If you are generating content over time for your farm website and blog, you will notice that your hard-earned content starts to get buried and it is not as easy to find. This is especially true for those farmers who are using the blog format.
Much of the time, the content you generated a year ago is just as valid as what you can write today. Instead of re-writing articles, you need to guide your visitors to older posts and content. One great way to do this was recommended by ProBlogger a while back - he calls them "sneeze pages".
He writes, "A Sneeze Page is one that simply directs readers in multiple directions at once – back into your archives"
So a "sneeze page" is simply a group of links with a common theme. Your sneeze page can be about anything as long as it directs people back into your archives. For example, if you developed 4-5 posts throughout the year of your chicks as they grew and developed, you could then create a sneeze page at the end of the year that linked your customers back to all of your information about chicks.
To get an idea of what this can look like, check out one I did for the Small Farm Central blog. I called it Best of the blog, mid-2009 to get our visitors to take a look at all the great content that had come out on the blog over the past 6 months.
Importantly, put your sneeze pages in a prominent location such as the sidebar of your website (if you have a Small Farm Central site, this is called the "widget column"). You want your customers to easily find these pages and then navigate through the history of your website.
Darren at ProBlogger has some great ideas on what topics to create your sneeze pages on, so go check out the full article.
Another premium template is ready for your farm website. We call it "Wooden":
Check out the sample site at: http://premium5.smallfarmcentral.com
One great feature of our templates is that switching between templates is completely seamless -- with one click all of your site transfers over to the new "look". The content and photos move over with you, so there is no re-typing necessary. This is a great long-term plan because you'll get tired of looking at your website "look" after a few years. When you want a new look or we have a great new template out, you can move over without any extra fees or extra effort.
If you have an account, you'll find this new template available in your control panel:
Display / Template Settings / Template Settings
We find and work with great web designers so you don't have to! More templates coming in the next few weeks.
Want to put a Facebook or Twitter badge on your site? Not even sure what Twitter is?? Here's a helpful doc to help you get started!
Facebook: Facebook is a social networking website. Anyone over the age of 13 with a valid e-mail address can become a Facebook user. Users can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Additionally, users can join networks organized by city, workplace, and school or college.
Twitter: Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you answer the question, "What are you doing?" by sending short text messages 140 characters in length, called "tweets", to your friends, or "followers." It's this 'short format' of communication that appeals to users who are suffering from lengthy email fatigue!
Placing a Facebook Badge on Your Site
1. Grab the HTML code from Facebook.
You'll have to select the type of badge you'd like to display. For this example, let's click on 'Profile Badge'. (See Img. 1) Click on "Other" for the type of website you're placing the badge on.
Facebook will then provide you with some HTML code. (See Img. 2) Click on this code and copy it (keyboard shortcut: Control + C).
2. Login to your control panel and navigate to Display / Widgets / Create Custom Widget
3. Click on the HTML icon in your rich text editor (See Img. 3)
4. Paste in the Facebook code in your HTML pop up box. (See Img. 4)
5. Click Update to save the HTML changes.
6. Click Submit Changes to save your new widget. (Be sure to fill out the 'narrow to' field, if you do not want this widget on every page of your site.)
7. View your public site, to see how your new widget looks!
Placing a Twitter Badge on Your Site
1. Grab the HTML code from Twitter.
Select "Widgets for My Website" and choose which type of badge you'd like. For this example, let's click on "Profile". (You may need to log in for your information to automatically populate in the Username field.)
Click "Finish & Grab Code". Copy the HTML code that Twitter creates for you.
2. Follow steps 2-7 above!
I've met the Animal Welfare Approved folks at many of the conferences I travel to and they seem like a great organization offering a standard and certification program to farmers. They sent me the information below so you can familiarize yourself with their work:
Are you concerned about the welfare of animals that become part of the food chain? Animal Welfare Approved is the only third-party welfare certification that actually guarantees animals were raised outdoors. This USDA recognized certification and food label is dedicated to family farmers practicing high-welfare husbandry, outdoors on pasture or range. Animal Welfare Approved maintains a fee-free program, which has two important outcomes: one, there is no incentive to pass noncompliant farms; and two, the certification is available to any farm meeting AWA’s rigorous standards, regardless of size or scale.
Animal Welfare Approved’s standards are the most rigorous and progressive animal care requirements in the nation, as recognized by the World Society for the Protection of Animals for two years running. These standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers and farmers and incorporate best practice and recent research. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. Species include beef cattle and calves, dairy cattle and calves, pigs, poultry (chicken, turkey and duck), sheep, dairy sheep, goat, dairy goats and bison and calves. The basic premise of all the standards is that animals must be able to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being.
Given only to family farms, the Animal Welfare Approved label verifies that participating farms are putting each individual animal’s comfort and well-being first. The program is based on the simple understanding that our own best interests are intrinsically linked to animals and the environment. Farmers benefit from having a third-party affirmation of their practices and consumers benefit by knowing that the label means what it says. The many health benefits of meat, dairy and eggs from animals raised outdoors are well-documented. As more and more people seek out these products - for ethical, health, and environmental reasons, Animal Welfare Approved is emerging as the most dependable guarantee that an animal was raised humanely outdoors.
