GFP072: Proper Farm Planning Makes All The Difference

Does it feel like sometimes you want to just not have a plan? If you don't have a plan then nothing can go wrong, right? Let me tell you, it is that time spent planning that helps you figure out what is going to wrong and how you will be able to handle it when things take a turn. Without my planning time and the time spent researching and organizing I would be a total wreck right now. My farm plans for the year have completely been turned on their heads several times already and we're only not just about to get into May.

Today I interview two farmers from my area that are taking their planning and analysis to make some very positive changes on their farm. I'm even going to cut the text short today and really encourage you to listen to what Paul and Rebecca have to say.

 

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • Analyzing what your farm goals are
  • How farming kicks your butt every year
  • How farming is a business if you want to make a living off it (I know that seems obvious, but trust me)
  • How the CSA model can end up costing you (the farmer) a lot of money

Interview with Paul and Rebecca of Fort Hill Farm

Paul Bucciaglia

Like many small-scale, direct market farmers, Paul did not grow up on a farm. He grew up gardening at the family home in Naugatuc, CT, and studied agriculture at Penn State University and plant biology at the University of Minnesota. After spending time in mid 1990s working with Paul and Chris Burkhouse on their operation, Foxtail Farm, just northeast of the Twin Cities, Paul decided to leave the laboratory and explore small scale organic farming.

In 1999, Paul returned to New England to apprentice at  Brookfield Farm CSA in Massachusetts, and later mangaged Holcomb Farm CSA in Granby, CT. After two successful seasons at Holcomb, Paul had a clear vision of what his own farm would look like. In the fall of 2002, Paul moved to New Milford and plowed the first four acres of what would become Fort Hill Farm on the sandy soils of the Sunny Valley Preserve.

Now, after many years of cultivation and the hard work of friends and family, Paul and Rebecca continue to work the land with the help of a talented crew of aspiring farmers and workers.

Rebecca Batchie

Rebecca came to farming through her combined love of plants and food. She trained in horticulture at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY, and then ran her own horticultural business for 10 years. During that time, she became increasingly drawn to vegetable crops and spent much of her time designing, building, and growing vegetable gardens.

Farming was a natural transition for Rebecca. She worked summers with Paul while earning a degree in Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. After graduating in 2011, she joined Paul in running Fort Hill Farm. She and Paul joyfully welcomed their son, Luca, into their lives in July of 2013. In her “spare time,” she enjoys hiking, sourdough bread baking, photography, spiritual practice, traveling, and (in her next life), cheese making and fiber arts.

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

Are you giving away too much on your farm?

What is one thing you could track better to make your farm more efficient?

Farm Quote of the Episode:

"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." - Paul J. Meyer

--

Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook , or leave a 5 star rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

Honest and Open Marketing

honest farm marketing sheep It just so happens that I really love the marketing and business side of farming. Well, I love the marketing side at least. Some of the business stuff I struggle with (here's looking at you small town zoning regulations). Whether it is social media, traditional printed materials, attending events, updating my website and keeping a blog, or just randomly walking around town kissing babies, I've tried it all.

Through all of it, and in conversation with at least dozens of farms all over the country, I have found one thing that is by far the most successful strategy. It also happens to work on every single marketing platform that you might want to choose.

 

Honest, Open, and Transparent Farm Marketing

https://youtu.be/mEB7WbTTlu4

At Camps Road Farm we are "customer certified". Being the only show in town for pastured poultry and being one of the bigger pastured egg producers in the area we get a fair amount of attention and loads of questions. When a customer comes up and starts talking chicken we are very open about all of our management practices, as well as everything else, and it is working.

Our doors are open to the public all the time (though now establishing some more official "open hours" just because people keep interrupting my dinner with Kate and Mabel). At any given time I will get someone new on farm and I take the time to give them a tour and explain how it all happens. If they like it they usually make a purchase, at least to try it. If they don't like my practices then we have a chance for conversation as to why they don't like it.

This sort of open door policy establishes a relationship of trust between you and the customer that has a lot of value to the both of you. For you it creates a relationship where that person will most likely become a repeat customer because what you are doing is (hopefully) the best option in town. For the customer, they know you're not a slimy used-car salesman trying to pull one over on them.

 

Know the Facts

It is your job as a producer to know all the facts about your industry. That's a big undertaking, but it's important to be good at what you do. You may have read someone on a blog somewhere saying this or that about how food is grown, or you found someone else's marketing language that you liked and might work for you, but take the time to ask why that person is making that claim, and if indeed that claim is substantiated. Remember that anyone can say anything on the internet, and it's not always true. (Did I just invalidate myself with that last sentence? I don't think so.)

This example focuses on chickens because I love chickens, but having the facts applies to any operation.

 

Hormones in Chicken

Here's my semi-scientific take on hormones in chickens. Please do your own research.

Growth hormones are a protein. Your digestive enzymes break down proteins in your gut, just they way they do for other livestock. If you put growth hormones in feed then the animal will just digest it and poop it out.

To be effective you have to inject the hormones into the blood stream. Plausible if you are running a dairy and you handle each individual cow on a regular basis. Hormones are injected under the skin and are gradually absorbed in the blood stream.

Now say you have chicken house with 40,000 chickens in it. Who do you think is going out with a little syringe and injecting 40,000 chickens with hormones every day? I'm pretty sure no one. Growth hormones don't work in industrial chicken farming.

So advertising a small chicken farm model that "has no hormones" is kind of schenanigans. So don't do it. Instead focus on what you are doing that is benefitting the health and welfare of your birds.

When asked if my birds are given any hormones I typically respond with, "No, and no chicken is. But let me tell you about their life on pasture..." If the customer digs deeper then we have more conversation.

This comparative conversation brings up another good point.

 

Focus on Yourself

I initially started this post because of a new chicken-based product I found on the internet that is complete and utter bullsh**. I'm not going to directly reference it or link to it as I am not in the business of throwing anyone else under the bus and it would be hypocritical of me based on what I'm about to say.

Yes, there are some deplorable things that come out of our food system. Honestly, we all see it, and we hear about it a lot. If a customer has found you at a farmers' market or is coming to your farm it stands to reason that they have heard about it all already. Why bring it up?

I do not believe in building a business based on the perceived negatives of someone else's practices. Yes that can be a reason to do what you do, to provide an alternative, but there's no need to highlight what you believe to be a bad way to raise an animal or vegetable. Guess what, that person believes what they are doing it right, and who are you to judge? There's probably stuff you're doing that is pure schenanigans too.

Instead of your marketing saying "Buy our stuff because that guy is gross", focus instead on "Buy our stuff because we are awesome, and here's why..."

Right now there is a place in the market for eveyone. Organic and conventional, large and small. Who am I to say that someone else should or should not be in business? The market will decide that. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive and let your customers decide whether they want to buy from you or not.

May the Force Multiplier Be With You

http://youtu.be/y9PVPRBga6U

What This Post is All About

I would like to introduce my friend and now business partner at Farm Marketing Solutions, Scott Messina. While this post is meant to be all about Scott, I also wanted to share the whole story to highlight how important is has been for me to have another person to work with on my business.

That is the takeaway from all of this, the right business partner can do wonders for your company.

Entrepreneur “Superman Syndrome”

Farm Marketing Solutions was founded in 2012. Kate and I were just finishing up our bike ride across the United States and we were looking more seriously at starting our life in agriculture. We had just spent the year working on different organic farms and were looking to head from San Diego (where we ended) back to Connecticut to work as apprentices.

