Selling Online: Selling Online When the Farmer’s Market Closes (FSFS211)

Farm Podcast

 

Introduction

Today we interview Karen Kraswell of Moose Meadow Farm, who is using Squarespace to sell their products online, in the winter, when their farmers’ market is closed. During the summer, they are a CSA farm. Going online has paid off handsomely for them. Today Katherine is going to go over the how and why of selling online in a small rural marketplace, and how they’ve accomplished just that over the last few years.

Why did you start selling online initially? (1:15)

We’ve had an online store since we started our business in 2016. Our first season was a winter season, beginning in October. We got an email list together and a social media presence since it was the only way we could think of to reach people in our area. We are located in rural Clark Fork, Idaho, where it would otherwise be challenging to reach people. 

How has the local community received your online store? (5:00)

There’s a lot of overlap between farmers’ market customers and online shoppers. A number of those people have needed training to utilize online store shopping. At the same time, a majority of the people who shop online do not attend the farmers’ market, and they prefer it.

We saw workable results from day one. We went to the farmers market as guests and recruited people to put their names down on our email list. We gathered about 100 names that first season. About half of those people were ordering regularly. Meeting people in person at the market was the most effective way of gathering people. We’ve actively spread the word to the point where we’ve got 400 people now on our mailing list.

We just sell late October through late April. We are selling out basically every single week, so we do about 65 orders, and at the high end, when we have a lot of stuff, we sell $1800 worth. At the low point where we don’t have as much, we sell about $700 worth a week. Total, it works out to be $15-20k for this winter season. The farm earns $130k for the entire year.

Why did you make the decision only to run the CSA during the summer and not the online store as well? (12:20)

We’ll occasionally have a glut of a crop like tomatoes, and we’ll put them up on the online store to sell in addition to hosting them on our online platform for our CSA, and it ends up being a lot of work. This year we’ve switched to a different platform called Harvie, which allows for CSA management, and whatever is leftover automatically goes onto an online store. We are looking forward to utilizing it this season, but we haven’t used it yet.

We run our CSA like an online store, which has been very popular. We give people a free choice, they have a credit of $630 that they’ve bought in, and they can spend that as they want throughout the season. 

 

Do summer CSA customers stay on with you and shop online during the winter, and do winter shoppers tend to stay on for the CSA? (16:40)

A lot of them do stay on from the summer, but less than I would have thought. Despite telling them all about it and giving them flyers in their boxes, they don’t shop with us during the winter, and we need to sit down with them and figure out why. People during the winter are converting well into CSA customers, so we feel we’ve been successful with that. About 50% do both, but it’s okay because we sell out of both.

Would you rather grow the CSA or run product through the online store if you were to grow either? (19:00)

We talk about this often. We think we’d like to just run the online store. We’d feel less pressure to deliver specific products at certain times. 

Do you think your model can be replicated in other smaller communities? (21:20)

Yes, especially when you consider how poor internet connectivity can be out here and how far some people have to travel for pickup. You should definitely give it a try no matter where you are.

What would people do to first grow their customer list besides getting sign up at the local farmers market? (22:30)

I wrote an article about this in a Growing for Market issue in 2017. We have optimized our SEO, so if anyone searches for organic produce in our area, they’ll find us right away. We’ve shown up at many panel presentations and speaking engagements, and any time we’re out in public, no matter how awkward it is we still promote ourselves. We have had mixed success with Instagram and Facebook ads, it costs us about $10 apiece and if we get just a few email addresses from each of those it’s worth it.

How has Squarespace worked in selling perishable produce? (27:00)

It’s worked well for us so far. Perhaps there is something better, but it’s got all the features we’re looking for. I’m able to easily edit how much product is available from an app on my phone as soon as we realize in the field how much we have to harvest. We also have to be able to charge sales tax which it’s been able to handle well. It has handled picture management beautifully. Lastly, we have three pick-up locations that we need the customer to be able to select when they checkout, which it’s been able to handle as well. We can’t think of any other features we need it to have that we’re missing. And it’s built into our website so we aren’t charged anything extra for it.

