Since moving their CSA online, Milky Way Farm’s sales have seen a noteworthy increase in their average sales; before using Local Line, this Farm would see an average sale of less than $20 per customer at market, their primary sales outlet pre-COVID . Now, with around 100 orders per week, customers are spending an average of $35 on each purchase!
Switching the Model
Farmers Jesse and Meghan started Milky Way Farm in 2018. They are a mixed vegetable, 4-season, ecologically focused family farm growing on 1.5 acres located just south of Woodstock, Ontario. Last year was their first season selling vegetables direct to market.
Before COVID-19, for their CSA, they did an on-farm pick up and sold at the market. “We did a market-style pickup, where we laid out all of the produce and customers were able to select what they wanted for the week based on their share size,” shares Meghan “For example, for a small share, a customer would be able to select 8 units of vegetables.”
When COVID-19 hit their region and the local market closed, Jesse and Meghan looked for an alternative model to run their CSA business.
After speaking with Jordan from Local Line, they knew that transitioning online would be a good fit. Now, even after their market has reopened, Jesse and Meghan have decided to sell exclusively online through their CSA and retail store.
All of their sales are now through Local Line!
Using Store Credits for their CSA
Jesse and Meghan use Local Line’s store credit feature to manage their CSA. At the beginning of the season, customers can purchase either a small or large share and pay by e-transfer. Their credit amount is then uploaded to their account and deducted as they order over the season. If credits run out before the end of the season, customers are also able to top up their shares at $100 increments by e-transferring them or paying directly online with credit cards.
To manage their customers, they use three catalogs: local on-farm pickup CSA members, Kitchener-Waterloo pickup CSA members, and retail store. By organizing their different CSA and retail customers, they are able to stay on top of orders and organize credit based on the location of the customer. This saves them time from having to keep track of all their customers and orders manually.
“At first, it was difficult to communicate to our customers how they could continue to purchase our vegetables,” shares Jesse “We only had a one-week notice that the market was going to close, so we asked our customers to check out our website. It took a while of people trying to get hold of us to purchase our products and transition all of our information to our online store. Now, our customers are really happy with our online store. They like the flexibility of being able to see our entire inventory and picking whatever they want. Also, they like being able to just skip weeks with no repercussions, which wasn’t possible with our previous model.”
After promoting their summer CSA through social media, Jesse and Meghan quickly reached their limit of signups. Due to their popularity, they haven’t had to spend much time promoting their CSA!
Making the most out of their online store
“The biggest benefit we get from Local Line is streamlined sales through one channel,” explains Jesse. “Both our CSA and retail store are managed through one system.
Selling online also saves time compared to a market day as we now only have a two-hour pickup window, instead of spending the entire day at market. Now, I leave at 8:00 AM and am home by 2:00 PM. Before I used to wake up at 3:30 AM and I wouldn’t get home until 4:00 in the afternoon.”
Jesse and Meghan are enjoying the various features Local Line has to offer: “The picklist is great. Local Line spits out exactly what you need to harvest and everything that you harvest is already sold. Also, the reports and analytics feature allows us to quickly understand sales over different time frames. It is very helpful when planning what to plant next season.”
Moving forward, Jesse and Meghan are excited to see what the future holds for them. They recently started their fall CSA season and are continuing to accept orders on their online store.
When asking them what their advice would be to other CSAs moving online, Jesse said: “Make sure you have a good partner for CSA pickups. We are lucky to work with a great partner in Kitchener-Waterloo that has sufficient space for social distancing and parking. Our customers like the outdoor pick up area and feel safe doing so.”