While on the road I noticed one general theme: small farms could use marketing and business help. So naturally, without having any kind of business degree or background, I started Farm Marketing Solutions.

Fast forward to 2015 and I have started and/or run three businesses: Farm Marketing Solutions, FoodCyclist Farm (my original farm), and now I manage Camps Road Farm. By diving in head first I have certainly learned a lot, which means I made a lot of mistakes.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was trying to do all of this myself. I fell into the entrepreneurial trap of “I’m superman, I can do it all myself.” That’s wrong. So wrong. I came close to completely burning out many times in the last few years. I needed help.

scott messina

Balancing My Farm While Growing My Internet Business

My first love is my family. As long as Kate and Mabel are happy I will keep moving forward. My next love is my farm. Camps Road Farm is an amazing opportunity to live the life I’m passionate about, while giving me the platform to share that life with others in many different ways.

Two things are clear after spending a few years as a full-time farmer:

  1. It takes an immense amount of knowledge and skill to pull this off. That knowledge can be hard to come by even if you are looking in the right places.
  2. That demographic of farmers 55 years old+ is worried about their lifes’ work being lost and the knowledge they have retiring with them.

I was learning, usually the hard way, how to be a good farmer. Given my outspoken nature and “nothing to lose” attitude I have had countless conversations with other farmers who have shared their experiences with me. I was getting so much input that I even started a podcast to capture and share those conversations.

After three years of wanting to help other farmers with their marketing and business strategies I was “quickly” growing a community who wanted more. The only problem was that I am one person and I am dedicated to my farm. How do I effectively share more information with other farmers and not detract from Camps Road Farm? Enter my force multiplier!

A Partner with a Complementary Skill-set

In my experience, trying to do everything for your business is just pure shenanigans. With all the skills required to run any business it is good to have another person to share the workload who brings in a complementary skill-set in support of yours.

That and let me tell you, it’s great to have another person to bounce ideas off of. There exists a thing called “decision fatigue” where you have to make so many decisions that you end up just blanking after a while because you’re tired of calling all the shots. Having someone else to help make decisions, to be a gauge for how good your ideas area, and to help you keep focused on your strategy is so beneficial. I cannot recommend it enough.

Result: Growth, Prosperity, Organization, Better Sleep

If the right person joins your company it can work wonders. Scott came on just as the Farm Finance Challenge launched, and there couldn’t have been a better time. The FFC has been a decent amount of extra work on top of what I normally do on Farm Marketing Solutions and I have only been able to pull it off with Scott’s help.

Since the start of 2015 our website traffic numbers have increased by a power of 5, our social media engagement is through the roof, and most importantly we’re helping more people.

I now have someone to help me with the monotonous tasks, someone to help with overall strategy to know if we’re headed in the right direction, and to be another creative mind in the whole “internet business” world.

Scott’s Story

In addition to learning that I need another person to run my business, I have also learned that I shouldn’t try and speak for anyone else. Letting Scott speak in Scott’s words I would like to share a link to an article he wrote on what motivated him to come on as a partner in Farm Marketing Solutions.

Farming is Tough - An introduction to Scott Messina

scott messina

What the Future Holds

Right now we are working on making the Farm Finance Challenge to best that it can be. It’s a big project and we’re both doing this as our second job. Once we’ve worked out the kinks we will get into producing and organizing more content.

Expect to see Scott on some of my videos, posting business information on the blog, and even making appearances on the podcast. Whether he is actually in the content or not, he is taking a more active hand in organizing, creating, and distributing the information that we are sharing on FMS.

Also, Scott now runs our Twitter account. Pop on over to Twitter.com/marketingfarms and say hello!

I am happy/excited/relieved/inspired to have another person to work with. I have been quietly looking for someone for about a year and it is great to find the right fit.

If you don’t mind, please take a second and write a quick note in the comments section below to welcome Scott to the community.

Cheers!

Are online farmers markets the wave of the future?

As a farmer I am always looking for new ways to market my products. Getting farm products in the hands of willing and eager customers can present some serious challenges. For instance, right now my chickens are doing amazing and producing a lot of eggs considering it is the end of January. My problem is that local farmers' markets are scarce this time of year, I pretty much lose money wholesaling eggs, and it's currently nearly impossible to get people on farm. Actually, as I write this we're in the middle of a snow storm, no one is going anywhere. We are producing enough food to "feed the world" (I f***ing hate that phrase) but the problem is distribution. How do we get the food to the people now need/want it?

My farm is also at the disadvantage of being kind of remote. It can be tough to get my relatives to drive out here let alone someone who just wants a dozen eggs. So if I cannot get people to come to the farm how then am I going to move my products?

That is an answer tech moguls are trying to answer. But are the answers that they are coming up with the right ones?

tech-crunch-online-farmers-market

 

A friend of mine sent me this article from Tech Crunch about a new online farmers' market that connects willing customers with farmers in need of a new marketplace. Sounds great right? My opinion as a farmer is both yes and no.

Are online farmers' markets a good idea?

Yes:

I love that people besides farmers are concerned with helping farmers sell and distribute their products. The truth is we do need help with marketing and distribution. I know I do at least, and I'm the guy who started Farm Marketing Solutions. I'm looking for and experimenting with solutions to these problems every day.

As my/our customer base gets more and more online at home and on their phones, having a marketplace that connects with them where and when they want to buy is a beautiful thing. But let's get into some of the disadvantages.

No:

The hard truth about life is that no matter what you do, if you expect to pay your bills then something that you are doing has to make money. No big shocker there. The tricky question is, "where is that money going to come from?" For me as a farm producer my money comes from the eggs, chickens, hops, apples, and vegetables that I grow. For an online farmers' market, that money has to come either from the people buying the product or the people selling the product. They're a middle man, and every good middle man takes his cut.

I sell my chicken for $6 a pound retail. I have to sell it at that price or more (currently contemplating a price increase) in order to remotely come close to making a profit. Now imagine my position when someone is going to take a cut of that, or imagine being the consumer and having to pay $8 a pound for chicken when you can get it in a grocery store for $1.29 per pound. That's tough either way.

Now granted there is theoretically less time marketing my products and distributing them. That's what these services provide. However the price of that can be pretty steep. Here's a real life example:

For Camps Road Farm we used to use GoodEggs.com to market and distribute products in Brooklyn, NY. We would put up a list of things we had for sale, GoodEggs would take orders and let us know what customers wanted, and then we would harvest, process (clean and bag), and drive them into Brooklyn from the farm which is roughly 1.5-2 hours away. After the expense of growing the item, packing it, and driving it into the City, GoodEggs would take a 30% cut of of the sale price. That was more than our net profits in most cases than if we sold it locally ourselves. So we were operating at a loss selling through GoodEggs.

goodeggs

We started out at a 25% commission on GoodEggs and then it was up to 30% . On products where we make 10-30% net profit in the first place that was a steep loss and we couldn't handle it. Especially with the added expense of driving a lower volume of food into the City each week.

Now there's a solution to the driving and distributing problem presented by GoodEggs with GrubMarket. The customer orders it, the farmer harvests it, and GrubMarket comes and picks it up and delivers it to the customer. At least that's how I understand it.

grub market

 

 

While GrubMarket seems to solve several of the pain points that consumers and producers face with GoodEggs I still have trouble seeing it work long term. I have a hard enough time making money as a farm without having to pay someone to sell and distribute my products. Granted there are farms that function selling primarily wholesale and maybe the margins here will work for their business structure, I don't know. I can only speak to my situation specifically.

