Recently Google made several changes to their search engine that could have some impacts on how you market your farm online.
First, they changed the algorithm that they use to conduct Internet searches. The average daily Google user probably won't notice a difference. In fact, Google was using the new algorithm a full month before making the announcement. However, the effect on those of us trying to promote our websites is still a bit unclear.
The change was made to address the changing nature of how people do Internet searches. The trend is for people to make conversational or voice searches where the user asks a question rather than just entering a string of keywords. Instead of typing in “CSA Seattle”, a person is more likely to ask “Where can I sign up for CSA in Seattle?” In theory this change means that Google will provide better more accurate responses to such inquiries.
The reality is that as long as you have well-written copy on your website with appropriate keywords included, the effects on your traffic from Google are unlikely to be greatly affected. However, if you are trying to use Google Analytics to figure out what are the appropriate keywords, you might have a harder time doing that now.
Along with changing their algorithm, Google also has switched 100% of their search engine searches over to be secure and encrypted. Previously Google only supplied secure searches for those logged into a Google account. What this means for users of Google Analytics is that there will be less keyword data supplied. If a user searches for “organic grass-fed beef” and Google directs them to your site, your Google Analytics account will get all of the regular analytic data except for that all important data about what search terms actually resulted in them ending up on your site. This may seem counter-intuitive, that Google's search engine wouldn't share all of its information with their own analytic software, but that is the reality of these new changes. Theoretically, web searches from other search engines such as Bing will still provide keyword data to Google Analytics.
What are we recommending you do in response to these changes? Nothing at this time. Google Analytics is still a powerful tool that can provide meaningful feedback on your website. If you are already using Google Analytics, just be aware that your data may be changing. If you haven't added Google Analytics yet, Small Farm Central still recommends integrating this tool with your website. The nature of online marketing is ever changing and we intend to keep you aware of changes that could affect your farm.
For more insight into some of these changes, see the following articles:
Dwolla is a payment network that we have integrated with Member Assembler that offers dramatically lower merchant fees. The service works through the ACH network, so instead of using a credit card number, a checking account number and routing bank number is required to complete payment. This results in a fee of $0.25/transaction (no percentage fee) versus the 2.5% + per transaction fees that are charged through standard credit card networks.
As this new service gains traction with consumers, we recommend that you use Dwolla not as your primary payment method but as an additional payment option. Many of your members may not have access to their checking account information or may not yet feel comfortable entering it upon sign-up. However, as a payment option, Dwolla is very viable, especially if you educate your members on how paying with Dwolla helps farmers pay less in fees when compared to credit card payment.
Since December 2012, our farmers have processed 2,388 Dwolla transactions for a total of $606,398.19. With Dwolla, these transactions cost $597 and with a standard credit card processor these transactions would have cost approximately $16,000.
Check out more about Dwolla here:
Welcome to the We Love Our Farmers photo series! We love hearing about what's happening on the Small Farm Central farms from our farmers, but we love seeing it in their websites even more. In this edition, we feature the students taking a class at Sunbow Farm.
"I teach classes at the farm once a month. Each class includes a hands on component where we go out and work with the plants. This was our class on Medicinal Trees. We were looking at the buds of a basswood/linden tree (Tilia americana) that were just ready for harvest! Basswood buds/flowers are used via infusion or tincture to treat cough and bronchitis. "
- Kristina Beuning, Sunbow Farm
We've just rolled out a small but useful development for Member Assembler. Now, at the Member Assembler > Configure > Checkout screen, you can create your own Invoice-Only Instructions, which would most likely be how your customers should write checks to you and where to send them. These instructions will carry through to the checkout confirmation email and on-screen after a successful invoice-only checkout. Additionally, after you've set this new setting, it will appear in status emails, the "Make a Payment" page, the Member/User Login, and you can choose to include or not include it in payment request emails.
Many of you already have such instructions about sending payment in your email confirmation text. So that this information is not shown twice, simply cut and paste it from the one setting to the new one on the Member Assembler > Configure > Checkout screen.
