Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thank You for Your Input! 2019 Season Survey Results

By Gwen Anderson

First CSA Box of 2019 Season
Our 2019 End of the Season Survey wrapped up on January 4th this year, and we have spent the last few months compiling, reviewing, and considering all of the information we gathered from the responses.  First off, we would like to once again thank everyone who took the time to participate in the survey!  Your feedback helps us make business decisions and improvements so we can better serve our members.  To show our appreciation, we wanted to take the time to share some of the feedback and information we received from you!

We put a lot of thought into the types of questions we ask on our surveys to garner the best information to help us improve in ways that are important to our members.  If you were one of the 528 people who took our survey, you may have noticed quite a few questions about our newsletters.  We invest a lot of time in creating newsletter content and this is one of our primary means of connecting with members every week during the season.  We feel the newsletters are important, and we have had members express this to us in the past as well, but it is hard for us to gauge the value of these types of correspondences without further feedback.  Are we hitting the target and giving our members useful information, or are we just shooting in the dark?

What did we find out?  Yes, people are reading the newsletters!  98% of our members said they read the "What’s in the Box" newsletter at least half the time, with over 77% reading it every week!  Over 66% of our members are regularly reading the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter as well.  We received a lot of positive feedback about our newsletters, and it made us feel like we are indeed doing the right thing with them!  Last season, due to feedback from a previous survey, we tried something new and printed two newsletters.  There is a lot of information we want to share with you, and a single sheet of paper had been too limiting.  Previously, we adopted a blog format in order to provide more information for our members, and put “teaser” articles in our printed newsletters to encourage people to visit our blog for the remainder of the article.  We received some feedback from members that this type of printed newsletter was irritating; they wanted the entire article without being directed elsewhere.  So, we decided to split the newsletter into two portions.  The "What’s in the Box" newsletter would contain the vegetable feature, recipes and the box contents for that week.  The "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter would be the place for articles about other important topics including farm updates, news reviews, employee highlights, or whatever other information we feel is important to share with our members.  This change means there are two folders with newsletters at your pickup site, one with the "What’s In The Box" newsletter, and one with the "Weed ‘Em and Reap" newsletter.  It was clear from our last survey that there are still many people who are unaware of the change we made to the printed newsletters.  We are planning to continue to do the two newsletter format this year for those of you who prefer the paper copies; and as always, the information will still be linked in our email communications and posted on our blog as well.

Hon Tsai Tai & Shiitake Potstickers
Recipes continue to be the most valued resource we provide for you, and the request for more recipes topped out the list of suggestions for improving our newsletters.  The "Cooking with the Box" segment we offer on our blog was started in 2017 as a means to address this request and features recipes and suggestions for every item in the box!  We do our best to provide you with as many recipes as we can each week, with a little something for various levels of cooking experience.  Nearly 82% of our members said they read the "Cooking with the Box" segment, and over 69% said they regularly use the suggestions found therein.  If the "Cooking with the Box" segment still leaves you craving more recipes, check out our Facebook group!  There are always great posts about what people are cooking up with their boxes, including recipe links.  Sometimes, we even borrow the recipes shared in the Facebook group and use them in the "Cooking with the Box" segment!

Additional feedback we received for improving our newsletters included providing more vegetable storage information.  We were also asked to provide an earlier “best guess” or a "What’s in the Next Box" section to give you an idea of what might be included in the current week’s box as well as the next week’s box.  We are currently brainstorming on how we can improve our communications to include more of this valuable information.

CSA Box from June 2019
As your CSA farm, we strive to provide you with as much information as possible to ensure that your CSA experience is both positive and successful.  By asking what resources you may have been struggling to find last season, we were able to identify additional resources to call attention to or create.  Vegetable storage information showed up often in this question as well.  There were also a great deal of requests for more information on how to preserve, freeze or dry vegetable for later use.  As of now, we have a list of vegetable storage suggestions in the back of our current CSA calendars and include this information in our weekly vegetable features.  We will continue to include storage suggestions in our calendars each year.  Due to your feedback, we realize that we need to have the information available in more locations that are easier to reference.  We will do our best to provide this information more consistently in our newsletters each week, and we are looking into how to get the information available on our website.

Fresh Ginger
“What do our CSA members want in their boxes?” is always a fun question to ask on a survey, and it is one we ask ourselves each year when we do our planning in the winter.  This year, we took the guesswork out and decided to ask our members directly.  The answer? Ginger!  And in one very emphatic case it was GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER GINGER PLEASE BRING BACK THE GINGER!!!!!  Lemongrass was a not-too-distant second.  We hear you, and would love to grow these items for our CSA boxes this year.  For the sake of transparency, the seed for ginger and lemongrass has been challenging to source this year.  We are still trying to secure enough seed to plant in order to provide these highly requested crops, and are hopeful that we will be successful.  Ginger is grown in our cold frame greenhouse, so we had to take a few years off from growing it in order to rotate crops in this space just like we do in the field.  We’re looking forward to growing both ginger and lemongrass again this year!

Egyptian Spinach
The next three runners up were globe artichokes, Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage.  The silver lining is that we will for sure be growing Egyptian spinach and purple Napa cabbage this season!  Our plan is to harvest the Egyptian spinach for summer boxes, and to have the purple Napa cabbage available in the fall.  We’ve grown Egyptian spinach before, and used it for a delicious soup we are excited to try again.  Purple Napa cabbage is a new variety and we are anxious to try it out!