Farming is a business of extremely tight margins. Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank would hate everything about it. Getting rich is not why we do it, but staying afloat is necessary in order to keep farming. So often is the case that the farm is subsidised in some way. Those subsidies can take the form of the Federal Government, a spouse who works in town, a team of investors, or a winning lottery ticket. Whatever the case may be, giving up any more money then we have to is a sure fire way to go backward quickly.

Is this a band-aid to a much larger problem?

I hesitated to even write this post as I try to keep it positive on Farm Marketing Solutions and I really hate to say anything remotely bad about anyone besides myself. My mother always used to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." On this topic I have to admit that I am a little negative.

Our food system is broken. That is the truth of it. It is wrtten about in countless articles, spoken about in videos and by speakers all over the world. Things are not really working out and we're heading toward some sort of global tragedy. The inevitaility of the eventuality of an international food crisis is written on grocery store shelves around the world.

What then is the solution? What can we do to help solve this problem?

The solution is happening, but it is happening on a relatively small scale. People are falling in love with food again. Everywhere new farmers' markets are popping up, people are traveling further and investing more in their food. But until our food policies better support small farms, until more people are willing to buy locally, and until food becomes more of a focus for people instead of an after-thought, we will have to struggle with finding a solution for how to get food to the people who actually want it.

I applaud GoodEggs and GrubMarket for their efforts and ingenuity. Thank you for what you are trying to do. Hopefully we can figure this out.

A Solution for Farmers:

There's something you can do to help further the slow food movement, get good food on people's tables, and grow your business. Tell your story. Transparency sells better than anything else and people are looking for it. Talk about your story, the products you produce and why you love them. The more open you are about your business, both the good and the bad, the more people are going to be drawn to what you are doing which leads to us having a bigger affect on how food policy is written.

If the creation of GoodEggs and GrubMarket is proof that more customers are online then you should be there to. Get to marketing online through: ( links below to free tutorials)

People vote with their dollars and politicians are greedy. Market your farm, tell your story, and buy change with every tomato sold.

How to Start a CSA Days 8 Through 14

While I did a few things to continue to build my marketing infrastructure this week I did start to put the farm's name out there and gain interest. The following videos highlight the strategies I used this week to work towards filling out my CSA. Not every day focuses on selling. I have accomplished a lot while marketing my farm. It's a necessity after all that I grow the products in order to sell them. It's obvious for me to say that growing and marketing go hand-in-hand but I have found that a lot of farmers tend to ignore the marketing part. That is the goal of this series, to highlight farm marketing as a necessary part of business, but to do it in a way where everything else gets done on the farm as it should.

I have a lot planned for the coming weeks. I find great joy in meeting and interacting with other people. Marketing my farm helps me meet new faces and learn new names. It just so happens that those faces and names become customers and support the farm through their purchases. You are not just building a customer base, you are building a community.

Shares sold:

Full: 8

Half: 1

Fliers are an effective way to grab a potential customers' attention. There are some easy tips and tricks that you can use to make them more effective. Since initially hanging up some fliers I have gone back to check and there are tabs missing. Some customers have contacted me and I am waiting for more. I will let you know how it goes as the weeks roll on. Have you tried hanging fliers? Where would you go to hang them?

Local businesses can benefit each other in so many ways. I share a guerrilla marketing strategy for finding other local businesses to work with. You should always look for the win-win-win in any situation. A win for you, a win for the other business, and most importantly a win for the customer. What local businesses are around you that serve the same demographic as you?

The focus of this week has been building community. I will be building community through all of my marketing. When you extend a helping hand instead of an asking hand you will get more in return. It's counter-intuitive but it works. What can you do to benefit others and may (or may not) directly help your business? Build relationships not because it is good business, but because you are a good person and friends and family are important.

Creating a logo or video is easy if you have a design background, but if you don't here's a cheap solution. I have used Fiverr.com a number of times to much success. The intro and outro for all these videos came from Fiverr. The point is that all you need is an idea and $5 and you can get many services that you might not be able to provide yourself. What design project have you been putting off that could be solved with $5?

Local bloggers have become a great source of marketing for food-related businesses (like farms). Reaching out to these people and starting a relationship can benefit you and them in several ways. Since creating this video the owner of HappeningInTheHills.com has contacted me and is coming to the farm to see for their self what is happening on the farm. They are also adding me to the site. I will continue to search for websites to network with. the more relationships I build the more businesses I can recommend and the more that can recommend me. Remember the "win-win-win". What blogs cover food topics in your area that would benefit from befriending you?

If you are planning on any on-farm sales it is essential that you register with Google Places. This will help people find you on Google Maps, plain and simple. Google is the most powerful search engine and working within their system to increase your farms' visibility is a good thing. I take you through all the steps in this video. What does your listing on Google Maps look like?

The video intro that I sent out for earlier in the week came back in. It is simple, professional, and fits my branding. I will incorporate it with my video branding in the future. More on that in the weeks to come. If a picture is worth 1000 words, what is a video worth? Are you prepared to do video for your farm?

Stay Connected

Like me on Facebook: Every day I re-post the YouTube videos on Facebook with some exclusive content on what else I did on the farm that day.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Every day I post a new video in the evening after Mabel goes to sleep. That’s when I have a little computer time.

Visit the Hub: I will be keeping all of this content organized at the How to Start a CSA hub on FMS.

How to Start a CSA Days 1 - 7

The first week of my CSA marketing was spent primarily on setting up my sales infrastructure. The same way you wouldn't buy cows without buying any fence, or plant vegetables without buying seeds or preparing bed space, you marketing needs preparation as well.

CSA shares sold:

Full: 7

Half: 1

Below are the videos from the first week of CSA marketing.

There are many ways that you can market your farm. Having a diverse marketing strategy is as important as maintaining diversity on your farm. If you only count on one ting to bring you all of your business you are not prepared when that one thing falls through.

I have also found over time that people digest information in different ways. Some people read bulletin boards, some people just walk right by, some people spend half their day on Facebook, some people don't have accounts. You get my point. The thing is, everyone needs to eat. Defining your target demographic and then strategically planning different marketing strategies to advertise to them is an important first step.

Creating a marketing timeline will help keep you on track. The effort you spend up front to create a timeline will pay off when you don't have to think of "what do I do next?" You already know.

I create timelines for my pasture rotation, planting schedule, and other business objectives. Having a marketing timeline ensures that my CSA marketing is an important part of my day and I dedicate time to it.

I found that setting goals when I am doing anything is important to keep me focused and on track. Without a goal there is nothing to shoot for, and you don't know when or how you are progressing. SMART goals will help keep your marketing where it should be.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

You e-mail list will become your business year to year. I already have a jump start on my CSA marketing because I put effort into creating my e-mail list in the past. These are people that have given you a hugely valuable way to get in touch with them. With access to e-mail on computers and on cell phones it has become the best way to reach some people. Think of how often you are near someone that hears their phone beep and checks it because "it might be important". Just think, you could be that e-mail and that sale of your farm goods could be what's important.