October 16th is World Food Day, a day established by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to encourage attention toward agricultural food production. Historically associated with efforts to bring awareness to world hunger issues, this year the focus is on healthy food systems as reflected by the theme: "Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition".
In the United States, food security is something that is on all our farmer's minds, but it should be something that is on everyone's mind. Last week we published a blog post about the Food Safety Modernization Act, but there are many other issues that effect the security of our food systems. Climate change, population growth, conserving biodiversity, economic changes are some of the biggest ones. Tomorrow is a great opportunity to reach out to your friends, neighbors, and networks to remind them about how these issues effect not only farmers, but anyone who eats food.
Here are some great resources to help keep you (and the people you feed) informed:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
World Food Day USA/Canada website: http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/
Interesting facts about food security on Treehugger.com:
I'm sure you've heard about the potential impacts of The Food Safety Modernization Act from other informational outlets, but we just wanted to remind you and link to some resources for more information. This is a good chance to get in touch with your customers or CSA members to tell them about the impacts that these regulations will have on your farm.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was a signed into a law back in 2011 and was the first revision of federal food safety laws in the United States since 1938. The Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA as it is also referred to, authorizes new farm regulations and gives the Food and Drug Association (FDA) new controls to prevent food safety issues and new power & responsibility to detect and respond to these issues.
There are two major regulations that will affect farm level producers, the Produce Rule, which outlines standards for produce production (growing, harvesting, packing, and holding) and the Preventative Controls Rule, which requires new safety measures for facilities that process (manufacture, pack, or hold) food for human consumption.
Passing this bill took a vote from Congress, but turning it into a law with rules and regulations has taken much longer. Now, the FDA has reached the rulemaking stage and has released a draft of these new rules which it is currently accepting public comments on. This is a critical time to weigh in on the proposed rules, since the final rules will affect all produce farms and food processing facilities across the country. However, time is running out as the comment period ends November 15th, 2013.
As with all new laws, the new regulations are being highly debated. Many people who have spoken out about FSMA feel that the new rules may be unfairly burdening family farmers and conflict with organic and sustainable growing practices.
FSMA will change the food system in America very soon, so it’s important to understand what’s going on. It's everyone's responsibility to speak up to make sure that our food supply remains safe, our natural resources are used sustainably and our family farmers are supported in their work. To learn more about FSMA check out some of these great resources:
The governemnt website about food safety issues can be found here (albeit not updated since 9/30/13): http://www.foodsafety.gov/news/fsma.html
The official Food and Drug Administration's webpage about the FSMA including factsheets: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm
They are even running a free webinar this Thursday, October 10th to help everyone stay informed: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/697410614
The journalists that make up www.foodsafetynews.com contribute news and opinion articles on FSMA: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/tag/fsma/#.UlMSGT-CpQ2
Welcome to the We Love Our Farmers photo series! We love hearing about what's happening on the Small Farm Central farms from our farmers, but we love seeing it in their websites even more. In this edition, we feature interns & volunteers at Earth Spring Farm.
"Our interns and Work Shares (volunteers who commit to working 6 hrs/week the entire season at the farm in exchange for a large box of produce each week), hard at work! They are packing CSA boxes in our barn for delivery the next morning."
- Jamie Flickinger, CSA Manager, Earth Spring Farm
We're very excited to roll out a new tool that many of you have asked about: a Member/User Login page for your farm website. Your members now have a one-stop shop that they can visit to review and edit their account information. Not only will it be convenient for your CSA members & website customers, but it also saves you the trouble of hunting down their information from your admin area and sending it to them. It will be useful for both Member Assembler sites and E-Commerce enabled sites.
To access their account information, members will log in at the same link they use to access private website areas. This is simply your website url with "/login" at the end (for example: http://www.farmnamehere.com/login). If you are using Member Assembler, a Member Login link has already been added to the Membership Actions widget which you can enable in your sidebar, if you don't have it there already. The Member/User Login looks like this:
Now, there will be two options: You can either assign your members or customers a password, or they can log in using an email address and then confirm their identity through a link. If you only want your users to use their password for access, you can disable the link option in the new administrative page for the Member/User Login at Administrate > Users > Member/User Login or Member Assembler > Members > Member/User Login. For a refresher about how to give your members passwords, check out the Assigning User Passwords article in the Knowledge Base.