The last batch of questions we ask on our survey were geared towards marketing.  We know, as it has been proven time and time again, that our customers are our best source of advertisement and are a wellspring of creative ideas and solutions.  By finding out what it is that you value about being part of our CSA program, we can use those values to draw in more like-minded members.  By asking what we can do to help you promote your CSA farm, we are able to create resources and promotion materials that reflect what would grab your attention, and thus the attention of the people who share similar values.  We have already heard from some members requesting the promotional materials we have available, and we are always happy to oblige!  We have several different printed material options available, and we have plenty of pictures and short messages we can send out for our members to post to social media.  If any of this sounds like something you would be interested in, please feel free to call or send us an email for more information!

Garver Feed Mill, photo from
We want, and need, to build our membership in order to keep our CSA program sustainable, so we asked for your suggestions to help up improve our outreach.  One of the top suggestions we received was to partner with area businesses.  We are happy to announce that we are now partnering with Twin Town Fitness and Lakewinds Minnetonka in the Twin Cities.  In the Madison area, we are partnering with three new UW Health System locations, the VA Hospital, MGE and the Garver Feed Mill.  We’ve also added an additional residential site in Middleton for our Madison Thursday route!  On top of these confirmed new locations for next season, there are a few potential sites in all our CSA areas we are still looking into.  As exciting as the new sites are, we still need our current members’ help bringing in new members.  We’ve added the sites, please help us add the people!  What tools do we have at our disposal to help you bring in new members?  We offer a new member coupon, which will give the new member between $15 and $25 off their first season depending on the share they select.  This coupon also comes with a referral line, and the referring member will receive a $20 gift certificate!  Another great way to get our standard $10 referral coupon is to write your name in the referral line on sign up forms when you hand them out to neighbors, friends and family, or that stranger in the co-op line!  When they sign up, we’ll send you a coupon!

Andrea Enjoying the company of some of our CSA members
at Strawberry Day 2019
What do our members value most about being part of our CSA program?  The vegetables, of course!  The top five responses we received on this question were high quality produce, supporting local businesses, variety of produce, freshness, and being organic.  We were a little surprised that organic didn’t come in higher on the totem pole, but we were very pleased to hear how highly our quality, freshness and diversity were regarded.  Community was also a common theme we ran across in the comments of this section.  While we appreciate the positive feedback about our vegetables, what really touched our hearts was the human connections our CSA program has fostered.  We enjoyed hearing that the information we provide to you in newsletters strengthens the connection between us and how important that connection is to you.  The connections our members have made between each other were also a joy to hear about!  (Thank you to our Powderhorn site host for being “a wonderful person and a great site manager!”)  We also care a great deal about our land and the people who work on it, so it was also wonderful to hear that the care and dedication we strive for in maintaining both is something our members value as well.  Our organization and attention to detail is something we also loved hearing is appreciated.

There were many other interesting things we found out through our survey, too.  We’ve received quite a few requests for videos of all kinds: cooking demos, field work, newsletter recaps, etc.  The videos we have made in the past have been fun to do, and broadening our horizons in this form of communication is something we have a great interest in.  We are currently brainstorming how to incorporate this into our day as well as what type of content will garner the most interest from our members.  As well as videos, we received many suggestions for having a larger social media presence in general.  After carefully considering our options, we have decided to continue using Facebook and to start a Harmony Valley Farm Instagram page!  Please feel free to follow us on Instagram @harmonyvalleyfarm for more great updates from your farm.

Merchandise was another suggestion that popped up here and there.  We do currently have t-shirts available for purchase during our on-farm events, and have been thinking about what other cool things our members might like to see as well (like re-usable tote bags)!  My personal favorite suggestion was to create a hot sauce subscription program to supplement our CSA.  The Korean Chili Sauce has been a big hit, and it might be fun to try new sauces in the future.  We don’t have any immediate plans to pursue this, although it is a really hot idea.

Our website was also a subject we received lots of feedback on.  We understand the one we currently have needs improvement, which is why we are working with our friends at Leum Tech to roll out a site that has a fresh look, greater functionality and will work great with mobile devices!  Converting our information to the new site takes time, and we are currently prioritizing what needs to be on the site for launch day.  Eventually we will have features like online ordering and an integrated blog!  Our current recipe and newsletter archives are going to be available much like they are now, and we are looking for ways to make our future newsletters and recipes easier to locate and search as well.  Additionally, we will be releasing a new and improved Vegetable Gallery that will include photos, descriptions, storage information, and much more!

As our review of the 2019 End of Season Survey comes to a close, we would like to thank you one more time for the invaluable feedback you have provided.  Your support, positive feedback and creative ideas have helped in more ways than a simple newsletter and a “thank you” could ever express.  We are truly looking forward to doing an even better job at being your CSA farm next season.  See you then!

Did you know you can comment on our blog?

There are a couple different ways you can leave a comment, depending on how you are accessing the blog.  If you use a link that takes you to a specific article, or click into a specific article, when you scroll to the bottom, you will see this:

Just click on the "Post a Comment" link, and it will bring you to the screen to do so!

If you are at the blog  homepage, where all of our articles are available to scroll through, at the end of each article you will see this:

If you click on where it says "No comments" it will bring you to the "Post a Comment" screen as well!

Once you've written a comment for us, make sure to click the "I'm not a robot" check box, and click the orange "Publish Your Comment" button.  We love hearing for you, and leaving comments on our blog lets us know you stopped by as well!