Having a  farm website to handle the information and sales for your farm is a very valuable thing. How many times have you had the same conversation, "we grow this, it's available at these times, here's a picture of the farm, etc..." Putting all of that information online doesn't take the place of that conversation, rather it prepares the customer for a conversation with you where you are already one step closer to the sale.

We live in a digital age, and if you aren't willing to adapt you are going to have a tough time competing with those who have adapted. This is one area of farming where technology has worked wonders with no foreseeable negative effect.

I got my very first CSA member on the first CSA I started in a new town from Facebook. No lie. Since that day I have used Facebook and YouTube in conjunction with my farm website to engage with my customers, build value into my products, and increase customer retention.

As a farmer I found that my target demographic is mainly on Facebook and YouTube. I also use Instagram to take photos, add fun filters to them, and then share them to Facebook.

Registering your farm with websites like Local Harvest and Real Time Farms increases your exposure online and also helps with Search Engine Optimization. Both sites are free to join and help people find you. Why not do it?

Thanks for Following

I have had a lot of fun doing this project so far. It's more work creating a video a day but I am getting more efficient every day. At the end of it all I'm planning on putting a tutorial together on how to easily create YouTube videos like the ones I am creating here so that you can add video into your marketing efforts as well. YouTube is the second largest search engine online, so it certainly helps with website traffic.

Stay Connected

Like me on Facebook: Every day I re-post the YouTube videos on Facebook with some exclusive content on what else I did on the farm that day.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Every day I post a new video in the evening after Mabel goes to sleep. That's when I have a little computer time.

Visit the Hub: I will be keeping all of this content organized at the How to Start a CSA hub on FMS.

Increase farm profits by starting a farm e-mail list

Email Marketing $19/Month!

I can attribute the majority of the chickens I have sold this year to one thing, my e-mail list. No bull! Yeah my farm website gets decent traffic, I am active on Facebook, but as the saying goes "The money is in the list". I created this post to honestly share my numbers. Honestly, you'll be surprised.

How I started my farm e-mail list:

I started the e-mail list in a few ways. The first was to put up an opt-in form on my farm website. As I drove traffic to the website visitors had a way to send me their name and e-mail address. I got traffic from people searching for chicken, other farmers referring people to me, and sites like LocalHarvest.org.

The second way I got people to sign up for my e-mail, which proved to be quite effective, was to put out a sign-up sheet at the farmers' market and at agricultural events that I went to. I created a simple sheet in Microsoft Word with spaces for people's names and e-mail addresses that I put out on my table. Then I would verbally encourage people to sign p for "news about chicken". After the event I would go home and put them all in manually. It was a little bit of a pain, but it has paid off.

Other than those two things I collect e-mail addresses at my CSA for people who just stop by. I carry business cards and let people know that they can sign up on my website.

(Click here to learn how to start your own farm website without having to learn any complex code) 

Disclaimer: Some of the links to on this page are Affiliate links. That means I earn a tiny commission from them by recommending you. There is no additional cost to you. Aweber just like to award people for recommending them. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

What are my numbers?

Ready to see the reality?

farm e-mail list stats

That's right, I only currently have 147 subscribers. Not 147,000, just 147. Truth is, that is all I needed this year. I have a 45 member Chicken CSA. So minus those people we're at 102 more people. I usually have between 8-15 extra chickens for sale each week. When I send an e-mail out to my list to pre-sell my chickens I sell out each week.

My average chicken goes for around $25. Multiply that times 15 and the list pays for itself pretty quick. That and it gets people to the CSA pick-up who might not come every week. As I start to grow and sell more farm products I can cross promote.

If I needed to sell more birds I would more actively promote my list and get more names on it. But for now this is working quite well. And yeah, some people unsubscribed, that's fine. You only want people on your list that are going to buy. The larger the list the more you have to pay, so it is better to keep it pretty narrowly targeted.

Does everyone open my farm e-mails?

NOPE! According to a study done by Silverpop.com, the average open rate for e-mails is around 20%. Mine averages 50-60%. So of 147 people that's an average of 74(ish) people who see my e-mail each week. With that, I either sell every single chicken, or I am left with a maximum of 1 or 2 for the freezer or my own consumption.

e-mail list open rate

 

 What do my farm e-mails look like?

There are some farms that I know who do a beautiful job of sending out pretty complex e-mails. In the middle of the season I find that hard to do. In general if you give people too much information they run the chance of getting lost. My only goal was/is to sell chickens. So that is what my e-mails focus on.

I create them so they will look good whether they are viewed as an HTML e-mail or as just plain text. Basically, fancy or non-fancy. The e-mail editor with my e-mail provider, Aweber.com, is super-easy to use and get your e-mails out. There are templates you can use that are already designed for you and it's mostly drag and drop.

Here's what one of my e-mails looks like.

farm e-mail list message

 

That is an actual message I sent to my e-mail list. It scrolls down a little to show some more pictures but you get the point. Really simple, to the point, and with some links to recipes online. I also write out recipes and include other farm news. Mostly my e-mails are about what I have for sale. Now that I am selling vegetables each week I add a list of what was harvested so people can plan recipes of their own.

How do you get started? Free or paid?

When it comes to my business I don't mess around. Well, besides singing to my chickens. There are free options out there that you can use. MailChimp is a decent one. The thing is with various free e-mail list service providers, they don't have a good track record of e-mails getting opened.

What do I mean by that?

When you send out an e-mail from you list provider (free MailChimp) it is more likely to be seen as "spam" by the recipients inbox. That means the e-mail doesn't get opened, and no chickens (or whatever) are sold.

Aweber has a great open rate. They have good customer service, fair prices, and very easy to use software to create your e-mails and manage your lists. I know this because that is who I use to manage my e-mail list.

Seriously, the majority of the money I have made before during and after I signed up all my CSA members was through my e-mail list with Aweber. I cannot say enough good things.

aweber farm e-mail list sign up

farm e-mail newsletter

A little video help:

Aweber has put together some videos to help you get started. I will paste them in here so you don't have to go looking. The first is a video of some testimonials from clients that they have. Keep in mind as you are watching what an e-mail list could mean for you.

Get Started Today For Only $1! - AWeber Communications

Send Your First Email Newsletter Today - AWeber Communications

Thank You!

I sincerely hope this blog post helps you. I will go into further detail about my e-mails and my list this winter but I wanted to get this up so you could see how much it has helped me.

The important thing to remember is that it is never too late to start, and you don't need a million people on your list.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions about e-mails lists or farm marketing in general I respond quickest on Facebook.

Cheers!

Disclaimer: Some of the links to on this page are Affiliate links. That means I earn a tiny commission from them by recommending you. There is no additional cost to you. Aweber just likes to award people for recommending them. I wouldn't recommend it if I didn't use it personally, I am not trying to sell you anything. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Make A Stencil: Increasing Your Brand Awareness Is Good Farm Marketing

Your farm is your brand, and your brand is your farm. It is always good practice to increase your brand awareness. This is particularly true when you are starting a farm. On my farm and off I am always putting my farm name anywhere I can. I leave business cards at cafes and book stores, I leave pamphlets at doctor's offices, and I have shirts with my farm name on them that I wear anywhere I go. After all, I want my business to be a success, and in order for it to become a success more people have to know about it.

With visitors coming every week to my farm I wanted a way for my farm name to get into the pictures that they take, and for it to get into the pictures that I take and put online. A simple solution for me was to create a cardboard stencil so I can "tag" all of my stuff and increase brand awareness.

