The Art of Irrigation Scheduling

February 27, 2024

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Irrigation scheduling is not a game - but it could be.

The 2024 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With conference was held virtually, February 19-March 1, 2024. This two-week program encompasses many aspects of the agricultural industry and offers a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. While there is no cost to participate, attendees must register to receive the necessary zoom links. Registrants can attend as many sessions as they would like and are also able to jump around between tracks. RUP and CCA credits will be offered for several of the sessions. More information can be found at:


Video Transcript

Hi everyone. So my name is Cheyenne Sloan, and I'm the Blueberry and Small fruit educator and I'll be for Southwest Michigan and I'm going to be co presenting this with Mariel. Yeah, thanks for doing this with me Cheyenne. I'm Mariel Borgman. I'm a community food systems educator for Southwest Michigan and I also do some statewide programming as well. We're so excited. You're all here today to join us. Just wanted to share that MSU Extension programs are open to everyone. It's something we're really proud about. We want to make sure that everything is accessible for all audiences. So keep that in mind. Always let us know how we can better accommodate you in these learning opportunities. All right, so before we get start, I just want to share this resource. We'll put a link to it in the chat as well. But this is a bulletin that's part of our beginning farmer demand series that talks about a lot of the things we're going to cover today but in greater detail since we only have an hour, we can't go into every little detail about these different customer profiles and pricing and things like that. So this bulletin will cover all of that. Hopefully this will be a good intro to all of these different kind of markets. And then you can continue to learn more by reading this bulletin and attending other programs as well. All right, so first of all, show of hands. Has anyone heard of CSA? Is anybody doing a CSA? Or you can put it in the chat to or like a farm subscription or membership program or something like that. And also, I want to say happy CSA week, because this is the last day of CSA week, which is a nationally celebrated week for promoting CSA sign ups across, across the country. Okay, Emily has a goal of doing that. Mike is familiar. Awesome with Aan is familiar to you. Great. Oh nice. Wow. Familiarity in running a CSA for almost a decade. Well, do CSA for three years. Perfect. Great. Okay. Csa is a changing landscape, and we'll talk a little bit about that. But we're seeing it in some forms, like subscriptions or memberships, or food boxes. Sometimes customers in particular don't necessarily know what CSA means. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture, if you're not familiar. But sometimes people will call it a subscription or a farm membership just to make it a little easier for people to figure out what they're signing up for. Basically, the traditional CSA idea is that customers will purchase a share of the farm, or kind of like you're investing in the farm, right? You're purchasing a little bit of the farm at a fixed price. The share is like a subscription or membership. And then each week, throughout the season, the customer receives a portion of that week's harvest. The farm gets that chunk of money upfront and then they know they're going to have that customer throughout the season. Again, that's kind of the traditional model, and there's a lot of innovation around that now where firms are doing it different ways. But that was kind of the original idea to try to help with that cash flow at the beginning of the season and have that committed customer for the entire time. Some of the variations that folks are doing lately are things like allowing customers to choose which products they want to have in their CSA box each week. One of the things that my family actually participates in is a market card type CSA, where U, we put down an amount of credit and we have like a little debit card essentially for the farm that we can shop either at the farmer's market or at their farms stand and just spend that down. And a lot of times the way that they'll sell those market cards is giving a little bit extra. So if we put $200 on it, we'll get like $215 of credit. So it's a little bit of a discount sometimes that's just an option. You don't have to do it that way, but it is a nice way to still get that upfront payment. But then that allows the customer to shop. Maybe they're not around every week in the summer, but there would still come to your farm's standard farmers market on a regular basis that allows them to participate in that model just in a little bit of a different way. Lots of CSAs are starting to bring in products from other farms. Traditionally, a CSA with everything grown on one farm. But now some farms are trying to offer more variety to customers. Especially, a lot of CSAs are started or have been started by vegetable farms. Bringing in things like fruit to supplement throughout the season. Buying from other farms that have eggs or meat or things like that to add variety, or on the other side of the equation, selling your products to another CSA farm. I can't move my chat box. A traditional CSI, like I said, was kind of like that upfront payment that really focused on investing in the farm. Even that word share really sounds like you're an investor in the farm. Spend more of an understanding of that shared risk with the farm. A crop may fail. You may not get that crop through the season. You may get way too much Col Robbie or