We're working on the final stages of a new premium template. Look for it coming to a farm website near you soon!
We don't have a catchy name for it yet. Any suggestions?
Adding a video to your website is another great way to get your customers and interested people excited about what is going on at your farm. Checkout the slideshow-esque video on the Barnstable Sea Farms site. You can almost smell the salty air!
Great video on the Barnstable Sea Farms website
Many digital cameras come with video capabilities and Flip cams are fairly inexpensive, easy to use and small enough to carry around with you. And uploading these movies to your site is easy; simply upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and follow our help doc about inserting code into your site. Inserting code makes you nervous? Drop us an email and we'll help you out!
Having a video on your website can communicate alot of things that photos sometimes cannot; as we prep for these winter months, consider the possible movies you will take come spring!
ACRES USA is holding it's annual conference and trade show in Indianapolis, December 9 - 11th; if you're attending, be sure to stop by our table and say hello! We'll be talking about our Member Assembler (our CSA Management Tool) and showing off our new tradeshow booth! Stop by for a chocolate from Mon Aimee.
We'll also be introducing the newest addition to the Small Farm Central staff, Leslie Fleisher, who will be doing all things sales & marketing as Lead Business Development.
ACRES USA is North America's oldest, largest magazine covering commercial-scale organic and sustainable farming. The conference welcomes more that 1,000 farmers from around the world to witness presentations on cutting-edge organic and sustainable farming techniques.
We're excited to have Will join the Small Farm Central family!
Will's winding path to Small Farm Central passed through high school and university in the suburbs of north-eastern Oklahoma, a stint of network security work and commuting on Washington DC's Beltway, and a change of focus coinciding with a move to Pittsburgh a few years back. Will has been building things and programming various computers for many years, and is always grateful to stumble upon the happy and elusive convergence of an interesting technical challenge, a chance to earn a few bucks, and opportunity to make a tangible positive difference in the world.
Will thinks Pittsburgh is a good place for working on that last bit -- making a positive difference -- and is excited about the opportunities here related to building sustainable local and regional food systems. Will also thinks the new Automated Scheduled Payments feature, which he built for Member Assembler, is great because it will make fresh local food more accessible to people who otherwise couldn't afford the up-front cost of a farm subscription.
We've been hiring a few folks here at Small Farm Central over the last few months, so I've been more aware of the resources out there for agriculture job postings. For our programming and marketing positions, it was important for us to have folks that have some farming interest or background.
One resource I became more aware of is the Sustainable Food Job blog which lists jobs in food across the country. We found our new programmer, Will, indirectly through this blog.
I notice a number of farm intern and farm manager positions have been posted there recently. I don't know what the hit rate is on these. Maybe someone reading this blog will tell us their experience in comments.
Check it out at: http://sustainablefoodjobs.wordpress.com
Where have you had success posting these types of jobs? Leave thoughts in comments.
I know there is a residual Luddite attitude in the small-scale agriculture community and, given the fact that so many farmers have gone into agriculture precisely to avoid the pitfalls of modern life, it is completely understandable. I am not sure how exactly to measure this effect, but in my experience looking at websites of individual farmers and the web resources for small-scale farmers, I see an industry that is not using Internet technology to it's greatest advantage.
That advantage is working together: connecting groups of people and fostering communication that leads to real world action. Here I am referring to the ways that farmers connect with each other and connect to their customers. We can do better with our websites and our connections as a group. For individual farmers I believe that web communication with customers is an imperative.
When it is January and snow covers your fields do you make sure that your customers are thinking of you and your farm? Does your customer know how much work it takes all year round to bring them that steak or watermelon? If not, how can you expect them to sign up for your CSA again, come to your farm market, or buy your meat? The supermarket is always just around the corner - how do you overcome your customer's inertia and have them shop with you (besides having a far-superior product, of course)?
Communicating online is cost-effective and time-efficient -- mailing lists, message boards, and websites. Over the next ten weeks I will release a course in farm web design to help you create and sustain a loyal customer base. Use the subscribe form in left-hand column of the site if you want to receive updates via email as they happen.
I encourage you to continue the conversation by leaving comments on this article and the ones that follow. I look forward to hearing from you!
We're hiring for an individual to lead our outreach effort here at Small Farm Central. This position will be based at our offices in Pittsburgh, PA (East Liberty neighborhood). So if you know of someone who loves farms and has a passion for marketing, they may just be perfect to join our team.
Membership updates allow customers to update their share types themselves. For example, say you start your membership sign-up in November. In March, you buy a few hundred chicks so you can start offering egg shares to your CSA customers and you create a new "Egg Share" member option in the Member Assembler. This new offering will be seen by all new customers that sign up after March, but what about the other members that signed up in November?
At that point, you'll turn on Membership Updates, allow Egg Shares to be updated, and the customers who have already signed up can use the Membership Updates to add the Egg Share to their membership.
Adding Update Types to your Membership Updates
Read more about the tool and how to get it to work here.
We have released our new payment processing system for the Member Assembler which allows your members to sign up for a payment plan to automatically pay for their CSA share over time, allows you to bypass Paypal & Google Checkout, and get better rates on your credit card transactions.
Automated Scheduled Payments is a no-fuss way for you to spread the cost of your CSA over time -- which allows more financially-sensitive customers to join your CSA -- while ensuring that you get your money without a huge accounting nightmare.
For example, say your CSA costs $500. On February 3rd a customer signs up and pays the required $100 down payment, which leaves a balance of $400. With Automated Scheduled Billing, the customer will authorize their card to be billed (for example) on a monthly basis for 4 months:
March 1st: $100
April 1st: $100
May 1st: $100
June 1st: $100
On those dates, our system will automatically attempt to bill the credit card on file for the amounts shown and, if all goes well, you will simply receive a receipt and the funds will trickle into your bank account. If there are problems with a declined or expired card, the customer will be asked to provide new credit card details without farmer intervention.
The system also allows for full payment up-front and one-time payments so you can take payments for add-ons and extras each week if necessary.
You don't pay anything extra to us to use this system -- just your normal per member cost of the Member Assembler -- however you do need to have an account with a payment gateway called Authorize.net which allows all of this to happen on the credit card processing side.
The costs of an authorize.net account are typically $30/month fee no matter your level of transactions and then 2.1% of the transactions + 0.10 per transaction. These per-transaction fees are much lower than Paypal or Google Checkout (at 3% + 0.20 per transaction), but it does add on the monthly fee.
So, in essence, an Authorize.net account makes more sense for CSAs with higher volume transaction needs. The break-even point between an Authorize.net account and a Paypal account is approximately $50,000/per year. That is the point at which the lower transaction cost covers the monthly fee. However, for CSAs doing less than $50,000/year in transactions, the extra cost may make sense due to the extra service provided by Automated Scheduled Payments that saves you time and makes your CSA more financially accessible.
If you already have a credit card processing system for your business (ie a swipe machine in a farm stand), then an Authorize.net account should be very easy to get because it is one of the standards in the business. On the other hand if you do not, that is no problem; we'll help you get it all set up. Plan the application and approval process to take about 7-10 days. Either way, contact us and we'll guide you through the process of getting the Authorize.net account set up with the right options.
We are very excited to get farmers using this new system, so we'd love your feedback and just let us know when you are ready to get started. This new service is due to the hard work of our capable new web developer, Will, who we'll introduce in a blog entry soon! He has been up until the early hours of the morning this week getting everything ready for launch.
Recently, the Small Farm Central crew headed out to visit some of our farms, in action. In this video, Dave of Village Acre Farms discusses how Small Farm Central's time-saving tools have helped organize his CSA!