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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Should retailers partner with a CSA?

Should retailers partner with a CSA?
For Endicott, NY-based Down to Earth Whole Foods, partnering with a CSA has enhanced vendor relationships, added value for existing customers and brought new shoppers into the store.

Johan M. Bergfjord has always maintained relationships with local vendors and farmers as the president of Down to Earth Whole Foods, a natural foods store located in Endicott, NY. So when a local community supported agriculture (CSA) program asked him if Down to Earth would consider becoming a drop-off point, he agreed. “It was a pretty easy process in the beginning,” he said. “Just an acknowledgement and a handshake with the organizers, and by mid to late June, boxes were being delivered to the store.”

The drop-off and pick-up process itself, on the other hand, is little more complicated. “If you’re not organized, it can be difficult,” Bergfjord explained. His CSA partner drops off over 100 shares every week, which means that just as many members descend on the store en masse each Friday to pick up their produce. Bergfjord and his staff need to dedicate time to organizing the shares, following CSA procedures, distributing shares to members, and documenting issues and no-shows for the organizers.

In the end, though, Bergfjord would recommend it to other retailers for three reasons:

1. It enhances vendor relationships. By being a drop-off point for the CSA, Bergfjord gets to know the farmer growing the produce and, as a result, his staff becomes more knowledgeable and better prepared to educate shoppers about the local scene.

2. It brings an added value to existing customers who now have access to a CSA at a store they already frequent.

3. Most importantly, from a business standpoint, the CSA introduces new customers to Down to Earth Whole Foods. Bergfjord’s CSA partner goes above and beyond to include recipes, ideas, and a meal plan to its members ahead of pick-up. “The amount of produce that is delivered is a bountiful share, so having ideas and weekly meal plans to give members ideas is a great thing,” Bergfjord said. “And, of course, when people come to pick up their shares, they may purchase some additional products from my store to create those meals.”

Looking to partner up with a CSA? “Enter ‘CSA’ and your city into Google, and if you get results, reach out directly to the group and offer to be a drop-off point,” advised Bergfjord. “It’s a simple relationship and a simple service that will better your business as a retailer and expand your customer base.”

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