kale or something throughout the year. And that's kind of what you're signed up for because you're really invested in that farm. And now some of these other CSA like programs take a little bit of that piece out of it. But again, it's an option that you have. You could still bring in some of those traditional elements if you wanted to. But some of these other CSA like programs are more focused on like a food box type model, where you're providing more than just what your farm can grow and trying to cover more bases in somebody's diet. Sometimes these can be like a little more sales focus than that community focus. But again, nothing is like good or bad. It's just a change in the landscape of what CSA looks like. And it gives you, as a farmer, a lot more options for how to structure your program. Okay, so getting into lips the nitty gritty a little bit about whether a CSA or subscription type market channel might be right for you. So these are some of the factors that we'll chat about. Things like crop planning skills, product diversity, customer service, those logistics of delivery, pick up and labor. All right, let's start with some of those crop planning skills and product diversity. For a CSA, you really want to be able to grow a diverse variety of high quality produce items. This is a customer that is looking to really make a relationship with a farm and they're looking for high quality produce. They're probably less sensitive to price than even a farmer's market customer. Because they're really trying to form a relationship with a farm and they probably really value local fresh food. So that's the quality piece, is key, and that diversity so that they don't get sick of things. One of the biggest complaints that farms hear from CSA customers is that there's too much food or there's too much of one particular item. Which is why a lot of folks have added in that choice element or allowed for different sizes of share, a family size or an individual size share. It's also really important to understand when you're going to be harvesting stuff, Understand the production schedule, knowing from the time that you're seeding something to when you're going to be able to harvest it, you have that consistency and variety throughout the season. If you're brand new to growing vegetables or fruit or whatever, it may be helpful to have a year or two under your belt to really understand that growing season and when things will be available for you. You can also learn a lot ahead of time on how to do production planning and scheduling out different crops. So even if you're brand new, figuring out exactly what you're growing, paying attention to your seed packets and your conditions, that could also be a way to address that. Also, you'll need to know to make sure that you're getting enough produce to all of your customers. Understand your yields and how much of each item you're going to need each week if you're not able to produce it on your own. Alternatively knowing how much you'll need to buy from other firms. And that's that same thing too if you want to provide that diversity. Having a network of other firms you can draw from to be able to fulfill those orders. The customer service is really, really important in all of these market channels. But especially for CSA, because people are really looking for that connection. They're looking for their farmer and they're really, really invested in you and your farm, building that personal connection, knowing their name, having clear and frequent communication, E mails, text, newsletter, whatever works best for you. Most CSA farms do tend to put out like a weekly newsletter. They like to talk about what's going on on the farm because people are really interested in that if they're this kind of customer. Also providing things like recipes for using things that they may not be familiar with or they may be looking for new ideas. Hosting special events is really popular with CSA members. So having a day where they can come out and visit the farm maybe like do a U pick type activity on a certain crop. Or I know some farms have had people come out to dig potatoes or garlic or something like that. So they feel a little bit more about deep connection to the farm. The other big thing about customer service is figuring out how you'll coordinate CSA sign ups and ordering. Our next section is about online sales, and that's a way to do it, but there's also ways to do it that are pretty low tech as well. Just figuring out how you're going to manage all of those different customers and their needs is a really important piece of that. Deliver your pick up. A lot of folks choose to have people come right to their farm, which does work well with that customer who wants to build that relationship directly with your farm. But there's also ways to have folks pick up at a farmer's markets that you're going to or you might want to deliver it to a place where a lot of people work. These are a lot of different options you have to think through and figure out what's going to be best for you and the time that you have on your farm. Is your farm set up to accommodate a lot of people coming to do the pick ups? Or would it be better to take the CSA program out into the community? The other thing to think about is if you're going to need to keep things cold and what kind of delivery vehicle you have or may need to have in order to protect the cold chain from farm to customer. Okay, Labor is always a big thing. But with CSA in particular, if you're pre packing those shares, that's definitely a consideration. How many people you're going to need to have on share packing day. Who's going to be doing that? These are all kinds of things you'll have to plan for. Then if you're doing a pick up on