time and thereby increase the value that they bring to your farm over the long term. you can learn more tips and tricks to incentivize customers to become longtime customers in the book. Ready? Farmer one, check it out. Using the link below. It's also available on Amazon and Kindle or paperback.

[00:27:15] Thanks for listening to this episode. I hope you enjoyed it, but more importantly, I hope you do something with the information in this episode to make a more profitable farm business. I'm Diego. And until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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