The process was very simple, and I will have the stencil as long as I can keep it in one piece. Here's what I did:

branding for farm marketing-6835

branding for farm marketing-6836

branding for farm marketing

branding for farm marketing-6838

branding for farm marketing-6843

Return on Investment

My farm name is increasingly in my pictures that get shared all over the internet. Since it is clear that I take my business seriously and I want to be a success, others want to see me succeed as well. That leads to an increase of CSA members (4 since the event a couple days ago), and a bolstering of the community around my farm.

What can you be doing to increase brand awareness for you farm?

Engaging Customers With Facebook: FoodCyclist Farm Branding Case Study

farm on facebookWe are always looking for more ways to interact with out customers and fans. Ever feel like you put up content on Facebook that you think is great, but it just sits dead in the water? I hate when that happens. It happens to everyone. What are some steps you can take to more actively engage your audience?

Keep It Short

Don't drone on, people just scroll right by it. Unless they are a die-hard fan most people are going to skip right over a large paragraph of text. Narrow it down to one sentence. Even a sentence fragment if you can manage it.

A sentence fragment and a link to something useful.

Most people on Facebook have more important things to do, like watch videos of kittens playing on a slide, to invest too much time on your passionate political rant. Save your heart-felt political BS for a different venue.

Keep It Simple

Asking questions is a good way to engage you audience. But remember to keep it simple. Yes or no answers, or very simple answers. In the case study from my farm below I asked people to answer "A or B" to choose between two farm logos. Some people responded with only the one letter required, some wrote a long response detailing their choice. The point is, more people engaged because it was simple.

I will use another farm for an example. Abundance Farm uses it's Facebook page to get suggestions when naming baby animals. They put up a picture of a cute baby animal, and ask for name suggestions. Sometimes they give a couple names to choose from. They keep it simple. They don't ask their audience "What is the best type of llama to raise on the farm?" or "What are the best methods for de-worming." Those are complicated answers that their followers are not going to get. Simple simple simple. Everyone can think of at least one cute baby animal name.

Use Pictures

Content is king, and pictures are the king of content. You can get a lot of information through with a photograph. After all, they are worth a thousand words right? Combine a picture and a one sentence quote and you have the makings for some great content.

Pictures can illustrate farm life better than you can ever express it in words. Whether it is a cute baby animal, hail damage from a recent storm, a dinner cooked with farm ingredients, or a new barn you put in for an event space. Pictures are going to get the most feedback.

All letters look the same. The same "ABCs" are used in Shakespeare as are found in the phone book. When people are scrolling down a page text will not stand out unless it is associated with a picture of their friend or a business whose page they "Like". However, if you use pictures, you can grab their attention and stand out from the stream of text on their Facebook Home Page.

FoodCyclist Farm Branding Case Study

farm branding image farm logoWhen I wanted to design a logo for t-shirts to market my farm, I got stuck. I came up with a few designs, but I could not decide between them. I decided to crowd-source my branding problems. Crowd-sourcing is exactly what it sounds like, sourcing the answers to a particular problem from a crowd of people. In this instance my crowd was my followers from Facebook.

The first one I came up with I liked, but the audience turned it down. I was excited about this one. It hit a number of things that related to the farm. The outline could have been a badge for food security, or a road sign because Kate and I are travelers. There is a cyclist, chickens, and I get the name of the farm and the website on there.

Well, it was unpopular. Next.

I then thought long and hard and came up with a couple difference options that I was happy with. I have some skill with photoshop and graphic design, so it was a fun process for me. I finally settled on one logo, with two different ways to advertise my website. I created a picture with an A-B split, and uploaded it to Facebook. Here's the photo.

ab-split-farm-logo-branding-crowdsource

You can see it's very simple. Answer "A" or "B".

I shared it on my Farm Facebook Page, my personal profile, and the Farm Marketing Solutions Facebook Page. I don't always get good response from what I post. I got really great reaction from this. The final tally of votes was B = 30, A = 11. B won by a landslide. Not only did people put their answers, but the reasons for their answers. I responded to those reasons and engaged in short conversation. I also got several messages in private with people sending me their own versions of the design.

Examining the Psychology of Crowd-Sourcing

Looking at what I did above, why was it successful? I had a visual problem to solve. I used a picture to illustrate my problem and to get an answer.

I used a simple format for answering "A or B" but still left it open if people wanted to write more.

I gave people power over a business decision. Whether they will admit it or not, everyone is a friggen expert on everything (or at least they think they are). Even quiet people who you wouldn't expect. When you give them a little power over your life, they will take it. Not a bad thing, just basic human psychology. In the message above the photo I presented the scenario of "I cannot choose A or B. You decided and I will use that as the logo for my farm t-shirt. They got the power to control what my logo was with a very simple answer. Just like people reply to Abundance Farms with names for baby animals. They have the power to name a living thing with a simple reply on Facebook.

farm marketing with facebook case study

What's the Return On Investment?

"But John, how does that translate into dollars on the farm?"

You cannot always sell things to you customers. People are sold to incessantly throughout their lives. Television, radio, print, while they are driving, eating, taking a dump, and I am sure advertisers are working on a way to sell to you while you are sleeping. Companies are getting ahead today by not JUST selling to their customers. They are engaging them, building a relationship and trust, and then offering a product instead of pushing it.

This small experiment engaged my followers, got more people interested in the farm, and was a simple fun thing to do. I have since had people ask to see the shirts, or when they see I am wearing one they said "Oh I'm so glad you went with that design". (no joke, really happened)

The very day I got the shirts back from the printer I wore one out in public. After all, if you want to see your brand advance, you have to live it. That very day, literally 45 minutes after putting the shirt on for the first time someone approached me in a local store asking what the heck "FoodCyclist" was. He and his wife are now a members of the CSA. That's $480 I didn't have at the beginning of the day.

Mind Mapping vs Linear Planning

Building a Railroad, and What That Has To Do With Farm Planning

how to start a farm railroad-1

If you wanted to build a railroad across the country, you wouldn't build the entire track before you started building the first locomotive. You would have people start clearing and preparing the land as the engineers started designing the train. Now that the engineers have a width for the tracks you can have one team start to build the tracks as another team builds the train cars. While this is going on you have a marketing team making sure people are going to want to use the railroad in the first place. In order for everyone to be able to carry out their jobs there has to be someone with the big picture in mind, a project manager, who can orchestrate the whole thing.

There are many things that have to take place at once if you ever want to complete that railroad. Not all of them need your full attention every hour of the day. Most will need to spend some time being worked on by other people. Therefore having a linear process just won't work for you. You need a way to organize all of the pieces while keeping an eye on the big picture.

The Illusive Beginning Farm Checklist

I cannot tell you how hard I have searched for a checklist to follow to start a farm. Yes, there are some out there, but I found all of them, even my own, to be fundamentally flawed. The problem is that starting a business (which is what you are doing) is that it is not a linear process. There is no set process to "Complete step one, move on to step two, etc etc..." You will be juggling several things at once. That, and the actual process will be a little different for each person. The elements will be the same, but the order that they have to fall into place will change slightly.

Checklists are very handy. I use them every day. I even used one to create this page on the website. But with all the many tasks you have to juggle, you are going to need a different tool to organize your thoughts. Here's a video to explain that farm tool.

