Here's a variety of research, customer survey results and ideas for learning more about the different kinds of customers who buy from farmers and farmers markets. It's mostly for beginner CSA's and farmers markets, but also contains helpful information for others. Once you know which of these customers you want for your business, it's easier to know how to reach them.
Find out who the BEST Customers Are
> Potential Target Market
> More Consumer Characteristics
Miscellaneous Ideas & More Facts
> Cooking at Home (ideal customers)
> Not Cooking at Home (not so ideal...
>>Low Income/ SNAP (but really need it)
Find out who the BEST Customers Are
>>>Potential Target Market
Following are research graphs that identify characteristics of farmers market and csa customers.
Note that this research has been conducted at various time periods, so the information is dated.
I believe it's mostly still reliable, except that more people who don't match these characteristics
are getting involved because local and organic has/ is consistently gaining ground in mainstream
media and grocery stores shelves, so it's becoming more and more the "ideal" and "trendy" thing
to do. So, for some it is already a lifestyle, for others it requires lifestyle changes (like actually cooking).
Note: All links contain even more info.
Direct Marketing Local Foods: Differences in CSA and Farmers’ Market Consumers
Is your Farmers Market located within 7 to 15 miles of target customers?
>>>More Consumer Characteristics
Advertising gurus like to give cute names and phrases to segments of the population to help
them identify which groups can be targeted for certain products and services. It's based on
the individuals lifestyles, age, spending habits, personalities, values, income, education, etc.
It's demographic and psychographic data. Anyhow, here's a whole slew of names given to
segments that CSA and organic shoppers are a part of, put together by various organizations,
researchers and time periods.
Segmenting CSA members by motivation: anything but two peas in a pod
CSA members are motivated to join alternative farming arrangements for a variety of
reasons. Results from cluster analysis (see Table II) yield four distinct consumer groups:
No-Frills Member; Foodie Member; Nonchalant Member; Quintessential Member. All four
clusters are significantly different from each other.
The No-Frills Member (Cluster 1)
seeks seasonal and fresh produce above all else. These members might be characterized
as utilitarian, primarily seeking seasonal and fresh produce. Low negative scores along
the other dimensions characterize this cluster, and again underline their singular focus.
The Foodie Member (Cluster 2)
scores high along two food dimensions – local/organic and seasonal/fresh – with low negative
scores on the community dimension, and low positive scores on price and convenience.
This group highlights the importance of food quality.
The Nonchalant Member (Cluster 3)
scored negative and close to zero along all dimensions suggesting that none of the traditional
motivations explain why members of this group joined a CSA.
The Quintessential Member (Cluster 4)
is the ideal CSA member who cares about all aspects of the CSA, especially building a
sense of community.
The 7 shopper segments of organic products
LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability)
Claritas lifestyle descriptions
Marketing Farmers’ Markets: Ideas for Market Vendors & Managers in Nevada
Customer Survey Results
Learn more about what motivates customers and get ideas for creating your own surveys,
and working on solutions for the most common problems.
2013 CSA Survey Results ~ Chert Hollow Farms
Reasons for Joining:
Produce: Favorite/ Least Favorite:
Herbs: Used Fresh, Preserved or Unused:
Members Opinions of Various CSA Features:
Colchester Farm has customers surveys from 2009 - 2014:
Farm Finance Challenge
, this site posts financial reports from several farms
with different produce/ stock and selling markets.
Results from Iowa’s Collaborative CSA Member Survey
Reasons for Joining:
Reasons for Leaving/ Not Renewing:
Community Supported Agriculture on the Central Coast: The CSA Member Experience
In addition to exploring why members may leave, we also looked at factors
that are related to returning to the CSA.
Respondents appeared more likely to re-join when they were
* satisfied with the quality, quantity, and product mix of the produce;
* when picking up the box was convenient;
* and when people felt the share price was fair.
Also, members were more likely to return the next year if
* the payment schedule did not pose a financial hardship,
* and they were not throwing away or composting more produce
than before they joined the CSA.
One interesting finding is that those who said they or
their household experienced a change (in eating habits or in
some other area of their lives) as a result of participating in
a CSA were also more likely to rejoin.
For example, 82% of households that experienced a change in
eating habits would sign on again, whereas 65% of those without
such a change were not likely to rejoin. It appears that learning to
incorporate or adapt to the new way of eating and cooking helps
increase the likelihood of staying with the CSA, as well as
encouraging desirable/valuable lifestyle changes.
Miscellaneous Ideas & More Facts
>>>Cooking at Home
I'd like to stress the point that some of the most ideal customers already cook at home.
In all the variety of CSA websites and business/ marketing information I've looked at,
none of them really emphasized this as a major key selling point. Yes, most CSA's had
newsletters with recipes, but the overall feeling was that it was because they were
"suppose to" or "had to". It seemed to be, almost literally, the least they would do.
It wasn't any more exciting than grocery stores having shopping carts.
I seriously can't recall even one site having the word "cooking" on their home page
or anything like "Get Award Winning Seasonal Recipes....Sign up for our email newsletter."
Or... "Your Best Loved Recipes Will Taste Even Better with Our Fresh, Locally Grown Vegetables"
(or with Our Wildcrafted Herbs, etc.) or "More Flavor and Nutrition in Your Homecooked Meals", and so on.
