Blog

Sep 9, 2009

Product Graph Feature Released

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Our newest feature, product graphs, which I discussed at length last week has been released.

If you are a current Small Farm Central subscriber, you may access the product graphs by logging in to your control panel and navigating to:
Create Content / Products / Product Graphs

If you need help with the product sliders, read the detailed help document. If that still does not help, let us know!

If you are not a current customer, but want to check out the new feature, request a demo.

Sep 3, 2009

New Feature: Product Availability Graphs

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We will be introducing a new feature in the next week or two: product availability graphs. These graphs help your customers visualize what is seasonal throughout the year; this is both educational and practical. Educational because eaters will understand what crops are available in your climate throughout the year and practical because they know what to expect in their CSA box or at the farmers market throughout the season.

Product availability graphs have been around on farm websites for a long time, but they were usually created in an external program like Photoshop or Excel, then an image was created, and then the image was posted to the website. This is not a very flexible or scalable approach -- some issues include:

  • What happens when you want to add a new crop? 
  • How much time does it take to update the image? How many steps are involved?
  • What if you need to adjust the time of year that a product is available because you installed a high tunnel?
  • What happens when you lose the original file or the staff member who created it leaves your business?
  • The image based approach is problematic because of scaling and pixelated images.

Our new product availability graph feature in Small Farm Central solves these issues and adds some new twists.

Here is an example vegetable product graph as it would look to customers visiting your website:

Below is a screenshot of the farm website administrator editing the same product graph. Each product availability block can be dragged earlier or later time of the year as you develop your graph or edit it later.

Our Availability Twists

  • Sliders on the administrator control panel create each product availability item; this means that you do not have to enter an exact date of availability for each product, it is a more fluid approach of dragging the bar across the screen until the season looks about right. Since harvest dates never fall on the same day each year due to weather, planting, rain, and everything else, it makes more sense to drag your availability across the screen but not promise an exact date to your customers.
  • Automatic updates of current product lists - each week, we will automatically refresh your 'current products' list based on the values that you put into your product graphs. This allows you to create your product availability graph at the beginning of the season and let Small Farm Central do the work of keeping your current products list updated as you are busy growing food throughout the summer. (Although you may choose to adjust your lists as the year progresses.)
  • Product notes - Optionally, you may give further information to your customers about each product by a defining a 'product note' that shows up when the user hovers their mouse over that particular product availability bar on your public website.
  • Create multiple graph pages as you like -- create an availability page for each category of products that your farm sells, for example, you can have a separate graph and page for vegetables, fruits, jams, added value, and more.
  • Update at any time - no need to find your original file, export the image, and upload it to your website. Simply login to the control panel, change product availability, click save and you are done! 
  • Not image based - our product availability graphs are not based on images, so they will display clearly, load faster, and are more flexible for future updates.

We are still working on a few last details for the product availability graphs, so stay tuned for a release notice in the next week or two. We'd love to hear what you think of our approach!

Sep 1, 2009

A New Basic Template

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Our newest template will be coming out in the next week or two. Note, this is not a premium template. This template is available to all subscription levels.

Enough talk, here is the initial mock-up of the site: We think it is clean and professional while retaining "organic" imagery that keeps the template botanical and agricultural.

We hope you'll love it!

Aug 24, 2009

How we Support our Farms and Websites

Posted by: Small Farm Central

The following quote from a recent entry of Seth Godin's blog reminded me to tell you how Small Farm Central supports your farm:

...don't pretend you have a policy. Just be human.

We know that you are an individual farmer working a distinct farm, so we will treat you as an individual with unique needs.

We design the sites, write the code, answer the phones, reply to emails, and we work exclusively with farmers. We understand your web needs because we are the largest provider of websites to farms in the country. We understand you and farming because we have started and grown a medium-sized CSA farm ourselves.

We are watching out for you because we want your farm to succeed and we feel like Small Farm Central can be a small part of that success. So next time you are having a problem with your site, call or email and know that we are on your side and here to help.

We're happy to be a partner in your farm's continued success -- just let us know how we can help you!

If you are not a customer yet, when you are tired of working with cranky "techies", calling international support, and talking to people who are more familiar with their local Starbucks than their local tomatoes, talk to us.

Jul 23, 2009

Best of the Small Farm Central blog, mid-2009 editon

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We are going to take a break from blogging from mid July to the end of August. We know you are busy, so we'll take some time to focus on some other projects and get back to blogging in about a month.

Anxiously awaiting more? First, sign up for email updates, so you'll get our blog posts in your email when we start up again.

After you are done with that, there's lot of great content to read from our 2009 blog posts.

Farm Web Marketing Tips


Small Farm Central features


Fun Stuff


Sites of Interest

Jul 7, 2009

Busy and Making it Easy

Posted by: Small Farm Central

We know you are busy! Heck, I am surprised you are reading this on a clear July afternoon when there are weeds to pull, irrigation to run, cows to move, markets to attend, and on, and on.