the farm, you'll probably want to have at least one person staffing that if you're doing deliveries, you'll need to have somebody doing that to then that piece about building customer relationships is really big. Who on your team is really good at writing, making those close relationships, being able to have conversation with people, getting to know them a little bit. That is a really critical piece here. So I just wanted to share a couple of resources that we have. If you want to learn more about CSA, we have a Michigan CSA network and there's a whole section on that website for farmers, in particular, lots of farmer resources. We have a Facebook page just for CSA farmers. Not a page, sorry. We have a page that's public facing, but we also have a group that is specifically for CSA farmers to chat. And then we have a listserv that you can sign up to get information about our different events. And then there's a national CSA innovation network that has a lot of really great resources as well. And Cheyenne has put those links in the chat. Thank you so much, Cheyenne. Alright, so next up we want to talk a little bit about online sales. So I'll pass it to Cheyenne. Cool, Hi everyone. I'm going to talk a little bit about online sales. So online sales can be a really awesome way to incorporate, to kind of further diversify your sales methods. But it can also be a little bit more work and effort and require a bit more planning then people might initially realize with online sales, it's really awesome because you can help you enhance existing sales channels with some pre ordering. We're going to talk about it specifically and more of like a CSA thing. It can help you facilitate choice and prepackaged CSA orders. But like I said a little bit earlier, it does add a lot of complexity because you have to have, you have to know, like when Mariel was talking about, you have to know what you're going to have and win. You'll have to know what you're going to have and win earlier, because you're going to have to either take time to take pictures if you want to have pictures, or figure out a way to put everything on, on line easily and efficiently without taking up too much time and making sure that your customers are still able to get to it and you don't have things that you don't have or have things because nothing is worse than people thinking that they're going to be, that they're coming and getting something. But then you're like, oh actually we didn't have any rainbow chard or back choice. So that's one of the something that you have to make sure and think about with online sales. So X One, is this the right market channel for you? It's on line. So you're going to have to have some level of tech savviness. You'll have to be comfortable using a computer or using an app or whatever platform you try to use to be able to upload and do this. Mentioned earlier, some people put pictures, so you'll have to be comfortable taking pictures and uploading pictures and curating it, and really being comfortable using whatever platform you have. There's a lot of different platforms out there. We'll talk about a couple, we'll talk about a couple in a little bit. But really understand what you'll be getting into. How much work is required by you? How much tech support does the platform offer? How much tech support do you think you need? So like platform set up and maintenance. How is it like plug and go? Is it more like an Apple, like when you get like an Apple iphone for an example. It's pretty much like open it and it's ready to go. And a lot of people like that about Apple iphones and Apple products. Whereas some people really like Androids because you need when it comes to a cell phone, because it requires a bit more customization. And you want your phone to do specific things that you might not be able to do in an ecosystem like Apple, where it's a little bit more streamlined and focused on being as easy as possible. Another important thing is customer service. Some people that can be a little bit harder to gauge when you're just on their website because obviously everyone's going to want to say that they have great customer service. If you have other people that you know that have different point of sale options, POS systems, different online marketing systems, Talk to different people and see what their thoughts are on the customer service. And think about how much customer service you'll need. Like maybe you're not super tech savvy but you're willing to put in the effort, so you want a lot of hand holding during the process. You'll also have to think about deliver your pick up logistics. And logistics is a really, can be a really big time stuck and a big problem for a lot of people. I'm sure anyone who's been involved in a CSA knows how difficult it can be to coordinate pickups and making sure that everyone has everything that they're supposed to. So figuring out whether or not using the online sales can help you make it smoother or might throw more wrenches into it, is another important thing to think about. And then also labor. While this might not be the kind of labor that we usually think about on a farm with like digging in the dirt and pulling up roots and stuff like that, This will still require labor from someone, whether it's you or your manager or whoever, for like we talked about earlier. Taking pictures, updating stock, and then going through everyone's orders. And then making sure that there's a way to take orders to actual product making or assembling to them picking it up. Next slide. Food Hubs are an example of 51, Okay, Like food hubs, I don't food. Okay, try again. That's just a little teaser for later. So we're going to talk about food hubs later. You guys, don't worry. Tech savviness platform set