What’s the minimum bar for you to be willing to produce during the winter? (30:00)

It feels like despite never having a true full break, there really is a minimal amount of work compared to the summer labor to earn a good amount of money. The amount of labor required is minimal from week to week so we feel like we have a lot of time still to ourselves. It’s good to have an income that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

What would be the easiest way to grow your product sales? (32:45)

It would be some of both. We have found it’s difficult to sell much more than 30lbs of one type of green. Sometimes when we pick a first cut of say arugula which produces 50lbs and we can’t sell all of it which makes us want to have more customers. But if we get to January where we can’t produce nearly that much and people are looking for it, it’s only going to take so many times of them being disappointed before they go looking somewhere else. 

What are your main storage crops you’re selling online? (34:30)

Carrots is one. We used to grow them in the ground, but we’ve found we can store way more of them in the cooler. Garlic is the second and potatoes the third. We do some beets and winter radishes. We don’t put a lot of effort into other alliums. We sell onions and shallots until they run out. We grow on ¾ acre and are human-powered at the moment, if we changed our growing practices we could produce a lot more.

If someone was looking to start an online store what advice would you give them? (36:20)

Make sure that you focus on taking quality pictures. Customers write to tell me about my pictures when they are off. People want to see what they are getting. Inventory management on any given platform is key. You need to be able to adjust your pickup sites and checkout should be seamless. You want to be able to charge sales tax and for credit card fees if you want. You can also look for the abandoned shopping cart feature if you were looking to up your sales. 

How has online having the online store open Saturdays from 7a to Mondays at 5pm worked for you? (39:00)

It’s worked for us just fine. I do have to do it manually. If we had to change that it might be a mess since we have got our customers trained to place their orders at that time. It’s worked well for three years. We don’t keep it open 24/7 just for ourselves. Inventory management would be more cumbersome from our end, and it’d be confusing to our customers.

Conclusion

You can follow along and learn more about Moose Meadow Farm online at their website. You can also find them on Instagram @MooseMeadowFarm and on Facebook at Moose Meadow Farm

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FSFS211_KatherineCreswell_Online

Diego: [00:00:00] Today, the online sales series continues with a farm using Squarespace to sell their farm products online in the winter. When their farmer's market is closed, stay tuned to find out all about how that's working for them. Coming up. Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego Dai ego too. They show it takes us to Northern Idaho where I'm talking to Catherine Creswell of moose metal farm.

Together with her husband, they run that farm. It's a CSA based farm that sells CSA shares over the summer, become winner. Their CSA shuts down and they have to take their sales online because their area didn't have a winter farmer's market. The experiment of going online has paid off handsomely for their farm, and it's brought in a significant amount of income over the winter when they could have otherwise just sat around and waited for spring to come.

Today, Katherine's going to get into the why of selling online, the how of selling online and how it works in a small rural area. Along with some tips that you can use to start your online store, regardless of whether you're in a big market or a small market. So let's jump right into it with Catherine Creswell of Moose Meadow Farm.

You have an online store associated with your farm. If you go back to when you brought that store online, why did you do that?

Katherine Creswell: [00:01:28] So we've had the online store since we started our business in 2016 and we were actually, our first season was a winter season. We started selling in October of 2016 and where we are, there's no winter farmer's market.

And at that point we weren't set up to sell in grocery stores. So we created an online store at that point. As well as an email list and a social media presence to get the word out that we had stuff. And it was really the only way we could think of to reach a lot of people in our rural area and get them to buy our stuff. so we launched it back then through our Squarespace website. And, it's snowballed from there.

Diego: [00:02:20] Your farm is based near Sandpoint, Idaho, for people who aren't familiar with that area, you're talking about a rural location. Can you give a description of, what does it look like? You're obviously not near a big downtown Los Angeles, but what is that region look like? Because I think it plays an important part of how an online sales platform could function.

Katherine Creswell: [00:02:43] where we are is about 10 miles from the Montana border, about 40 miles as the Crow flies from the Canadian border and about 40 miles from the Washington border. So we're way up in the panhandle surrounded by.