Mind Mapping Tools For Farm Business Planning

Pen and Paper

how to start a farm notebook

The cheapest and easiest is to use pen and paper. I never leave home without it, and at home it is always within arms reach. Mind-mapping is easy to do on pen and paper. You may not be able to manipulate the information by dragging it around a screen, but it is always there in hand. It's always able to travel with you, never requires recharging, doesn't need wifi, and won't break if a tractor runs it over.

iPhone or iPad

how to start a farm ithoughts mind mapping

I am fortunate enough to have an iPad. When I am planning a new part of the farm website, when I am planning a part of the farm, basically when I plan anything, I whip out the iPad and fire-up the iThoughtsHD app. It lets me create a mind-map just like I would on paper, except I can move things around without it getting messy.

The app lets you link to websites, add photos, change colors and styles, and lets you export your map to a Microsoft Word file, or a number of other formats. I find it hugely useful. I think that app is around $10 in the iTunes store. Not a free tool, but it has certainly paid for itself in usefulness. Saves on paper too.

Online

I don't use any online mind mapping tools so I really cannot recommend them. If you do a Google search on "mind mapping tools" I am sure you will find any number of websites on the topic. A friend of mine likes this software http://www.mindmeister.com/, but again, I have not used it. Just wanted to give you somewhere to start.

My Mind Mapping Process

Starts With An Idea

At first I begin with the idea. What do I need to accomplish? Could be Anything:

  • Starting a farm
  • Decorating the house
  • Writing a farm business plan
  • Learning a new skill
  • Creating a "How To Start A Farm" tutorial section of my website

Moves To The Notebook

I then write that idea down in my notebook. I create a list of what I need to accomplish to get that task done. Doesn't have to be organized, I am just writing down my thoughts, and taking notes while I research what I am going to need.

Goes to the Mind Map

I organize all of my notes onto a mind map. This creates sections for me. I don't know about you, but I get over-whelmed when I see a huge project. This way I have digestible chunks that I can tackle. Because I now have an outline and a plan I can overcome the scariness of the project and get down to work.

Becomes a Series of "To Do" Lists

Each section on my mind map becomes a "to do list. I like checklist because they let you know how you are progressing. You can see when you have gotten things done by crossing them off.

GFP012: Farming For Health Reasons, Interview with Ethan Book of Crooked Gap Farm Knoxville Iowa

There are many good reasons to get into farming.

  • Take part in work that is challenging and fulfilling.

  • Have easy access to fresh and healthy food.
  • Be a part of a local community with shared goals.
  • Spend more time with you family working together on the farm.
  • Simply because your parents did it.
  • Your spouse wants to do it.

Whatever reason you have to start a farm it will take you down a long and adventurous road. I have been on a number of adventures in my day, and this one is just as crazy as the rest. In some ways, I feel like there is a lot more at stake with this adventure.

In the beginning of this episode I update you on what is going on on my farm. The weather is warming and things are starting to happen OUT of the office, which is fantastic. Though I feel like the more that happens out of the office, the more paperwork comes up to take care of whatever else is happening.

I then discuss one of the reasons I have for starting a farm, my health. I share insights into my goals of creating a healthy atmosphere for myself and my family through farming, and give some advice on how to deal with motivating others to eat right.

Right Click to Download MP3

In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • How to start a grass-fed farm in Iowa.
  • The most effective way to instill the change you wish to see in the world.
  • Insights on pasture management, grain storage, and farrowing pigs.
  • Another farm marketing strategy illustrating the power of word of mouth marketing.
  • The health benefits of choosing farming as a career.

Interview with Ethan Book of Crooked Gap Farm, Knoxville, Iowa

ethan book crooked gap farm

Ethan and his wife Rebecca farm 40 acres in Knoxville, Iowa.  They raise a variety of animals for meat including pigs, chickens, sheep, cattle, and rabbits.

I wanted to quote the philosophy section of Ethan's "About Us" page:

The three most important things to us are our faith, our family, and our friends.  These things directly impact the way we farm.  We strive to raise our animals in a way that reflects how they were created and to manage our land in a way that benefits nature.   We also desire to work together as a family while doing this, cultivating strong family ties and values in our children.  Because of this, we plan on remaining a small family farm and do not wish to become a large producer.  And finally, we value friendships and building community.  Our hope is that as customers come out to our farm, many new friendships will be formed.

the beginning farmer show

Ethan has also started his own podcast about farming. He was nice enough to come on my show, and since I know his audio is great I wanted to give him a plug on Farm Marketing Solutions.

His episodes seem to be about 30 minutes in length. They are about his experiences as a farmer, how he started his farm, what he has learned along the way, and advice so you can learn from his mistakes. It's definitely a format that is near and dear to my heart. I hope that if you listen you can get some good information from Ethan. He's a nice guy and very willing to help out and give advice.

Congrats on launching Ethan!

Items mentioned in this farm podcast include:

 

Take aways:

Why do you want to farm? What do you hope to get out of the experience?

If you are farming, why did you get started originally? Do you still have that original intention in sight?

What work do you do, or that you want to do, that is worth fighting for?

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My skills are ever-evolving as an interviewer. Thanks for taking the time to listen in, and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below, send me an e-mail, reach me on Facebook or Twitter, or leave a rating in iTunes if you liked the show.

Farm Website: Everything you need to know for an inexpensive, easy to set-up website.

affiliate_link

By the end of this tutorial you will know how to set-up your farm website. Getting started online does not have to be hard, expensive, or time consuming. As a fellow farmer I know that we are always hurting for time and money. That is why I put this tutorial together with everything you need to know to set up an inexpensive website, quickly, but still have it look professional.

Do you need a farm website?

If you want to to grow your business in today's market you have to have at least a minimal online presence. For farmers I would say the bare-minimum is to have a website, and to have a Facebook page (Farm on Facebook video tutorial). Let everything else online continue to be just noise until you put those two things into action.

Through the farmers that I have talked to, and through my own experiences, I have been able to narrow down what type of internet presence really gives a good return on investment. Having a farm website is definitely one of those avenues.

The amount of information on the internet, and the amount of options you have to connect with your customers can be very overwhelming. Different "experts" will tell you the "best ways" to reach your particular demographic. The only problem is a lot of those "experts" are not making a living farming. They are not struggling with the same constraints of time that you and I are. It would be great to be able to check and update many social networks and keep an extensive blog from your office in corporate America, while you avoid the work you are supposed to be doing, but we simply don't have the time for that.

Just How Easy is Setting Up A Website?

In this video I create an entire farm website with four pages, in under four minutes.

Benefits of Having a Farm Website

That being said, some investment of time and mental energy goes a long way toward benefiting your agricultural business. Having a farm website benefits you in a lot of ways. It acts as a digital brochure letting people know what the story of your farm is, what you have to sell, and where they can go to get it. It gives you the opportunity to add value to your products, making consumers more likely to buy. It gives you a way to update all 300 of your CSA members at once without printing 300 fliers which is expensive. It increases your public visibility which will make you more likely to be found by newspapers, magazines, and other local press. The list continues, but you get the point. You are here to learn how.