up in maintenance, so you want to make sure that you evaluate your platform options and choose one that fits your farm needs. I've been on a lot of farms. The one that I'm most familiar with is like square or toast. Square and toast are just like a one size fits all. There are ones that are more specific for agriculture or agri tourism, or CSA models. But you want to make sure that you pick one that fits your farm needs. Whether it has like lots of assistance or maybe more like plug and play, you're able to really customize it to what you want or it's already set up to pretty much you just plug in what you have and use it. Make sure you pick one that fits your farm's needs. And think about the cost as well. A lot of them are on a subscription model, so just think about subscription costs and how much it'll be and then also how easy it is to scale. Because some of them, there are limits on how many things you're able to sell through their website. Other people don't have that. So just make sure you do your research and choose the right kind of platform that fits what you're trying to do. Another thing that's important to think about is who is responsible for setting up the platform? Is that you. Are you going to hire someone? Do you have a manager already? It a grandkid, whoever. Because someone's going to need to be in charge of setting it up and someone's going to be in charge of maintaining it and make sure that whoever is setting it up isn't the only person that knows how to do it or knew how it is set up. Just because you don't want to be in a situation where maybe they're sick or whatever and you don't know how to get into the point of sale system for all these online orders that need to be picked up. And then you also want to identify someone who will be in charge of inventory management and ongoing site maintenance. I mentioned earlier, there's nothing worse than people thinking that they're getting something showing up and being like what I ordered, 20 Rutabaga, what the heck you don't have any Rutabaga. That's especially important in online sales. I've seen, I've seen people fall victim to this when you're reading through Google reviews or people are like, I thought I ordered honey and when I showed up there wasn't any honey because they haven't updated their online store in seven years. So just make sure that if you do have an online store, you're taking care of it, you're maintaining it. Just because it's out in the Internet land doesn't mean that it isn't going to require the same kind of like inventory and maintenance that you would for a brick and mortar sales point. So next slide. Here is I think chart is chart the right word for a couple of different options for online sales resources. Up on the top will be all the different online sales resources, like 1,000 eco farms, barn to door Crypopolis, that's a cute name, see a sale were. And then what it does is it tells you if it has an e Commerce storefront like CSA, subscription management and all these different things. So kind of like this is kind of a decision making tool for a couple of different platforms. So maybe you know that you want an e commerce storefront, so you probably don't want crop opolists because they don't have an e commerce storefront. But here's a resource from the National Young Farmers Coalition to help kind of with that decision making, because making decisions can be hard. And having all this information right here in a visual form is really nice. Instead of having to go and search for it, I'll bet yourself. So Mariel uploaded the link to that in the chat, so thank you Mariel, you rock. One example would be barn to door. So the CSA Farmer to Farmer E Commerce report puts together reports about some of the different ones as well. So barn to door is one option. I haven't, I don't have a lot of experience with barn to door. I've been to one farm that did barn to door, and they didn't have anything negative to say about it. So it seems to be pretty positive. And so here you're able to find out ratings. So like overall set up experience, ease of use for the farmer, for the customer, value for the price and customer service. And then you're also able to recommend like actual testimonies from people who are in your shoes and have used the software. So Mariel also put the link to that in the chat. So thank you Mariel. And next page, customer service and delivery or pick up logistics, an important thing to think about when you are doing it. Just because you're doing online sales doesn't mean that you will completely eliminate having to talk to people. You want to make sure that you know who is going to communicating with the customers. I've always found that it is best, in my experience working in things like this, it's best to have one person who is in charge of answering e mails and things like that. Like maybe take or like one e mail box or something that that's where all the communications for customers. So making sure you're putting together a system so that you know who is doing it if they're doing it. Because again, nothing's worse than people being like, I've sent you 27 e mails and no one has ever replied, no one ever answers my questions. So making sure that whoever they can communicate online, if people have questions online, and then also someone there when they're picking it up to make sure to answer questions or concerns or things like that. So who's going to do that? And then also it's important to think about how, when, and where will customers get their items. When I lived in Washington, one of my best friends had a CSA. And you got to pick which drop off location. So you would go on on Monday and you would tell them which drop off location and you were able to pick up at a bar. There was like