Other States and provinces and compared to the rest of Idaho, it's very mountainous. there are trees all around us and tons of lakes and rivers. it's gorgeous. It's very wild. our biggest. Urban center would be quarterly lane. And that's a town of about 75,000, maybe a hundred thousand people. and it's 75 miles from us.

so not that close then. Missoula, I can't tell you the population of it, but bigger than quarter lane. that's about 160 miles from us. We don't sell in that direction. And then Spokane, probably people heard of mostly and that, a large city in Eastern Washington and it's a hundred, 120 miles from our farm.

Diego: [00:03:51] There was a local in-person farmer's market in your area. I don't know if there even is. How large would that market be? Like if you had to guess how many vendors would be there and would that be a lucrative thing to do a physical farmer's market near Sandpoint?

Katherine Creswell: [00:04:09] Yeah. There is a farmer's market in Sandpoint and it's amazingly well attended and well supported for such a small town.

Sandpoint has about 8,000 people. and there are off the top of my head for at least four. Vegetable only farms who make their living almost exclusively at that market. so it's viable. We went there for one season. but nude, we've always known, we didn't want to be farmers market farmers. We just went there basically to get the word out. So it's there and it's popping.

Diego: [00:04:46] Okay. So the local community supports the in-person farmer's markets. 8,000 people in that community in terms of selling online, how has that really, that same community, received your arms.

Katherine Creswell: [00:05:01] So there's a lot of overlap between farmers, market shoppers and customers who use our online store.

There's definitely a lot of overlap there, but a lot of those people have needed. I guess significant training in terms of how to navigate an online store and how to adjust to the idea of buying food online with a credit card. but more interestingly is I think the majority of our online store customers are not farmer's market shoppers.

That atmosphere does it work for them or they, whatever reason they don't go to the farmer's market, but they do find our online store, amenable. They, it works for them

Diego: [00:05:43] that, did you find that when you launched the online store, that there was a pretty quick local uptake, because just what you said, some people were into the farmer's market, others weren't they probably wanted to buy local.

They didn't have access to it. Now you can sell online and maybe that works better for them. So did you see fairly good results from day one

Katherine Creswell: [00:06:08] workable results from day one? It was our, when we launched this store, it was our first season, so we didn't have a ton of stuff and we had no storage crops. but we went to the farmer's market just for one day two as guests, and started building an email list there, we collected names and then those, we encourage those people to spread the word by talking to their friends about us.

And so that first season, I think we had a hundred names on our email list. And all of those people got the info about our online store and maybe half of those people started ordering regularly. So we're not talking huge numbers that year, but, it has grown a lot since then. And in terms of accessing people, we felt like that was our best way, especially compared with the other things we tried, which are social media, marketing and ads.

The in-person presence at the market and gathering those customers was probably our biggest nucleus. That was our nucleus

Diego: [00:07:13] since then. And we're talking now in March of 2020 to Catherine Creswell of loose metal farm in Idaho. How have you grown? The customer base for that online store. Has it been proactive by you guys actively going out and advertising, putting the word out there in a way where Hey, it's intentional, we're trying to gain customers, not, we just put this up on Instagram and if people see it, they see it.

But where you're actually advertising or has it grown mostly via word of mouth?

Katherine Creswell: [00:07:47] RMO is to not sit by and let things happen, but to take an active role. So we have been for the last four season four winters, Ben trying to actively grow the list. and apart from the last few weeks, when interest has just soared, It's it has grown at about, almost a hundred percent a year, or I guess it went from a hundred to 200 to 300 to now over 400 names on our email list.

and yeah, we've been actively spreading the word actively talking to people and collecting. We just think of it as collecting email addresses whenever we can. So if we go

Diego: [00:08:30] to pre COVID-19. Before things got crazy on average, how many orders would you get a week for online?

Katherine Creswell: [00:08:42] I'll just explain it. We just do it in the winter. So it's just, we just fell through that like late October through late April. So it's limited by what we have in storage and the quality and the season really like how well our greens growing. So anyway, We're selling out, pretty much every single week. And so the number of customers vary based on what we have, but at the upper end we're doing, 65 70 orders and maybe 1800 to $2,000.