  • Update hundreds of people at the same time for little to no cost.
  • Saves money in the long term!
  • Drive traffic to your farm through digital marketing.
  • Connect with your customers to build value into your products.
  • Increase media exposure by ensuring tradtional media can find you. (print, TV, radio)
  • Advertise new products. Market testing and cusomter feedback.
  • ETC...
farm website foodcyclist
farm website foodcyclist

Options For Starting a Farm Website

Again with the options. So many options. There are a number of ways to start your farm website. Some of them are free, and some can be quite expensive. Some are quick, and some take a little time and skill. At the end of the day you are going to pick what is best for you, and that's fine with me. I just wanted to provide you with the knowledge and options, and you can take it from there.

Free Website Options

There are a number of free options. You can start a farm blog on Wordpress.com. Wordpress will let you sign up for a farm website for free with one caveat. Your site has to be "www.your-farm-name.wordpress.com". They are advertising their site right in your website URL. Same thing with starting a Blogger.com website. Your website will be "www.your-farm-name.blogspot.com".

With Wordpress you still have to learn how to create and edit posts and pages for your site. It is not a visual editor like the one I outline below. You can do it, and I will create a tutorial on it (it is what I use), but it will take more of your time, and you will have to know a little bit more technical stuff.

With how inexpensive it is to set up your own domain, and how much more professional it looks to have your own name I don't recommend the free route.

Paid Website Options

There are a number of paid website options out there. If you "Google" something like "starting a website" or "buying a domain" you will get a lot of different companies selling hosting and domain registration, and you will see many blogs talking about who is the best, and least expensive companies that do that.

The company that I suggest on this post is the company that I have used for years. Literally years. That is why I am recommending them. It's not a theory, I am a huge geek, and I have a lot of experience with them. That company is FatCow.

affiliate_link

With the links on this page you can ensure that you get a screaming discount on their website hosting services. I am affiliate for them, and I earn a small commission by recommending them. I also get to offer you a discount for going through my website. I would only recommend them if I use them myself and was happy doing so. Also, you get a discount, it's a win-win-win situation.

I explain all about FatCow hosting in the videos below.

How to Quickly and Easily Set-Up Your Farm Website With Weebly

I have recorded almost an hour of video to help you get started on the internet. Not only that, I am giving it all to you FOR FREE!!! Why? Because my goal is to see small farms succeed. You need to be on top of the digital age, and you need to do it inexpensively and quickly. I know that if you watch all these videos you will be able to set up a website of your own.

If you already have a website there are definitely good things to glean from these videos. I discuss some simple Search Engine Optimization tips in the videos, as well as the benefits of having a website, and what should be on it.

If you get through watching everything and have any questions please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section at the end of this post. Chances are if you have a questions someone else does too. By leaving your questions in the comments section it allows me to answer them publicly so we can all benefit. And NO question is too simple or stupid. No such thing as a stupid question.

Video Tutorials:

I could go on writing out step by step directions. However, I think the easiest way to show you how to do all of this is to show you. I have created almost an hour's worth of video to help you on your farm website journey. I hope it helps, and remember, I am open to any and all questions.

Farm Website Business Plan

In the first video I talk about the different types of farm business plans, and how having a website or web-presence works into them. There are three main types that agricultural businesses fit into.

Which do you think you fit into? Which do you want to fit into?

View this video on YouTube (Click Here)

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Registering Your Domain and Purchasing Hosting For Your Farm Website From FatCow

This video walks you through what exactly a domain and hosting is, and how you can register for both of them really easily. I use my own farm website to illustrate points,and then walk through the sign-up process on FatCow.

Have you thought about starting a website but you don't know what a domain is, or what hosting is? Confused by all the options out there? This video clears things up.

(Click Here to watch this video on YouTube)

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Accessing your Farm Website Through Your FatCow Control Panel

This video explains the FatCow Control Panel. There is a lot of information on that one page. I break down the elements of the page so you know where to focus your attentions, and what areas are pertinent to you. Trust me, it is easy. After a few times visiting this page you will be very comfortable with it and you'll know exactly where you need to go and what you have to do.

Scared of not being computer savvy? This website or "control panel" is very easy to use. I highlight the areas you need so you don't have to spend time searching.

(Click Here to view this video on YouTube)

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The Easiest Way to Build Your Own Farm Website That I Know Of (and I am a huge geek!)

In this video we get your farm website started with the Weebly Website Builder. It is a visual "drag-and-drop" editor that has your site up and running in no time. As you watch me piece together a quick website you will see just how easy it is to do.

You don't have to write HTML or Javascript to build a website. You can see what it will look like as you edit so you know what you are getting. If you get stuck, you have the power of the "MooCrew" technical support to back you up on FatCow.

(Click Here to view this video on YouTube)

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Four Pages You MUST Include on Your Farm Website

In this final video I explain what information is "must have" on your website. I illustrate my points using my own farm website FoodCyclist.com. I know this works because I am using it right now to sell CSA shares. You are certainly encouraged to create more than four pages, but this will give you a good place to start.

I also outline what those pages are right below this video so you don't have to take notes.

Is your farm website presenting the proper information? Have you made the mistake of having pages that say "coming soon"? Here's what you need to know.

(Click Here to view this video on YouTube)

Necessary Farm Website Pages:

Home Page

This page should be a summary of your and your farm. It should be very apparent to the visitor where to find more information about you, about your farm, and how to contact you. Think if this as an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper where you have to sell your farm to a customer. Make it brief, to the point, visually appealing, and leave them wanting more.

You can see an example of my home page on my farm website: FoodCyclist.com

Contact Page

This page should have all of your contact information. Be sure to include your address, phone number, e-mail address, embed a Google Map so people can get directions to find you easier, and even put a contact form on this page for people to write to you right on your website. All of these elements are easily added with Weebly.

You can see my contact page for my farm website at: http://foodcyclist.com/contact/

About Us Page

This page should tell your story. The USDA is pumping a lot of money into the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" movement for farm marketing. Benefit from that marketing push. Your customers are buying into you as much as they are buying into your farm. This is your chance to share that story. Everyone has a good story. You may or may not think so because you know it so well, it is boring to you by now. Someone who has never met you is going to want to hear it. Take some time to write it down, and you will be surprised how many people are interested.

You can see my About Us page at: http://foodcyclist.com/your-farm/

Products Page

This is your sales page. Let people know what you have, and when you have it. Be sure to describe your products. Get people interested, get their mouths watering.

You can see how detailed my products page is here: http://foodcyclist.com/pastured-chicken-csa/

Blog (optional depending on your goals and dedication)

I have seen a huge return on investment from keeping a blog through the years. It is a way for me to update many people at once. It makes the search engines happy. It is a good way for me to continually share information with cluttering up my website.

However, keeping a blog current is a lot of work. It is an investment on my part, or your part, but I know that it has paid off for me. Having a farm blog is up to you. I find it best when you have a farm intern or apprentice that is willing to upkeep the blog for the season.

What do you do now?

I hope that by now, if you do not already have a farm website, you have a more clear understanding on what it is going to take to create one. It doesn't have to take that long, and it can make a difference in your farm marketing efforts.

Once you have a website you can add it to your social media accounts, pos it on LocalHarvest.org, add it to your printed marketing materials, tell people at the farmers' markets, etc... Once it is up, you have to let people know it exists.

Here's the link again to make sure you get the discount on hosting through FatCow. It is my affiliate link, but I assure you, there is no extra cost to you, and I only add the link because I use it myself and I can recommend it.

affiliate_link

Thank you for taking the time to read through the tutorial and for watching all of the videos. I hope it helps. If there is anything else you would like me to create a tutorial on, let me know, I am open to suggestions.