a bar that you could pick it up, the farm and then like three other locations that you had to pick depending on which day. And that was apparently a big pain in the butt having all the different areas. And there were a couple times where people didn't actually get their orders because there was just, they had made it more complicated than it needed to be. So making sure you know, where the, where people will pick up their stuff, how people will get their items, whether it's just like leaving out a box in front of your farm, or maybe they have to come say hi to you at your farms stand or whatever. But making sure you know how, when, and where people will be picking up their items and making sure that's communicated effectively to your customers as well. Doing the next thing so now we'll talk a bit about on farm retail, whether that's a farm market, a farm stand, a farm store or a roadside stand. Yes questions. Anytime we love questions. So first on farm retail, I think that this is probably the number one thing people think of when they think of farming. Like, if you were to think of just like a farmers, like buying fruit from a farmer. I think most people think about like a farm market kind of like this. So there's a wide variety of options for on farm retail. From low cost and simple, just like a shack on the side of the road by your mailbox. To big, fancy fancy barns where you have bazillion dollar wedding and all kinds of fancy fun activities. It's a really cool, it's a really awesome option because you're able to bring customers to the farm for an experience beyond just the products. So usually if people are coming to your farm, you also want to get, they kind of want like that experience too of like going to a farm and seeing the dirt and smelling the smells. And being on a farm, because being on a farm is awesome and most people don't get to experience that because we're just so separated from our food supply now. But it's also really important to think about local zoning and building ordinances. It's not a build it. And they will come, it's like a build it. And if you're not listening to your local zoning and ordinances, your municipality will come and tell you to not do that. There's been in the news recently, I've seen a lot of different instances about people building things and thinking that it would without asking for permission first, and then not being able to open or having to tear things down. So just make sure that you're looking at your zoning and building ordinances before next slide. Is this the right market channel for you? I know it can sound super fun and romantic, but you have to make sure this isn't always the best fit for everyone. So you want to make sure that you have crop planning skills so that your market roadside stand or whatever has stuff at it. A lot of times the consistency is key. So making sure that like during peach season, if you are selling peaches, you have peaches at your stand or whatever. Another important thing is post harvest handling because things are going to be hanging out outside a lot of times. So knowing whether or not your crops are going to be in a refrigerator or if they're just going to be hanging out in the weather and are they going to be covered by shade or they're going to be in the direct sunlight? And then thinking about what crops you're selling and the best way to store them. The most effective and efficient way to store them without like losing too much. Because you don't want to just stick your strawberries that you just harvested out in the sun for 3 hours. They're going to look like there gonna look gros, they're going to be real gross customer service. Are you are you going to have customer service, Are you just going to have like a little lockbox where people drop stuff off or are you going to be there or are you going to hire some people to be there? A lot of times when, like we've talked about earlier, when people are coming to the farm market, they're coming for an experience. So customer service is really important. Also delivery, so whether people are able to come and get it, an important thing to think about is how people are able to come and get your food. And then also food safety. There's a lot of rules for food safety for good reason, people are eating it. We don't want anyone to get hurt or sick. So next slide, crop planting and post harvest handling. Are you able to consistently produce quality produce at large volumes? Do you have good handle? And wind crops will be ready for customers. People don't like it when they show up and they don't have what you said that they did. Do you have adequate post harvest handling and storage facilities? If you have 30 flats of tomatoes? Do you have somewhere to process and store these 30 tomatoes, whether it's while you're trying to sell them or afterwards? And then are you familiar? Yeah. Sorry. Sorry, y'all, I don't know what's happening. It's somehow skipping ahead when I changed the slide, so we're going to go way back. But that was one that we were going to talk about, right? Yes, ma is getting on my nerves today. Okay. Let's go back. We ended up way ahead. Okay. So here let's go back to the Okay. And I'm not sharing. Sorry. Do you want me to share? Try sharing. Let's do it one more time. And if it messes up on me again, I'll put it back to you. Okay? Okay. So, sorry we mentioned earlier about like grandiose versus just like a shack on the side of the road. So this is a little cuter. The home, the one on the left over here, is a little bit cuter than just a literal shack on the side of the road. But it's a non permanent structure. It's a lower initial investment and it is a bit more seasonal. You're not going to be selling stuff out of here in December in Mi well, maybe