That would be the high end, maybe in April when we have a lot of stuff. or maybe late October when we have a lot of stuff. And then down to January early February, we might have 25 or 30 orders and six or $700. Doesn't sound like a whole lot, but add it up over the season. And it works out to. 15 to 20 K for the season,

Diego: [00:09:43] Which is pretty good for where you're at. And when you know, the other option could be just to sell idol. there's no winter farmer's market, we're not going to do sales. So here's $15,000. I don't want to say free sales, but sales by you guys being proactive that you have picked up for your farm. If you look at the orders, say in the busier time, Where you're getting maybe about $30 product in order.

How would that compare to a farmer's market if the farmer's market was running simultaneous? if you went to the local farmer's market in October, when you had a bunch in stock and you were selling online, do you think you'd be doing more in online sales than you would in person. On average per transaction.

Katherine Creswell: [00:10:33] I'm not sure I can answer that because sell at the farmer's market. and I don't know what other farmer's numbers are, but compared to our CSA, which we do in the summer, we, for the CDN essay, we're sending out $2,100 a week in that's the value of the total shares we're sending out. And if we were we've contemplated at many times, not doing a CSA and just keeping the online store for the summer and we haven't made the switch yet because we're not sure if we can routine really get that 2120 $200 a week without having pre commitment from people as they do for the CSA.

so I'm not positive about comparing it to the farmer's market, but compared to our CSA, I think the numbers would fluctuate a lot more if it was just the online store in the summer. maybe $1,500 this week and $2,200 next week. Yes. The CSA helps us be more. Consistent and, guarantees are sales.

Diego: [00:11:43] I'm sure you guys have thought about this. Cause it sounds like you've really explored a lot of these options. What about running the CSA and the online store? Both during the summer, why did you make a decision to just do the CSA?

Katherine Creswell: [00:11:57] Oh, it's a good question. Didn't we've tried that in the past. We've always used, some form of software to manage our CSA and those software programs haven't always offered a like online store platform simultaneously. So occasionally we'll have, we'll have a ton of extra tomatoes or extra salad mix and we'll throw them up onto our Squarespace store during the summer and let non CSA members buy them.

Meanwhile, the software program is running our CSA for those committed members. but it's. Cumbersome ha having to manage two different platforms, really, manage inventory on the Squarespace door and then manage inventory on the CSA side. so this year, we've switched to a different platform.

It's called Harvey and they have a pretty seamless integration with an online store for non-members and CSA management on the same platform. So hopefully. It'll work. Great. we'll input our inventory each week and CSA members will have their boxes filled out of that inventory. And whatever's left over automatically goes onto an online store.

That's been open to non-members. So hopefully that'll work great. And especially with increased interest in our program. the CSA is sold out and there's like a ton of extra interest in our program, but we're able to tell them, Oh, it's okay. You can still buy extras piecemeal from us during the summer. And that's making people yeah.

Diego: [00:13:39] Is the program that you're using Harvey, H A R V I E.

Katherine Creswell: [00:13:43] That's right.

Diego: [00:13:43] What are your thoughts on that so far?

Katherine Creswell: [00:13:45] We're new members to it. We haven't gone through a season, so we're. We're very optimistic about it because we switched, hoping that it would solve some problems we've had in the past, which is this online store issue we would have, we always would love to sell extras, but we didn't have a good way to reach people with them.

and then also the way we used to run our CSA was totally free choice. It was basically an online store. but customers paid us up front and then they had basically a. Let's say $630 credit in their account to spend down week by week in whatever increments they want until their credit is zero. And it's great on the customer.

End. People love that freedom, but it was really tough on our end, especially at the end of the season when people who had not ordered for a bunch of weeks wanted to stock up and use all their credit. And we felt like we were throwing out produce. It didn't happen that much, but throwing out produce in July and August when they weren't ordering.

And then when we were a little more tight in October and people were trying to buy us out, so this new program will solve that because it is free choice basically. But, the value of what people get every week is the same. So there's no like credit piling up.

Diego: [00:15:13] When you look at your. CSA customers and overlay them against your winter online market customers. Do you find that there is a lot of overlap? There is. If people are buying online, you mentioned earlier, they're not really into the farmer's market scene. So this is a good solution for them. They also don't have access to a farmer's market in winter, given that do they. Go the CSA route come summer since that's the only option, where are you?

And if they do that, are you, do you think you're losing some people who were winter shoppers that would've stuck on for summer, but they just don't want the CSA customers.

