Blog

Nov 17, 2010

Farming is not equal to the web?

Posted by: Small Farm Central

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!

Oct 28, 2010

We Are Growing!

Posted by: Small Farm Central

 

Currently Hiring for a Sales and Marketing Position

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.

 

Oct 20, 2010

Adding the Membership Update Feature To Your Site

Posted by: Small Farm Central

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. 

Oct 15, 2010

Automated Scheduled Payments Released!

Posted by: Small Farm Central

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.

So, how does it work?

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.

Costs of Using Automated Scheduled Payments 

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.

Let's Get Started!

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.

 

Sep 22, 2010

Meet Dave of Village Acres Farm

Posted by: Small Farm Central

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!

Sep 14, 2010

Acres USA Article About Small Farm Central

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Just in case you missed it, Acres USA printed an article about the background of Small Farm Central in the September 2010 edition. See below (or click here if you don't see the document).

Small Farm Central in Acres USA

Sep 1, 2010

Member Assembler Automated Scheduled Billing

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are working on a new feature for the Member Assembler which we think will radically change how you think about getting paid by your CSA members.

Automated Scheduled Billing will simplify the billing process for your CSA by allowing your customers to pay for shares by choosing one of several farmer-defined payment plans and authorizing future payments that will be taken automatically against the credit card on file for that member.

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 payment plan shown above is just a sample use-case and these payment plans will be completely customizable to each farm's needs.

We think this will be a vast improvement over any other CSA payment mechanism and a really powerful addition to the Member Assembler service. Finally, this is a compelling reason to accept credit cards for your CSA.

Another positive benefit about using a system like this is that we can get you lower credit card rates. Your rates will likely be about 2.1% instead of the 3% that Google Checkout or Paypal charges and it can be tied to your swipe-based credit card system if you have one. However, there are monthly fees associated with running this type of 'payment gateway' that is a requirement for safely storing credit card information like this.

I'll be back in touch with more details when this feature is ready for your Member Assembler, but we'd love hear from you. Does this sound like something you would use for your CSA? Leave comments in the comments section.

Aug 30, 2010

New Premium Template - FarmShow

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Another premium template is available for your harvest season consumption. We are calling this one FarmShow due to the front page slideshow that dominates the front page of this design.

Here is a preview of the design:

We are trying something different for a tour of this template by putting together a video screencast tour. Take a look at the tour below and let us know what you think about using video like this in our blog in comments.



Can't see the video? Click here.

 

Aug 27, 2010

The Great Peach Debate of 2010

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I took a quick tour of eastern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland this week to visit 6 Small Farm Central farms: Village Acres Farm, North Mountain Pastures, Norman's Farm Market, Three Springs Fruit Farm, One Straw Farm, and Whitmore Farm.

The main impetus of the trip was to gather video footage for a website redesign of smallfarmcentral.com that we are putting together for release this fall. However, talking to farmers that are extremely successful with their web marketing yielded all sorts of great footage that I will be releasing via the blog, in presentations, and in any other ways I can think to use it!

In the spirit of that, here is Ben Wenk from Three Springs Fruit Farm talking about the great peach debate of 2010 that occurred over Twitter. Beware, there are some Twitter terms thrown about in this video, so if you are not a Twitter user, ignore those and watch this as an example of how conversations can happen online.

Aug 18, 2010

We Are Going Places

Posted by: Small Farm Central

I got an email a few weeks ago from an interested farmer that really encapsulates what we do here at Small Farm Central:

''We are a start up fiber farm in Ohio. We have a website & blog we designed ourselves, but they aren't ''wow'', they are just o.k. We designed & put things in as best we could, but I would like a more professional look. Something that says, "Yeah, we may be new, but we're going places." The catch is, as always and in everything, money. What would a beautiful, professionally designed website cost and, if it's in our budget, what's the next step?''

(Firstly, the answer to cost is the reason Small Farm Central exists: we're in your budget.)

You are a small farmer with limited resources, but you produce a quality product with integrity that customers will love once they buy it and have a relationship with your farm. Professional and attractive marketing materials create conditions favorable to making that initial sale and give the customer an expectation of excellence before they taste your products.

I think this much is apparent, but the investment of getting to 'professional' can be extremely expensive so many farms delay that big investment.

That's the void that Small Farm Central fills -- before spending many thousands on a custom web design, use one of our great premium templates (although we do custom design for farmers too). Before you invest in a full time web programmer to create your website ordering system or CSA management software, use the Member Assembler or our ecommerce options.

We know that you are 'going places'. Use us as a stepping stone to get there.

Twitter

  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    45 weeks 2 days ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    46 weeks 2 days ago