you are in Michigan because the way the weather's been. But it's going to be a bit more seasonal than say you have a big permanent structure like this barn over here. It's going to be a lot more expensive to start, but you can't make it. There's more opportunities for year round, whether you have like maybe a harvest festival in the fall and you have people here, or maybe in the summer you even host weddings or other events at your structure. So just thinking about how much money you're able to invest at the beginning and how often do you want to be using this structure. So next slide, so Ooh on Farm retail, we did that. It's going all over the place. Okay. Oh my gosh. We didn't do the location. The other one, we'll just talk really quick. So we're going to talk about location and a couple of other things. Location, parking and liability. How will people find you? Are you just going to have a sign on the side of the road that says asparagus or are you going to have a Facebook page? Are you going to have a website? Are you going to be running ads? Are you going to be putting in the local newspaper? Are you going to have billboards like, how will people find you? Especially because a lot of times farms tend to be in a bit more rural areas. How much signage do you think people will need to get to you easily? Again, it's important to think about if you're on or near a busy route, people who it tends to be a lot easier to just get people to stand to come stop by your farm if you are on a big busy route. Like I think of the Skara farm that's on your way from Kalamazoo to South Haven, an amazing location for a farm market, because people are driving to South Haven all the time in the summer, and it's always really, really busy. So that's a really great location, location, location location, as they say in real estate. You also think about you have adequate parking and if you need to add additional insurance to cover the liability of on farm visitors, insurance can get expensive and insurance is important, so make sure you know about your insurance coverage. Next slide. Customer service and staffing isn't in the heck. Oh my goodness, no worries. We're just keeping it interesting. Okay. Trying to go like one time here. Okay. Perfect. So will it be staffed or will be the honor system? I've seen a lot more people. I've seen a lot of people who do the honor system, moving to Venmo or Paypal or things like that. So that's a real, I don't ever have cash. I don't know anyone my age or younger who ever has cash. If you're depending on what kind of customers you're thinking, maybe think about if you do do the honor systems, how other ways that you can get customers or will you have staff so you have someone there watching people and making sure people aren't taking it. When will you be open? Will you just be open during the season? Will you be open all year round? Will you just be open in the morning, in the afternoon? How will you advertise? Just a sign on the side of the road. Will you have a Facebook page? Like maybe online marketing, Maybe an ad in the local paper. Then what kind of payments will you accept? Cash, credit card, Snap apps. If you have cash, you need to make sure you have change and all that stuff. And thinking about the types of payments you accept will also influence the types of people who will shop at your place next door side. And then a product mix. Having a good product mix is pretty important at a farm market, especially if you're going to do a bigger one. There's not a lot of places that I know of that are just like I do apples and all I have is apples. Usually they also have like doughnuts is a classic one or cider or popcorn or whatever. It's important to think about will you only sell products you produce or will you also bring in other items? And then how will you communicate the product availability? Will you have like a cute little sign out front like this one here where it says like milk, pork, beef, lettuce And then you change it out depending on what you have. Will you just have a sign at the front door? And then also, will you need any additional licensing to produce or sell certain products like liquor or alcohol is the big example I can think of. That you definitely need to make sure that you're crossing all your T's and dotting all your eyes on that because you don't want to get in trouble. So next slide. All right. I think it's back to me. Okay. So we just talked about visiting a farm to buy some products at a retail store or a farm stand. But there's a lot of other ways to bring people out to your farm to experience it, and we like to call this Agritourism. So a roadside stand or a farm market is considered a form of agritourism. But there are lots of other ways that you can invite folks out to your farm. And a lot of these are experiences that may somewhat relate to the products that you have on your farm or the landscape that you have on your farm. But it's not necessarily directly selling produce. You're selling more of an experience. And oftentimes people will pay a lot of money for these types of experiences. Like Shane said, a lot of people aren't lucky enough to spend time on a farm most of their lives. And they are looking for these types of experiences. They want to bring their kids out to a farm. They want to have a date on a farm. There's a lot of opportunities to capitalize on where people can learn a lot about agriculture in the process. Agri tourism is really welcoming visitors to the farm for the purposes of educating or entertaining them and then specifically for the purpose of generating revenue for the farm. Here hopefully you can see this. This is a really cool diagram that talks about all of Maybe not all, but a lot of the different possibilities