Katherine Creswell: [00:16:00] A lot of them, but fewer than I would have thought we can't quite figure it out. a lot of them do buy from us in the winter and they buy from us regularly, like weekly even.

but then a lot of them don't and that's despite our telling them about it and emails and putting little flyers in their boxes and. explaining to them that, Oh, you can keep getting our fresh produce all year. a lot of them just still don't buy from us and we didn't, haven't taken the time to sit down with them and figure out why and how we could change our marketing, but on the reverse, the, a lot of winter customers, do buy from us.

Do you buy the CSA from us? And over the years it feels like we're able to convert more people. If that's the right word, people who are great winter customers, but they haven't ever bought the CSA every year. A few more of those are joining the CSA. and it's definitely are very easy, platform for us to advertise this ESA.

maybe we. Maybe we overdo it. If you talk to our members, I'm not sure, but, we send out an email newsletter every week with what's in the online store. And of course, we're going to put info about RCSA in there too. So it helps us to have that continuity that, communication with customers year round.

But like I said, there's a lot of overlap, maybe 40 or 50% do both, but then. We can't quite figure out why it's not a hundred percent, but it's fine. we sell out in the online store and we sell out the CSA. It's just not the same people.

Diego: [00:17:44] So there is some justification for bringing that online sales continuing to into the summer.

Now that you have the platform that can actually manage that if your CSA fills up, which I believe you said it's sold out already. What would you rather do as a farmer, given your context, would you rather grow the CSA and be able to take more customers or would you rather run product through the online store?

I know as a business, Hey, you hate to turn people away who want to buy from you. And if you're already full now, do you say that's it. Or if you want to grow, is it more CSA or is it online?

Katherine Creswell: [00:18:26] Passion? We talk about it. my husband, Spencer, and I talk about it all the time. we would prefer to not run the CSA and to just run the online store.

it just feels more risky because if we don't get orders one week in the summer, then it's, 20 pounds of tomatoes. We're dumping. It might be a little bit harder to plan for. but the reverse could be true that, even more people want to get in and purchase little bits here and there in the summer.

so we would like to do away with this ESA. just for that reason to simplify, the feeling of owing people, something for 22 weeks can drag on you. And with the online store, we don't owe anyone, anything. They just pay week by week. but it's a little risky, as I said, and we haven't been able to make the jump yet.

Diego: [00:19:20] So really this summer will be a great truth serum for you guys. With the platform in place that you can run both, you could potentially run both and then see, okay, how did this work? And then make some further decisions based off that come fall.

Katherine Creswell: [00:19:37] Yeah, exactly. That's what we hope.

Diego: [00:19:39] We are in a fairly rural area here in the population. Numbers, hearing the distance to cities bigger than yours. I think there's a lot of people in. A situation similar to yours, they're not near a large population center.

Do you think that your situation in Sandpoint is pretty unique or do you think this online sales model can work in smaller markets? I get, it's a hard question to answer, but just using your gut, your experience, your opinion.

Katherine Creswell: [00:20:12] I think, based on our experience, I think it's very replicable, in almost any size community, it feels if we can do it out here where, rural internet is pretty bad, and our whole platform is based on the internet. So we have connectivity issues with ourselves, even in with our customers.

and then distances that people are coming to pick up their food can be great. Some people are actually driving from quarterlies to sampling, which is about 50 miles to pick up produce from us. it feels if we can make it work here, then it can work anywhere. so I, yeah, I would say try it, go for it. If you want a new outlet for your stuff.

Diego: [00:20:58] And you guys got that early customer base by doing the guest appearance at the local farmer's market. What are some other ways you think people could get the word out in smaller communities that's worked for you? have you had any luck with any of the ads?

You said you toyed around with them with Facebook. How has Instagram worked in terms of promoting this individually? You're giving out you're getting emails as much as you can, but I think that's the other. Point here that some people get stuck at as well. I can set up the online store. How do people find out about it? What's worked for you over the years?

Katherine Creswell: [00:21:34] I wrote a whole article about this, about how we grew our email list, our marketing list. I wrote about it in growing for market, I think in 2017. so anyway, if you are a subscriber, you can read that and I cover things in more detail, but, we. Have so our website we've, SEO optimized.

