Some ideas to chew on..Working with many farmers with many different website goals, I have come up with a few general principles for farm websites. These have been covered in many other articles in more depth, but I hope it is useful to have them in one place. Update Often / Make it Easy A successful website grows slowly over time and gives return visitors something new to read so they will keep coming back and stay excited about new developments on the farm (surprisingly enough, customers are interested in details like chicken tractors and disease control). Farmers are busy people, so the only way to keep a farm website fresh throughout the year is to make it easy to update, create new pages, or post a blog entry. The best way to do this is to have your website built with a Content Management System (CMS) like Small Farm Central, Drupal, Wordpress, or any other system that makes sense. Aesthetics A farm website should be simple and elegant without using unnecessarily flashy elements. There is so much beauty on each farm: capture a bit of the farm with a representative photograph, put it in the header, add a clean navigation structure, and you have a great farm website. Commerce E-commerce can be a powerful addition to a farm website from pre-selling goods at farmers markets to selling to chefs to marketing items that will ship across the country, but farmers need to be comfortable with the process themselves and give it time to work. Customers will not just come out of the blue to order on your website: you need to advertise, tell your local customers, write a regular mailing list, and any other strategy that is available. It is a powerful tool, but not a free ride to extra sales. Content Use photographs liberally to illustrate points; take time to write about the passion that keeps you farming year after year; make sure visitors know what is currently available and where they can buy your products; and remember that customers are interested in the details that it takes to grow the food because it keeps them connected. These details are something they cannot get from any other source. Contact Make it easy for customers to contact the farm through the website - a link that is clearly labeled "contact" on each page of your site is a good goal. Blogging A farm blog can be a powerful way to communicate with customers because it encourages interaction through comments, keeps the site fresh, and is a good place to tell the farm story over the course of a season. It can be very easy: try posting a photo of farm work with a few explanatory sentences. Take note: either do it right or don't do it at all. A stale blog is detrimental to your goals and is much worse than not having one at all. The time investment will only pay off over time; think years instead of months, so a long term view is needed to successfully use the farm blog. Community Connections Getting listed on local food internet directories is important for a few reasons:
Email Mailing List
Have one; allow prospective customers to sign up for the list on your website.