When is the ideal time to hold a CSA fair event? Any tips on how to attract farms to participate and potential CSA members?
We host our "Growers Fare" event in Mid-march every year, this year is March 21st. We have been hosting in partnership with the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, who lets us use their banquet room space for free, this definitely helps bring in extra traffic to the event since Saturdays at the market are pretty busy. We are pretty successful in getting participation from a majority of the CSA farmers in the Grand Rapids area and its one of our non-prints key events. We are trying some new things for the event this year and having more of a focus on local farmers in general and not just CSA farms to try and get more participation from farmers, but we are definitely still highlighting CSAs. We use social media as out main form of marketing for the event but have also done spots on local radio/tv morning programs and print a bunch of posters to get out to local businesses.
We have one huge fair sometime in March -- this year it's the 22nd which is a little late for some of our farmers but most still have shares. We also promote through social media, earned media, and this year we're using FMPP funds to do more promotion. I'm looking into a direct mailer. A lot of farmers look forward to the event because they see it as a networking opportunity as well as a direct marketing event. Also our Board provides a ton of homemade food and coffee for the farmers throughout the day, and the farmers really appreciate this -- it's always the #1 comment we receive. We usually get around 1200 visitors at the event.
The Hudson Valley CSA Coalition has a series of CSA Fairs at the end of March/early April. Given that we host ~5 fairs across the Hudson Valley, many of our Coalition farms have a Fair happening near them, which makes them more likely to participate. We promote prior to the fairs via social media, and try to hold the fairs in centralized locations with a lot of foot traffic (community centers, breweries, etc.). Every year we get plenty of visitors who had no idea the event was going on !
FairShare holds our CSA Open House/Find Your Farm event in mid-March. We found that later did not work because many farms were full. Earlier can work if you can get consumers excited about vegetables before spring. We have had no trouble attracting farms, since this event has been core to our offerings for over 25 years. We attract consumers by holding the event on the same day and in the same location as another popular event (the Natural Parenting Expo), putting an insert into our local free paper listing the events and all the farms, hanging one banner (like a billboard) over traffic, and doing radio ads.