Once your members log in they will see a page like this:
The settings that you have configured for your farm will determine what links and options your member sees here. Each of the links on the left side menu will bring up a new tab: Home includes the most common links your customer might want; Contact includes a list of the contact information for the membership or user with links to change their info; Memberships includes all of the details for their Member Assembler history, including the ability to update Member Types and link to a map of a Pickup Location address; Payments includes the entire history of your member's payments along with a link to make additional payments or change stored credit card information; Orders includes your member's entire history of invoices and store orders with line item details (see an example below); Boxes includes a view of any boxes you have built for the member's share types using the Box Builder; and Holds includes your member's history of scheduled vacations, temporary pickup changes and/or double box weeks.
If you don't want your customers to access any particular one of these tabs, you can change the settings at Administrate > Users > Member/User Login. Additionally you can customize a login page header which appears at the top of the Member Portal. This is a great way to post timely messages to your customers & members perhaps to remind them of an upcoming schedule change or a special offer.
It is our hope that customers will utilize this new feature often and cut down on the time you spend on customer/member support. We want to hear your feedback and suggestions on this new development so that we can continue to improve it's functionality. Feel free to let us know what's working and what could be better about the new Member/User Login page. Call 412-567-3864 or email email@example.com. Your suggestions lead to system improvements & new developments!
As we mentioned in the blog earlier this month, Small Farm Central is hosting a series of online webinars on various aspects of the Member Assembler service this fall. Join us next month to learn how to use new Member Assembler features, get a refresher about Member Assembler Seasons and to see a review of our current online payment options. Here is the schedule of sessions:
Walk through the process of creating your next Season for sign up. Tackling this task now means you can collect CSA members all winter long and have more time to prepare for next year. Get ahead of the game with help from our staff.
Explore the options for payment processing including invoice only payment, Member Assembler Payments with Authorize.net, Paypal and Dwolla. Learn about the costs and trade-offs of different approaches so you can decide what's best for your farm.
Come check out our most recent developments like the option for multiple quanties of your membership shares and the new Member/User login page. We'd love to hear your feedback on these recently released features, so join in the discussion!
While this will be most helpful for our current CSA farmers using Member Assembler who want to learn tips and tricks, we invite all farms interested in the service to sit in on the webinars as well. Everyone can learn something new about Member Assembler and how it makes managing your CSA member information quick and easy.
Register for the sessions that interest you by following this link!
As fall rolls in you are likely to have a lot on your mind and it's easy to become distracted by the mounting tasks of harvest time. That's why September is the perfect time to focus your attention on farm safety. The National Safety Council recognized this fact back in 1944 when they encouraged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign the first National Farm Safety and Health procalmation. Since then, we've recognized the second week in September as a time to pay closer attention to the daily hazards of farm work. The National Education Center For Agricultural Safety officially hosts the week and this year's theme is "Working Together for Safety in Agriculture" which reminds us of the old addage "safety in numbers". Working in teams and groups can take more coordination than working alone so that accidents don't increase. Each worker must make sure that their actions are safe, not only for themselves, but for the people around them. But, on the flipside, working with a companion can ensure that if an accident does happen, there is some around who can help.
There are some startling statistics about accidents and injuries that happen on farms. Even on a small scale it can be overwhelming to think of all the areas, machines, and equipment that are potentially hazardous on your farm. Here are some helpful resources to get you thinking about how you can take steps to make your farm safer for you, your family, your staff and your visitors:
In closing, we'd like to include a quote from the folks at the United Farmers Cooperative, because we couldn't have said it better:
"Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the world...In the upcoming months, workloads may get greater due to the harvest season. Please keep safety at the forefront of your daily activities. Have a safe harvest season."
-Small Farm Central