that you could think about for offering acer tourism at your farm. So a lot of times people think about like a corn maize or having a fall festival or things like that. But or pick or farm stands. But there's so many different things that you could offer. You could offer outdoor recreation activities even in the winter. I know I've seen orchards that allow people to cross country ski or snowshoe through there. Some farms even host like races. If they have nice trails and space like that, you could have classes. So a lot of people like to take food preparation, cooking classes on a farm, even if it's not something that is directly related to what you grow. Like people love sourdough making classes, but you could also offer things that incorporate your products, which would then encourage people to buy more of them. Like flour arranged in classes, if you're a cut flower farm, wreaths, making classes or things like that. And I think a lot of people often think about Agra tourism, really targeted at families, but there are a lot of other types of things you could do that are maybe adult only type events like farm to table dinners or tastings. I know people are getting into weddings, things like art and photography. So there are just really endless possibilities of what you could do. It's only limited by your creativity in terms of, and obviously your space too, for some of these things. But there's just so many interesting things you could do. And I'll share a really cool example of what a farm in West Michigan has done in just a second. Dream. Goats is a farm in Belding, Michigan, and they have goats and their primary products are things like milk and goat milk soap. But they have added some really interesting agra tourism activities including goat hikes and baby goat cuddles. This is obviously related to producing goat milk. It has been super popular for their goat hike activity. They have hosted 200 hikes with 1,500 hikers over a six month period. A lot of people visiting their farm just to go on a hike with goats. And then it's kind of like an add on to those goat hikes. They offer baby goat cuddles. So they've had 750 cuddlers since they've been offering that for two months. So these are the kinds of kind of creative and unique experiences that you can come up with, and they're really important for revenue generation at this farm. So you can see this is from 2022. But their primary ways of selling products and their goat milk herd share and their goat milk soap and their kid I'm sorry, kid sales are actually less of their income at this point than their Agritourism, which is at 55% of their sales. So this has been a huge asset to their business to incorporate this. Agritourism is Agritourism, right for you? Again, a lot of these are recurring themes, but some of them are a little bit different for each market channel. So we'll talk about location parking. Those are going to be somewhat similar to farm retail, but maybe some different considerations. Liability comes into play a little bit more here because people are spending more time at your farm and they may be interacting with livestock or doing other activities that may require a little bit of a different insurance coverage policy. And then customer service and local regulations. So location, similarly to that on farm retail, how are people going to find you? Are you going to have to advertise or are you in a location that people drive by all the time and they see you? And sometimes when it comes to Agri tourism, people might potentially be traveling long distances to visit your farm. So you could be advertising your tourism for people from other states or even other countries that may come visit you. So these are considerations. Again, parking and insurance. The best thing that we tell folks is just to be real honest with your insurance agent about what you're planning to do and they will be able to help you get the coverage that you need for customer service and seffing. Thinking about when you'll be open to the public and advertising those open hours. Again, what type of payments will you accept? Sometimes people will do pre ordering or ticketing systems for different activities. You may need to look at one of those online platforms that we talked about earlier or possibly a different one to handle ticket sales. If you want to have people pre buy tickets, can be as simple like using Event Bright or there's some companies now that specifically focus on offering ticketing services for Agra tourism operators. Sometimes there will be extra busy days or seasons, like if you have a special event, a festival, or during the fall, especially, people start to think about we want to go out to a farm because that's just like it's Michigan, October, we need to go pick apples or something. You may anticipate that and think about staffing up for those particular times of year or special days. You may want to think about contracting out services. For example, if you're doing workshops, bringing in a chef or an instructor. You may not have the facilities that you need on your own farm, but you could partner with a local restaurant or something like that for facilities as well. Those are agritourism doesn't necessarily have to happen on your farm, it could happen somewhere else in the community as well. Local regulations, so this is something where it's important to know what the local zoning ordinances allow. Agri tourism can be a squishy area when it comes to zoning. There's been some issues that we've seen with particularly people doing things that are agriturism. But for someone not familiar with agriculture or agritourism, it doesn't seem like agriculture. They don't feel like it fits the definition of agriculture. And so there's been some