By GreenHouse17 Staff

Although the recent rainfall has been oh-so welcomed,  we’ve been sending all kinds of vibes for sunny weather this Saturday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Why are we hoping for no rain for just four hours this weekend? This is when we’ll host our first U-Pick Day on the farm!

Planning events on the farm is always such a collaborative and fun experience, but there’s so much to consider. So for this blog post, we’ve outlined the planning process we followed for this weekend’s event. We thought this post might help other organizations that are thinking about hosting a similar event.  And, with all the experience of the Grow Appalachia extended family, we’re hoping to discover other things we should be thinking about when planning future farm events.

So, here are the top ten things we considered during planning for our event this weekend:

1.) Establish Early Broad Goals

We began talking about the event many months ago. We envisioned it to be an opportunity for the community to witness and participate in our healing programming on the farm, to help us glean some of the flowers from our field as the summer begins to wane, and to raise some extra funding to support the farm. Our goal is for 50 people to attend and raise $500 during the event.

2.) Set the Date and Time.

First we made sure the event was scheduled for a weekend when a large flower order or farm management project wasn’t happening. Sometimes when special events coincide with other farm-related activities, it can really stretch our small staff. And we wanted the day to be a rewarding experience for everyone involved, including us! We also checked local community calendars to make sure the event didn’t conflict with another similar event. One of our staff (you know who you are!) insisted on consulting the Farmer’s Almanac for weather history on the preferred date. The almanac said no rain had fallen on this date in more than five years. (Time will tell.) We weren’t sure how long the event should be, so this time we settled for four hours that spanned the late morning and early afternoon. Thinking this range would catch the morning people and the not-so-morning people too.

3.) Make Invitations Early.

Since this is our first U-Pick event, we decided to keep the invitation list very targeted to our friends and supporters. It’s always better to make mistakes with people you know! We printed 100 postcard invitations using a reliable and affordable online vendor, and focused the mailing list to local groups within easy driving distance of the farm and individuals who have supported the farm in the past few months.  We also used social media to invite our friends on Facebook and Twitter, and the event was featured on our agency’s blog and in the monthly e-newsletter. This approach helped to keep our printing and mailing expenses low.

4.) Define the Picking Area and Have Helpers Available.

We considered which fields would be “open” for picking during the day. We decided to limit the picking to just our open fields of flowers. This means we’ll still have the flowers growing in the hoop house to fulfill new orders received through the end of the summer. We’ll have at least one staff person out in the fields to answer questions about the flowers and  help guests who are new to the flower cutting process.

5.) Gather Up Supplies.

To keep expenses low (we’re seeing a theme developing!),  the invitation included request for guests to bring their own pail and clippers if they’ve got ‘em. The past few weeks our staff has been saving large coffee cans for guests who arrive without a pail to use. So, the only supply purchases we’ve made so far are 20 one-dollar plastic pails for back-up and 20 pairs of safety scissors (priced at less than 50 cents right now because of back-to-school shopping!) We’ll also have lots of newsprint on hand to wrap up the flowers for the drive home for guests who did not bring their own pail.

6.) Consider Parking.

Parking was next on our planning list. We considered the flow of cars arriving to and leaving from the event. We decided to direct cars to park at the back of the property first and then let parking trickle up the the farm lane on one side only. We hope this approach will avoid any trapped vehicles during the event.

7.) Think Through Pricing and Processing…

We’re charging $10 per bucket of flowers picked during the day. We talked about limiting the size of the buckets or charging more for larger buckets, but then thought it would just be easier to have a set fee. We recently began using a mobile device to process both credit and cash transaction. The credit processing fee is competitive (plus cash processing is free), and we appreciate the back end protections the service offers for credit purchasers. Funds are deposited directly to our bank every week. At least one staff person will be assigned to the check-out table throughout the event.

8.) Hydration!

Got to keep hydrated when out in the fields. So, we will have a cooler of water and cups available for event guests. We’ll also have the water hose ready for guests to fill their picking-buckets before heading out to the fields.

9.) Make Mission Connections.

We’ll have copies of our agency brochure and a handout about how to support our mission to end intimate partner violence. We hope many of our event guests will also sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay informed about farm events in the future.

10.) What About Other Opportunities?

Shannon, our fantastic new VISTA on the farm (you’ll be hearing more from her really soon), will be setting up a small farm stand to sell some extra vegetables and herbs harvested this week that can’t be immediately used for meals in our shelter. Some of our new handmade by survivors products will also be available for sample and sale during the event.

We’ve probably overlooked a few things and will surely learn a lot during this first U-Pick event. We’d love to hear back from you. What other tips and advice might you give to someone planning an event on the farm? Wish us luck (and for no rain just during the four hours of the event!)