Years ago, I would rise early Saturday mornings to make muffins from scratch and surprise neighbors with small batches. One neighbor would say, “You should live on a farm!”
Although I’ve lived in Chester County for decades, I still have strong city roots. I like front porches, street lights, and side-walks. I have no plans to live on a farm, but I do enjoy cooking organic food for my family and friends. Like everything, this lifestyle has been an evolution and learning journey. I haven’t always lived this way, but I have done it for so long that I can’t remember exactly when I started making the healthy food transition.
One of the best parts about living in Chester County is having the opportunity to patronize local farms and get to know the farmers. Friends at Yellow Springs Farm suggested that I contact the PASA (Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture) conference in Lancaster, PA, to inquire about presenting my signature there. After connecting with PASA, they suggested I attend the February event in preparation to submit an RFP to speak in 2021.
PASA celebrated its twenty-ninth conference this year and attracted some of the nicest people on the planet. Maybe that’s because the attendees’ life’s work is focused on caring for the environment, their community, and family.
It was great to be in downtown Lancaster again, having not been there for years (decades?). The convention center spaces were beautiful and well equipped, great for speakers and attendees. The Marriott is conveniently connected to the convention center. Although I attended only one day, I found parking in the attached garage, a godsend on a wet and stormy February day.
The conference sessions were diverse, making it difficult to choose one session per timeslot. Sessions ran ~ 90-minutes, so one could try to split their time between two sessions. I focused on the business programs which were well attended with very engaged audiences. As a new entrepreneur, I couldn’t help but notice how each program I attended was relevant to my business and every business. If local organic food is your jam, you may want to add this conference to your rotation.
Here are some highlights from the PASA conference:
Six Reasons People Decide to Buy Your Product, by Corinna Bench
Corinna is a farmer, marketer, consultant, teacher, and speaker from Ohio.
- Corinna explained the Taxi light effect, which is the idea of being able to identify when the client is ready to buy.
- They started with twelve customers, and now 400 members!
- Suggested resources:
- She spent two months researching their best clients and said it was the best decision she ever made. Corinna suggested interviewing ten of your ideal clients to identify patterns in their pain points and market using the customers’ language.
- Use pictures of your happy customers using your products on your website and in your emails, providing social proof.
- When we decide we want something, we look for ways to justify the purchase.
- Provide information to our clients at the right time.
- Answer the most common questions in our FAQs on our website.
- Give freebies. Give time to customers. Take your best clients out to dinner (VIP access). I love her motto, “What I want to do for everyone, I do for one.”
- Joanna Wiebe, copywriting course.
- People trust the expert. Video testimonials on your website are powerful. Advertise your retention rate. Teach clients something and give quick wins.
Josh Tickell, was the keynote speaker. You may recall him from the film Fuel.
- He shared how the world develops and forgets farming, over and over again.
- The soil is the center of our wealth as a society.
- General Mills is dedicating 1M acres by 2030 to regenerative agriculture. Annie’s is now owned by General Mills.
- Five mayors in France created pesticide-free zones, putting pressure on federal regulations.
- My favorite point Josh made was the intersection between the movements currently in play across the globe, all leading to the regenerative theme.
- The need for local farmers and farmers markets to use social media well to connect with their ideal clients and build momentum was a resonant theme throughout the day.
Scaling to Wholesale, Ola and George, of Taproot Farm
Taproot Farm is a family-owned organic farm founded in 2009 in Berks County.
Ola and George delivered valuable information about positioning, presentation, and the benefits of wholesaling:
- Help your clients understand why they should buy from and invest in you?
- Professional packaging is required for marketing to wholesale vs. the CSA.
- Wholesale yields 40% of retail, yet wholesaling minimizes transaction management, marketing, and distribution.
Some tips for managing wholesale client relationships:
- The clarity in communication is essential.
- Provide timely information.
- Buyers need stock updates when an item is unavailable or unplanned products are available.
- Setting boundaries (I loved this one!) – Are customer texts ok? At 5 a.m.? On Sundays?
- Fall and winter planning includes sealing the sale with wholesalers.
- They conduct sales summary meetings with their wholesale clients. This is a practice I think we would all benefit from implementing in some fashion in our businesses. Provide a written sales summary to the client before the meeting. Were commitments met on both sides of the agreement? What changes are needed for next year? Recap the meeting in writing. I love their structure to maintain accountability and their process to maintain clear and direct communication!
- They created counting systems that enable them to count products at a glance with counting individual items, from a box to a field.
- The saddest point mentioned was that in 2018 many farmers nearly lost their farms due to twice as much rain as usual. I can’t imagine our community without the vibrant farming culture.
I Meant to Work on My Business Plan . . . Then Life Happened
Who can’t relate to the title of this session? This was a hands-on clinic designed to help attendees focus on the elements of their business plan that require the most attention. We broke into groups and attendees could choose which group topic was right for them. I attended Winifred’s group focused on how to use the Business Model Canvas. It is similar to other business planning tools I’m accustomed to such as SIPOC or a SWOT Analysis but the approach is appealing to a broad swath of industries and it’s part of the curriculum at the University of Scranton.
Kitchen Table Consultants caught my attention at the trade show. I loved the approachability of their “booth” even before I realized that they would be presenting at the clinic. I love that they have claimed their niche as serving financial, bookkeeping and project management services to the farming community.
Let me know if you’ll be at the 2021 conference for PASA’s 30th anniversary. I would love to connect with you there!