Although I don't currently run a production farm, I have done it and I know how hard and busy these months are.

And still, your website is still begging to be updated with photos and stories of the year because that is what your committed and prospective customers want to hear. With all of these other commitments, it is very easy to let communication slip. If you make updating your site and blog an EASY (maybe even enjoyable as many of our customers tell us Small Farm Central is) task, you will find yourself making the effort more often.

If you look back to your site in the cool days of October and notice that you haven't updated since April, perhaps it is time to try a different approach. If you want someone else to take care of the technology and let you concentrate on your crops, animals, and communication with your customers, let's talk!

Jul 2, 2009

Directions from Anywhere on your Farm Website

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Earlier this year, we created a way for Small Farm Central users to quickly create Google Maps directions pages for their farm.

The example above is from Oak Ridge Farm's "Directions to the Farm" page. On the left, the page asks for the origination address and then the destination address is already programmed by the farmer.

The user then hits "Get Directions!" and they are immediately shown turn-by-turn directions from their originating address to the farm. The user does not leave the Oak Ridge Farm website at all.

In my case it shows a 651 mile trip from Pittsburgh to Neenah, Wisconsin.

A special feature for our farms is the ability to drag and drop the destination point, so even if Google Maps does not recognize your rural address, you can direct your customers to find your location.

If you are already a Small Farm Central subscriber, login to your control panel and navigate to:
Create Content / Maps / Directions Pages

...you will have a directions page on your website within a few short minutes.

If you are not a subscriber and would like to take advantage of this and our many other features, sign up today

Jun 22, 2009

Member Assembler a Success in First Season

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Our CSA member management service, the Member Assembler, was a success in it's first season with over 5,000 CSA members signed up. From farms with well over 1,000 members to farms with 25 members, the system eased data entry, collected payments, and is now serving as a repository for membership information as the season progresses.

It is fun to watch the automated "pickup reminders" go out each night to CSA members that are receiving a CSA box the next day. I can imagine a great box of veggies and fruit behind each one of those emails. Quite exciting.

If you are running a CSA in 2010, consider using our system for online member sign-up, balance tracking, credit card integration (or old fashioned checks; your choice), member management, pick-up reminders, and more.

We are planning a lot of improvements for later this season and next season:

  • Survey/questionnaire integration for end-of-season surveys and next season we'd like to have a way for members to give feedback on a weekly basis like Village Acres Farm does it now.
  • PayPal integration to complement/replace Google Checkout.
  • Improved interface for easier interaction with membership information.
  • And much more based on the feedback from our subscribers.

 


Google Checkout Problems

The biggest hiccup for the Member Assembler this Spring was related to Google Checkout. Google apparently does not understand or appreciate the collective risk of the CSA system and, for a couple of farms, was holding back 10% of gross sales to cover any charge-backs.

 

Despite reasonable explanation from Small Farm Central, our farms, and numerous emails from CSA customers, Google could not be budged. If we cannot get a guarantee that this will not happen for 2010, we will remove Google Checkout as an option in the Member Assembler and move to use PayPal as the credit card processor.

 


We Love CSAs

We love the CSA concept -- I've helped start and manage a CSA farm, been a member of a number of CSA programs, and seen the logistical issues of complex CSA programs in my experience delivering CSA boxes for Penns Corner Farm Alliance which collects products from 25 farms in the Pittsburgh area, packs CSA boxes, and then delivers them across the city.

Keep up the hard work this year - I know the CSA delivery season has just started for most of you. Another 20 weeks, give or take, left! We'll keep working for you to make sure the Member Assembler continues to improve and can become an even more useful tool for your CSA.

Jun 18, 2009

New Team Member - Shannon

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Shannon Knepper will be helping us out this summer with email correspondence and support. We'd like to introduce you so you know who you are talking on the phone or via email.

Shannon also works with the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local program's buylocalpa.org which is a custom development project of Small Farm Central. It is a mapping application that visualizes Pennsylvania's local food sources among many other interesting features. Shannon helps support the farmer and consumer queries that come through that site.

Her work with buylocalpa.org and commitment to calm, knowledgeable support makes her a perfect fit for our team.

A Little About Shannon

Shannon Knepper is a Pittsburgh printmaker & graphic designer who breaks for taco trucks, leafy greens and stinky cheeses. Connecting the public with great farms is a personal mission & she's happy to be a part of Small Farm Central team.

Jun 15, 2009

Blossoming Template Ready & Free Premium Upgrade

Posted by: Small Farm Central

Our newest premium template, Blossoming, is now ready. Visit the sample site at: http://premium3.smallfarmcentral.com.

To celebrate this third premium template, we'd like to offer the next three new subscribers to Small Farm Central a free upgrade to use premium templates. This is a $100 value. If you would like to take advantage of this offer, sign up now and use the coupon code "blossom382".

We'll make sure your account is upgraded to use our premium templates.

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