So when people are going to the internet and looking for organic food near me, hopefully we're the first one that comes up and then join our email list is a big button right in the, on the side of our page. so that has worked for us, that it's working for us, even when we're not actively talking to people.

we try and get out in the community. We've done workshops, we've done panel presentations. and any time that we're out in public, even if it feels awkward, we're always pushing the, we have an email list, sign up sheet. We're always asking people to join in or telling them why they might want to join our email list.

Instagram ads have worked in the past. we don't put a lot into them. Maybe we'll pay $10 and display an ad for five days or something. But, it always, for $10 we might get three or four names and it will, one of those people starts buying from us then it's worthwhile. And then st same with Facebook.

We might spend $10 on an ad and. And get a few names to sign up, but that feels worth it for what we've put into it. I can't, those are really all the things we've done whenever we're out delivering produce. We sit at a public spot for an hour and a half and our CSA members and our online store customers come pick up their orders and, we make a scene.

And so passers by are often coming over to talk to us about what we're doing. And so just about weekly, we're gathering another couple email addresses and right then and there we'll add them to our list. And then they start getting our emails and a lot of those convert to start buying from us. So those are the tips I have.

Diego: [00:23:42] I think those are really good. It gives people at least a starting point. Now your store itself, it's managed through Squarespace. Has that been the case the whole time? I mean up until you got into Harvey, but always on Squarespace

Katherine Creswell: [00:23:58] that has, for the winter online store, it has, we did use, we ran our CSA one summer with, square.

I think they have a, their own free online store platform. And we were using them. They're like gift card program to run our CSA. So we did use that online store platform as well, but the Squarespace. is way better than the square one in our experience. and we use it because, there are like dozens of e-commerce platforms out there, but our website template, comes with this e-commerce platform and it's.

It's great. It's easy. We don't pay extra for it. and most importantly, I think it's like beautiful. they allow you to have your own photos that show up really nice and you can have multiple photos per item. And I think it's important when you're not, shopping in person, people still shop with their eyes.

For sure. And so contrary to. So what you might think people just want fresh produce, but they want stuff that looks nice. and to be able to see exactly what they're getting is really important. So that's actually a really great feature about our stores that it looks really nice.

Diego: [00:25:12] One thing I'm learning, talking to people running online stores is they're finding some online stores are great for selling coffee mugs and t-shirts how has the square space store worked? For selling produce

Katherine Creswell: [00:25:28] well, not having really used others. we don't have any issues with it. that said maybe there is something better out there, but we're not really looking for it because this meets all of our needs.

It allows for inventory management, Which is crucial. We've put in how many of each item we have in the store each week. And then as people are buying and close, getting closer to delivery day, there's a little app where I can go on my phone and just quickly adjust the what's available. Okay. We can sell a few more microgreens this week or, Oh, we need to decrease the number of potatoes we have.

Cause they're actually, we actually don't have that many. So that's really easy. other key factors, our ability to charge sales tax. and since we're so close to other States, we just charge sales tax to customers in Idaho and not Washington and Montana and the square space platform handled that.

and what else? The photos I talked about are great. I don't, I wouldn't wish for anything else. And then the. The checkout is we had to customize it a lot to make it work for our system. each member has to, or each customer, they need to tell us where they want to pick up. We have three sites and then they tell us, what day also they want to pick up.

And the, this platform handles, handled all of that. And we can't think of any, anything else that we. Want it to do.

Diego: [00:27:02] And I guess one bonus of this is you have your website on Squarespace. So the store is now seamless with that. It's not another thing to me.

Katherine Creswell: [00:27:12] Yeah. It's not, and it's not another browser window either when people are shopping.

Diego: [00:27:18] in terms of selling online, what percent of the pie. Are your online sales for the farm as a whole right now, I know they're only winter, but if you look at all the market streams, you have CSA grocery store direct in the winter, online farmers, the winter online market. What percent is the winter online market?

Katherine Creswell: [00:27:41] You can do quick math, our winter sales, like in 2019, let's say they're going to be about 20 K. And so that's winter of 1920. 20,000 and the whole school, our gross income was 130. So I think that makes it about a 20%.