Remember if you have an questions, leave them in the comments section below. That way everyone can benefit from my answers.

Farm Marketing with Facebook Video Tutorial

There are many farmers out there using Facebook rather successfully. There are more still that have not adapted to the technology yet. There are a number of reasons why people do not put their businesses on Facebook.

  • Don't feel they have the time.
  • Don't get what people are talking about.
  • Cannot be bothered.
  • Don't see the return on investment, ROI
  • Holding out because you're set in your ways.

Hopefully you are here because you know that it is a great thing for your farm to have even a little presence on Facebook, and you are looking to get the most out of your investment of time. I only say investment of time, because Facebook is FREE!

There are many good reasons to join Facebook if you are looking to better market your farm.

  • Better engagement with customers.
  • Search Engine power for your farm website.
  • An easy way for people to find you.
  • A way for your customers to connect with you and each other.
  • A public venue for you to showcase how awesome you are.
  • The list goes on...

This article isn't going to convince everyone, though I hope that it does. It really only takes a couple of minutes to set up your Facebook account. If you need an over-view of the power and reach of social media networks make sure you watch my first video here. Here are a few highlights to put to rest some of your worries:

  • It's free!
  • It doesn't have to take much of your time.
  • There are around 900 million people using it.
  • It can be a public or private as you like.
  • You can control the information people see about your business.

Hopefully you're convinced and we can get on to the tutorial. I really hope that these videos help you get set-up properly. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me in the comments section below or send m an e-mail.

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The first video covers the three different types of Facebook pages that you can have.

  • Personal Profile
  • Facebook Business Page
  • Facebook Group

I also cover what you have to do to get set up and started. In video two we'll go over editing your profile and some helpful places to find other resources.

Why Farm Marketing is Important to Your Business

farm marketing uncle sam

Putting Your Farm On The Map

In order for you to succeed as a small farm business, your products or services must be known to potential buyers. Without the awareness that marketing your farm creates, your products may go unseen, or worse, unsold. The goal of your farm is to produce healthy food for your community, and to support you and your family by doing something that you love. By using marketing to promote your products, you give your business that exposure it needs to increase sales, survive, and flourish.

Today’s businesses are thriving by building communities around their products and their brands. Building a community starts with you. You build a reputation around your brand through involvement in your community, producing quality products, and educating the consumer about what you do differently and well. Farm Marketing can help you become a name and a face that people can trust.

It is easy for a consumer to go to their local grocery store and buy something that looks exactly like what you are selling, but at a cheaper price. Farm marketing is primarily education based. You need to educate the customer as to why you are better. Make the name of your farm synonymous with health, quality, and a better life. Let people know why they are spending $5 for a dozen eggs and not $1.29. After all, they often look exactly the same on the outside.

Increase Sales Organically and Sustainably

Marketing your farm puts you on the map and builds your reputation. That gets people talking. Word of mouth marketing is the strongest and highest quality marketing there is. When customers find out about your products and feel loyal to you, word will spread.

Repeat customers will increase your bottom line in a number of ways.  Firstly, through the products or services they buy. Next is through the friends they recommend to you through word of mouth marketing (which costs you nothing). And finally, there is the decreased time and money you will have to spend to get new customers. I know several CSAs that, after years of marketing properly, now have waiting lists and do not have to work as hard to get customers. They got those customers through marketing their farm, and they kept them by providing a superior product.

Healthy Competition Between Farmers

The end goal of sustainable farming is to have the world’s population fed and happy without destroying the Earth. Your farm marketing efforts help foster an atmosphere of competition in the slow food marketplace. Competition is healthy no matter what type of business you’re talking about. Competition allows prices to remain fair, it forces businesses to re-invent themselves to the betterment of the customer, and it gives farms/businesses/companies of all sizes room to grow.

Lots of Work Now, Cheaper and Easier Marketing Later

Marketing takes a lot of effort up front. No one ranks #1 in Google the first day their website is online. No farm starts with 300 CSA members knocking on their door waiting for them to open. Not every value added producer has a line around the corner at the farmers’ market they first time they show up. With time, your hard work will pay off by way of increased sales and decreased required effort.

Websites require a lot of work to get up and running. They can be costly to initially build, they take time to populate with quality content, and they take even more time to be found in search engines. However, all that hard work only has to be done once. Once your website is up and running, you do not need to rebuild it, unless you choose to redesign. Once all your information is there, all you have to worry about is keeping it up to date.

Unless your CSA is terrible, you will probably have a lot of repeat customers. You will not have to spend as much time and money advertising to get customers, but you still have to get there in the first place. Once you have them there, it is up to you to produce a superior product and a superior experience. Remember that when a customer is joining a CSA, they often are not just doing it for the food. They want to know what goes on behind the scenes. That is part of the experience. Update them through newsletters, face to face interaction, your website, or social media.

Start Marketing Your Farm Today

The worst type of marketing is no marketing. Start small, think big, and don't get overwhelmed. Good luck and have fun.

4 Easy Tips To Take Better Farm Photos

Not everyone is a skilled photographer, but everyone can improve their skills. Taking good photographs is not a born-in talent. It takes time, a critical eye, and practice, practice, practice. Photography is a great way to market your farm or food business. When the term "food porn" is officially part of the industry, you know consumers are clamoring for photos of edible delights.

It does not matter if you have a film camera, a digital camera, or your use your phone; these four steps will help you take higher quality photographs that will help draw customers.

1. Framing, The Rule of Thirds

Follow the rule of thirds. Your photograph is a rectangle. Divide that rectangle into three horizontally, then vertically. Those four dividing lines (two vertical, two horizontal) will give you four intersections. Place your subjects on one of those intersections. This can give your photograph direction as well as make it more dynamic and interesting. You want to avoid photos where the subjects head is at the bottom or middle of the picture with a million feet of head space above them.

rule of thirds

2. Interest, Point of View

You see the world from one vantage point, your own. Somewhere around 4'6" to 6' high, and at a comfortable distance. To add interest to your pictures get up close and personal, take them seated very high up (get on the roof), or very low to the ground. Looking at the world from a different perspective will give your photos interest and attract more attention.

cow photo point of view

3. Lighting, Too Bright or too dark?

Where is the sun? Is it shining in the person's face causing them to squint? Is it at there back causing them to show up like a shadow in the middle of a bright sky?

Are you inside? If so, where are the light sources? Is the focus of the photograph pulled toward a bight lamp in the background? You want to make sure your subject is properly lit and is the focus of the photograph.

proper lighting photo2

Lighting is a HUGE factor in photography. When shooting indoors, beware of low-light that will blur your images. When shooting in direct sun, be aware of harsh shadows on people's face that make them less attractive. You can save a picture by asking the person to turn a little.

proper lighting photo

4. Keep Shooting, Practice Practice Practice

Keep shooting! Good or bad, the only way you learn is to keep doing it. Your pictures might be terrible in the beginning, but learn from them.  Ask others for advice. The only bad picture is the one you did not take. Digital photography lets you keep shooting cheaply.

Here are some questions you can ask to assess how good your photo is:

  • Where do your eyes go first? Do they land on what you meant to be the subject of the photo?
  • Is your subject blurred? Based on the information presented in the photograph, what can you change next time to ensure a crisp clean photo?
  • Is there a lot of weird extra space around your subject? Can it be cropped out?
  • Would the subject of your photo look more interesting at another angle?