Additionally, Animal Welfare Approved offers a level of farmer support that sets it apart from other certifications. Grant opportunities, technical and marketing assistance and networking are offered to all member farmers at no cost. AWA also actively works to develop relationships with retailers, restaurants and cooperatives in an effort to expand the availability of high-welfare products in the marketplace. This comprehensive support helps farmers to stay abreast of the latest techniques in high-welfare farming, and also to thrive as businesses and to share these techniques with other farms. AWA’s philosophy is to be supportive and encouraging, revitalizing a culture of independent family farms in which a humane ethic can be passed on to future generations.
For more information, visit www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org.
We have three premium templates in varying stages of development right now. They will be coming to your control panel in the next few weeks. We hope to bring out about 10 new templates this year.
These templates are always customizable to your own farm's unique looks and it is a very cost-effective way to get a completely professional look going for your farm quickly. We invest heavily in these templates, so we hope you love them!
One nice thing about using these templates: if you get bored of looking at the same design after a few years, you can switch your template with one click and all of your content, photos, and etc will transfer over and you have a completely new site!
Here is one really nice template that is in the works:
This is not finished yet and we are still polishing things up. For example, we need work on tying the graphics together. The farm that has apples (the header image) is unlikely to grow wheat (in the footer), so we are working on that aspect of this template still!
The Pittsburgh Tribune Review printed an article about what we are doing over here at Small Farm Central.
We have implemented a new feature into the Member Assembler in recent weeks -- we call it "status emails". This is an email your customers can request at any time to get details about their membership from pick-up locations, contacts in the membership, member types, balance, and payments.
This type of email will help your members keep tabs on their membership throughout the season without you having to touch the mouse. This will be especially useful for your members to get information about their pick-up location and payment balance.
This is just another way we are constantly working to improve all of our services, so keep the feedback coming!
Create a link to the "status email" request page by logging to your control panel and navigating to:
Member Assembler / Members / Status Emails
If you have not signed up for a Member Assembler account yet, go to the Member Assembler section of the site to sign up. It is completely free until you go beyond 25 members, so you have plenty of chances to try the service to make sure it will work for your farm before you commit.
So you've created a Member Assembler account (free for your first 25 member sign-ups) and you are working through getting your sign-up form created. Now you get to end of the process, and you are thinking about how customers reserve their space in your CSA. You have the option to accept credit cards, or not.
Just because you can accept payment does not mean you should.
The main thing -- it's going to cost you to accept payments online. With the Member Assembler, you can accept payments with Google Checkout or Paypal. Each charges 2.5%+ of your sale. Click the links below for more detail on the fee schedule of each:
Paypal Fee Schedule
Google Checkout Fee Schedule
So, to process a $500 CSA share with Paypal, it is going to cost you $14.80. That will add up quickly in a 100 or 500 member CSA.
It is convenient because the payment is added to the Member Assembler, the member's balance is automatically adjusted, and the money flows into your bank account without a single mouse click.
The alternative here is our "invoice-only" option which means that no money is transacted online and you will need to accept a check later for share payment. A confirmation is simply sent to the farmer and the member after they click "Check out".
From having worked with many farmers that use this "invoice-only" option, it seems that almost all members make good on their sign-up pledge when using the invoice-only option.
I am not discouraging the use of payment processors for your CSA shares because it certainly is convenient and you are assured that the money will come in after a membership purchase has been made. You will certainly need to weigh the convenience factor of less paperwork for you and the customer versus the cost of taking payment online.
Many of our farmers give their customers the choice to process the payment online for customer's convenience or use "invoice-only".
A good balance between convenience and cost is to require a small down-payment of perhaps $50 at the time the member signs up for your CSA and then take the rest of the membership payment by check later.
Credit card payments are required for online sales that are split-second decisions like buying the Slap Chop, but your CSA customers have made a conscious decision to join your CSA, so you shouldn't feel like using a payment processor is a requirement for your Member Assembler.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please post in comments.
I have gotten the question, "why can't I use whacky font x on my farm website?" many times. I think it is time to answer that question!
You can technically use any font on your website, but the hang-up comes that the font must be installed on your visitor's computer for them to see the font correctly. This may change in the future of the web, but for now, we are limited to the number of fonts we can use.
In our control panel's rich text editor, the following fonts are available:
This list of fonts covers the generally available fonts across browsers and operating systems, so you can have some assurance that your website is displaying the same on your computer and your customer's computer.
So, this is the reason that we keep it simple in the control panel text editor and don't let you write your whole web site in a font that looks like it is wearing bell-bottoms.
Small farmers are becoming better marketers because of necessity -- it takes a great deal of effort and communication to market the crops that you grow to your best customers.
However, we need to get better at passing production knowledge directly between small-scale farmers. Each farm has a different micro-climate, uses different equipment, and has a different growing philosophy, but we have more in common than not.
The tools of the web like WordPress, Blogspot, Google Groups, Twitter, and others can be easily used to share information between farmers who are motivated to share this information. Inexpensive digital still cameras and movie cameras can be used to tell the story of methods you use on your farm to small-scale farmers nationwide.
The beginnings of this trend are already here. I was just looking at a blog that details production techniques for small scale grain and pulse production. One of our farmers has set up a new website called Grass-Class.com that brings experts in grass-based livestock production to computer screens across the country by way of online seminars.
What other resources haven't I seen yet? What resources will you and your farmer friends create to share all of the knowledge and techniques you develop each day?
Some characteristics of small-scale farming such as geographic isolation and small size make it difficult to share information like large companies are able to do. The internet gives us the technology to facilitate these interactions, but it does not do the work of creating these resources for us.
We're all on the same team, so I look forward to seeing much more farmer-to-farmer into the future.