contention across the state about what constitutes agriculture and Agritourism. So if you're running into issues with your local zoning officials, we do have some resources within MSU extension and also the Michigan Agritourism Association to help you. And I know we have something in the chat. Yep, this Cultivating local farm Economies session was actually part of this conference, I think two years ago, where we did a session. This is a program that we can offer at MSU Extension to work with local planning and zoning officials and help them to understand a little bit more about agri tourism and how important it is for farmers. Lost my page thing. I'm going to try it this way, okay? It worked. All right. Last thing we want to talk about, I know we're running a little short on time, so we'll go through this rather quickly. This isn't related to direct marketing. It's one step removed from direct to consumer. But we wanted to share these opportunities with you as well. Because usually folks that are doing direct marketing are doing some form of intermediated marketing as well to expand the diversity of their market basket. Intermediated market really require pretty good crop planning skills for large volumes post harvest handling. These are actually the slides I was going over earlier. You got a preview. Customer service delivery and food safety. When it comes to crop planning, it's the ability to really consistently produce quality produce at large volumes. So being really good at growing a few things versus like having a little bit of everything. Also having a good handle on when those crops are going to be ready for customers because they're going to want to know when they can order and when you anticipate to have those volumes that they need for their menu planning. I didn't mention what the different types of markets are yet we'll get to that. But this is things like selling to restaurants, selling to grocery stores, selling to schools, those type of markets. It's really a wholesale type situation, but you're selling directly to an institution or a retail space. Also, you'll need to know different wholesale grading and packaging standards. These customers are used to buying from wholesale distributors that have really strict standards for grading of produce, really consistent pack sizes. That is the thing you'll need to be familiar with in order to satisfy these orders. Also, customer service always, it's a little bit different here because you're communicating more with organizations and businesses. They may all have their own favorite ways of communicating with you, Whether that's over phone, or phone call, or text, or e mail. It's really knowing what that customer prefers and then being reliable with that communication. Things like letting them know when you have items available, how they'll be able to place orders, and building relationships for sustained sales over time. So this is, it's obviously a high volume market and you want to make sure that you are providing them good service so they continue to buy from you. Generally, these folks are going to require delivery. You'll need to have a vehicle that you can use for deliveries, and it may need to be a refrigerated vehicle depending on if you need to maintain those cold temperatures, how far you're traveling, that kind of thing. You'll need to know when they accept deliveries. You'll have to figure out your routes if you're doing delivery to multiple customers. This probably should have been on customer service, but one of the big things too with this market is how you communicate any issues that come up or order changes. Food safety becomes a lot more important in intermediated markets. A lot of times they're looking for some kind of food safety certification or at least some communication from you about food safety practices. And if you need help with farm food safety, we have lots of resources in Michigan to help with that. I'm just going to fly through these real quick so we can get to questions. But here are the different types of market options we have for intermediate marketing, farm to institution. A lot of folks haven't heard of that, but they've heard of farm to school. But other institutions like hospitals or elder care facilities fall into that category. Food, I'll show a slide on that to explain what that is, but it's like a local distributor. And then restaurants, groceries and food banks as well. Food people often think of as a donation, but a lot of food banks actually will buy product too. Institution Cheyenne is going to share in the chat, our firm Institution Network. So you can learn a little bit more about what we do to coordinate Farm Institution sales in Michigan. Come on slides, just a quick plug that we have farm school training coming up if you're really interested in learning more about selling the schools. At the Michigan Family Farms Conference, which is March 9 in Kalamazoo. We'll put the registration in bow for that in the chat food. An example is Valley Hub, and we have someone from Valley Hub on the call today. Hi, Amy. Valley Hub is a food hub based in Kalamazoo, Michigan at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The thing about food hubs is, like I said, they're really a local distributor. They're aggregating, distributing and marketing source identified foods. So they can tell you where that came from, which farm it came from, and the name of that farm will travel with the products. So you can see in this example here that these onions came from Crisp country Acres. It's really important for traceability of local foods and getting your brand out there. You can learn more about the food hubs in Michigan on our Michigan Food Hub Network website. Cheyenne put that in the chat for you as well.