Check out the mouth-watering description (advertising) for this free ebook on deliciousliving.com.
It could easily be re-worded to describe a CSA or Farmer's Market, with the call to action to subscribe
to the recipe newsletter and come to the next market for the ingredients.
Vegetarian Times Magazine
Eating Well Magazine
allrecipes.com (search for recipes by ingredients and/or create a profile with your farm name to submit recipes)
(note: the banner and ad position that gets the best results is just like those on this site at the top of the page)
>>>Not Cooking at Home
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."
I'd also like to stress that more people who don't frequently cook or eat healthy are being driven to do so,
either by the recent recession and/or because of the multiple mainstream push and support for it.
So, it's no surprise that CSA websites attract some people who like the idea of local, fresh, organic, and nutrition
but end up not liking the CSA experience because of the reality of cooking. And, a lot of people don't cook 50%
of their meals. Cooking and cooking know-how have seemed to decrease in proportion to the availability of
processed, microwavable, frozen, and other convenience foods. It may also be that they just don't have time.
You can either work with these customers, providing them with ways to make it easier for them to transition
to a new lifestyle (ex.: quick and easy recipes, menu plans, positive reinforcement, etc., see my other post about
ideas for unused produce: http://www.permies.com/t/47906/farm-income/Fruits-Vegetables-Dye-Craft-Beauty),
or try to weed them out before they become members (ex.: New to CSA's? Check out the CSA pros and cons list
to see if it's right for you.) Here's a good one: http://www.tucsoncsa.org/about/why-you-should-join/
Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession
>>>Low Income/ SNAP
Trends in US home food preparation and consumption:
analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008
"Fewer people cooked in 2007–2008 compared to 1965–1966 for all income groups, although the
low income groups showed the largest decline in the proportion cooking, from 67% in 1965–1966
to 56% in 2007–2008"
"Although concern amongst public health scholars and advocates has often centered on fast food and other
away-from-home foods, efforts to boost consumption of healthy home-cooked foods have become
increasingly common across the US Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Healthy Incentives Pilot aimed at increasing purchase of fruits and vegetables and the Women, Infants, and
Children (WIC) Farmer’s Market Nutrition program, which provides coupons for the purchase of locally grown
produce [21-23]. In both the UK and the US, promotion of home cooking has been viewed as a major strategy
to reduce obesity [24-28]. However, these initiatives assume that if consumers are able to purchase healthy
foods, they can and will prepare them at home."
in an interview with Sarah Kliff at Vox
There are many farms and farmers markets targeting the lower income sector, particularly SNAP recipients.
Since the lowest income bracket also cooks the least at home, there should (ideally) be additional supports in place
to help them transition to healthier cooking and for this program to be a long-term success. They may not have
seasonings, cookware or utensils that recipes call for, so be mindful of this. Easy recipes with some of the more
common vegetables will help them build the self-esteem and confidence needed to try out new foods and recipes.
Lack of personal transportation or the Farmers Market not being on a metro bus route, may also be a barrier.
These may not be problems for all low income households, but they will be for some.
Farmers Market Coalition Report:
Excerpt and graph:
"Although farmers markets have grown immensely in recent years, the majority of them still operate on a shoestring budget
(or none at all) with an all-volunteer “staff.” It is not surprising then that many markets cannot afford to purchase SNAP
equipment. Those with the income to purchase equipment often lack the resources to hire staff to handle the SNAP transactions,
bookkeeping, and outreach. There must be a staff person present for the duration of the market to run SNAP transactions.
Afterward, transactions must then be reconciled and tallied on a regular basis, and farmers must be reimbursed for the SNAP
payments they accept. These expenses add up. For example, the Burlington, Vermont farmers market pays over $1,200 a year
in fees and spends $3,200 paying staff to manage their EBT system.
For markets that decide to get SNAP authorization and equipment, this is only the first step in running a successful SNAP program.
Farmers markets must deliberately notify, educate and attract SNAP customers to promote SNAP spending at their markets. The
lack of a budget and other resources needed to do this limits the success of SNAP authorized markets and may further deter
markets that are considering accepting SNAP."
If your farmers markets accepts or is interested in accepting SNAP, or you're committed to helping, check the links
below to learn more about these customers and the extra supports needed. Getting donations and working with other
local agencies and getting volunteers to help with these multiple issues will help make this program a success for everyone.
Exploring Efforts to Increase Participation of SNAP Recipients at Farmers Markets
Check out my other post in permies Advertising thread
Customer Insights With Google Analytics Demographics
Small Farm Business Planning
Potential Market Segments
a. Farmers’ Markets
b. Community Supported Agriculture/ CSA
c. Direct to restaurants
d. Specialty caterers – weddings, flowers, special jams for wedding favors, etc.
e. Value-added (e.g. , personal label jams, edible flower bouquets, and winter “gift gourds”)
f. Home Delivery
g. Farm to School
a. Your town/ city
b. Different areas of your town/ city (if large)
c. Surrounding Area
d. Nearby towns/ cities
e. Their surrounding areas
and whether they are urban or rural.
more about targeted advertising later