If you’re thinking about starting a CCSA (corporate CSA program), it’s a good idea to get to know the employees who want to participate and to give them the opportunity to learn about you, your farm and the farming practices you stand for. A presentation for your group is a great idea, especially in the first year of a CCSA – remember that you’ll most likely have less opportunity to interact and chat with your corporate members throughout the season (then you would in a Farmer’s Market or casual drop-off context), so this will really be your chance to shine and to connect!
Why it’s important
When starting out with a new group, regardless of whether or not you know your contact person at the company very well (the person I like to call your “evangelist”), presenting for the group is an excellent idea. It gives your potential corporate members an opportunity to meet you, to understand what your farm is about, your farming process, where you’re located, the history of your farm and any other details you want to share with them. Transparency is key and continues to be the main difference between conventional and alternative agriculture – honesty and a welcome invite to come visit and see the farm is a must. Transparency also means you’re not making yourself sound worse or better than you are but simply sharing your story and inviting others to share in your harvest with you. Let them know about the benefits and perks of the CSA model both for the customer and for you the farmer – people react very positively to genuine sincerity!
Who will present?
Presenting and public speaking is not everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of people would rather weed the same field for an entire month than speak in front of a group! Nevertheless, this should not deter you from presenting for your company since you don’t necessarily have to be the one preparing and presenting. Ideally, you want one of the farmers to present but if this is not possible – either because you are uncomfortable doing so or there are time or logistical constraints that don’t allow for it – remember that you can send someone in your stead to present for you. Consider hiring someone for the job – an intern, a long-term volunteer or someone from your own family – anyone who can represent you with enthusiasm and integrity is the right person for the job! Keep in mind however that the group ultimately wants to meet YOU, the same farmer who is growing and producing their food, so if you end up partnering with someone to present, make the utmost effort to atleast show up and introduce yourself!
Organizing and scheduling your “Lunch ‘n Learn”
A common format for these corporate presentations is a “Lunch ‘n Learn”. These tend to be a bit more informal, shorter get togethers that are often organised at larger corporations to engage the employees in a topic of their interest during the lunch hour while they munch away and enjoy a break from work. Use this context to your advantage to prepare an engaging, funny and interactive meeting. Don’t forget about the timeless art of storytelling and share your favourite farming anecdotes or previous participants’ reactions to the CSA program. Connect with your audience on an emotional level by making it fun and personal.
Go ahead and schedule a presentation with the help of your evangelist at the company. Make sure to pick a date that doesn’t conflict with the intense farming season. The presentation will last anywhere from 15-30 minutes with a few minutes left to interact one-on-one with your audience and to answer questions. The entire visit probably won’t run for more than 1 hour.
How to present & what to bring
Keep your Powerpoint or Keynotes presentation heavy on images and videos and light on text. Make sure to be there 15 minutes early to iron out any computer issues with the tech people before you start speaking. A Lunch ‘n Learn is primarily educational in nature so stay focused on helping your audience learn about you, your farm and sustainable farming. You can mention the prices and process in signing up for the CSA program, but there’s no need to pitch or hard-sell it. Also, be careful with using too much farming lingo! Not everyone knows what open-pollinated seeds and worm tea are, but of course if you make it a part of the educational experience they will be happy to learn all about it.
Bringing something from your farm as a taste-test is a great idea. Kale chips, sausage samples or any other farm fresh foodies you can offer will get everyone excited!
Last but not least – smile and be yourself! It takes a community to build a CSA, and your coming forward and speaking with a potential group is a tangible step in helping to build these new long-term relationships!
Intrigued about the CCSA program? Learn more about it in these articles:
“Pitfalls of CSA programs and how going corporate can improve the customer experience” http://permaprocess.com/2013/06/28/why-regular-csa-programs-suck-and-how-you-can-make-em-better/