Diego: [00:28:01] Yeah, a little over 15. So a pretty good chunk. Where's the minimum bar. What would be the least you'd want to see to do the online store in your area? If you were getting a hundred dollars a weekend, online sales or $200 a week and online sales over the winter, is it worth the effort?

Katherine Creswell: [00:28:20] Good question. We haven't run the actual numbers of okay, how many hours are we spending packing boxes? And. we do pay ourselves a wage, but, we haven't reached that minimum bar, so it's always been worth it just without having to do the math. We know it's worth it, but it would probably be worthwhile, to run the numbers that way.

But there is a lot that goes into it. There's, we're packing individual boxes each week, which takes a couple hours and. Then there's the whole matter of needing to think about your crops during the winter and think about your customers rather than taking a break. so that's worth something too, but the way we looked at it is to grow all through the winter.

it's a lot of planning and it's a lot of, it's a big push in late summer or, yeah, late summer to get the high tunnels flipped and. Get the storage crops out of the ground and clean. But after that push, then it just feels like we're sitting back in the winter and really not working much at all, but making $20,000.

and if we could, if we make more than that, awesome. And that's just a matter of, improving our crop matrix and having a good season and maybe using a little more heat. But the input to output the labor input to the money output is almost impossible to ignore. it's a great thing.

And as long as you have props, there's demand for it. So it feels like the effort is always going to be low. Whereas in the summer you're competing against lots of other growers for. The same crop to sell the same crops, but in the winter, chances are, you don't have a lot of competition and you can put in very little effort and still make sales and make income that you would not otherwise have. If that makes sense.

Diego: [00:30:21] Makes perfect sense. And I totally agree with you guys. I see why you do it. When you look at the population and people buying from you, it doesn't sound like you're limited in terms of your. Growth for this online store over the winter, by the number of people, it's really maybe the number of products.

if you added more to your product selection, would that be the easiest way to grow those sales or would it be to just try and get more customers?

Katherine Creswell: [00:30:54] It is a little bit of both. we've found at times, is hard for us to sell more than like 30 pounds of one type of green is 30 pounds is and all that isn't that much, but that's the scale that we're at in the winter.

And so there are times when we have, 40 or 50 pounds of beautiful first cut or rugala, and it's not selling out. And in those times we're like, Oh man, we gotta have more customers. But if we have more customers clamoring for stuff in January, when they're, when we don't have that much, then they just.

If we're sold out of things or don't have what they're looking for, people just turn away and often they turn away permanently if they're disappointed a couple of weeks in a row. So it's a fine line between recruiting a ton of new people just to take our excess in October and April, versus having a good core of people who are always getting what they want.

Year, round or winter all winter long.

Diego: [00:31:58] So it sounds like one of the challenges, if somebody is looking to do this, if it's in the summer, it's a little bit easier because you can grow more or less anything as you need it and sell. But if you're going to do this over the winter in an area where you have actual winter, there needs to be some planning.

ahead to ensure that you're going to have product to sell. Over those months that you have the online store going. You mentioned you have some greens that you harvest throughout the winter. What are your main storage crops that you're selling into the

Katherine Creswell: [00:32:35] store? Carrots is the biggest one. And we used to grow those in the ground all winter, but we can store way more carrots in our cooler than we could grow in the ground.

And the demand is pretty high for them. Carrots is a big one. probably garlic is the second, followed by potato. Those beets. We do some winter radishes. we have, we don't put a whole lot of effort into other alliums so shallots and onions. We grow those for the CSA and whatever's left over.

We sell in the winter, until they're gone until they're sold out. For now, I think that's it on our winter crops. we're three-quarters of an acre. And so if we could and we're, human powered for the most part, if our farm was at a different scale, we could see, we could move a lot more storage crops than we're able to produce. But for now that's the main.

Diego: [00:33:31] I'd say you're doing really good from the sound of it. It sounds like it is working out well. For your context, your farm for somebody looking to start an online market for their farm, what would be some things that they might not think about that you would advise them to really consider having done this since 2016?

What are maybe the little hidden questions that you'd want to have answered upfront that aren't so obvious

Katherine Creswell: [00:33:59] your store is visual appearance. It really, that did not seem important to me at first. But I think it really is important if if I throw up a picture of something, and it, the pixels are wrong or it's blurry for some reason, customers write me to tell me, Oh, you're picking out, I couldn't see this item.

What is it? Or, Oh, your picture was off. You might want to fix it. And that just, that tells me that people really do pay attention. And then the other piece of that is if they can't actually see. The item, like at a farmer's market stall, they actually want to know what they're getting. Are they getting red kale or green kale or flat kale or curly kale?

people have preferences. And so being able to show them exactly what it is they're getting is really helpful. and then the other like key thing, practical things that the anyone would need to pay attention to are. How inventory management works on that platform? like I said, for us, it's really convenient that I can go into a little app and adjust the inventory on the fly.

and then the ability to customize your checkout, like for us, we needed to have people choose where they pick up and the day they pick up, And then sales tax or other adjustments you might want to add, a little, you might want to be able to add an adjustment for our credit card fee, something like that.

Usually it's 2.9% plus 10 cents a transaction. And we usually just, we kind of work that into our pricing and don't add an adjustment, but you could in our system, and that would be great. And other than that, So if we paid more on our square space site, we could have the feature. I think they call it the abandoned shopping cart feature.

So if someone's been in your store looking at items and then doesn't make a purchase, they'll get an email later on that says, Hey, are you still thinking about this to have 5% off or not? Just. Why don't you go back to the store and complete your purchase. So we don't do that, but it might be a nice feature if we were really trying to up our sales.

And then along those lines, we don't have the feature of, so you sell or you might also enjoy parsley and celeriac. we don't have that feature either, but other platforms might offer it. And I think we, if we paid a little more, we can have that as well. Those are all the considerations I can think of.

Diego: [00:36:31] How has having the online store only open Saturday 7:00 AM through Mondays at 5:00 PM. Worked for you.

Katherine Creswell: [00:36:39] It's worked for us just fine. The way we manage that is basically I go into my little app and I turn all our items. I make them visible and I then make them not visible. So I do have to do that manually.

It's not something I can schedule ahead. But it works just fine. If we were to change that system at all, it would be a mess because we've gotten customers trained to place their orders between Saturday and Monday. but it works for us. They get their orders in by Monday evening, Tuesday, we call late the orders and harvest and then Wednesday we deliver. So that's how we've been doing it for. Three and a half years or whatever, and it's worked great.

Diego: [00:37:25] The idea behind that limited order window to avoid confusion in terms of when customers get their product. I know some farms do that because people think, if it was open seven days a week, you deliver on Wednesday.

If I order on Monday, I'm going to get it on Wednesday, but really it would be the following Wednesday. what's your rationale behind that? Not having it open 24 seven.

Katherine Creswell: [00:37:49] I think it's more for us because we know that we need time to collate the orders and we're only going to harvest to order. So we have to know what the order is before we would go harvest.

and then. It probably would be easier on the customer's end if this door was always open, but it was inventory management would be more difficult and cumbersome on RN. And I think it would confuse a lot of people. Like you said, if they wanted to order on Tuesday, they might think they could pick up on Wednesday, but be confused when it's actually the following week. I guess it's just easier to choose a system, set it and forget it.

Diego: [00:38:32] Yeah. Do what works for you and your customer base in your area and run with it. And if it's not broken, maybe you don't have to fix it.

Katherine Creswell: [00:38:40] Yeah.

Diego: [00:38:41] I want to thank you, Katherine, for coming on today and sharing some of your experiences running the online store or moose metal farm. If people want to learn more about everything that you're doing, where's the best place to go.

Katherine Creswell: [00:38:55] it can send us an email that works just fine. Our email is moosemeadoworganic@gmail.com. but you can also navigate to our website and click contact us and get to us that way.

Diego: [00:39:11] There you have it. Katherine Creswell of Moose Meadow Farm. I want to thank Katherine for coming on the show today and taking some time to share. Her experiences with her online store with all of you. If you get a chance, please do reach out to her on Instagram and let her know. Thanks for taking some time to do the interview.

If you enjoyed this episode or you want to be part of a future episode, talking online stores hit me up on Instagram at Diego footer. And as always, if you're looking for tools related to market farming, be sure to check us out at paper, pot.co. That's all for this one. Thanks for listening until next time.

Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.

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