By Lisa Kivirist
At first glance, hobby farms and new Web technology may not look like well-matched dance partners.
We hobby farmers tend to operate the traditional way: baking from scratch, pulling weeds by hand and harvesting root crops with a digging fork.
We converse face-to-face with our neighbors rather than sending a text message to borrow a cup of sugar.
Blogging, however, provides the perfect blend of rural living and new-fangled technology: Grow your farm business by telling your authentic story to the world–for free!
With more than 100 million blogs online and growing, the time is ripe to start your farm blog.
What Is a Blog?
The word “blog” stems from Web slang for “weblog,” a web-published online diary or journal.
Different from traditional websites, blogs technically consist of code and programming structure that’s different from the code and structure that make up a website.
While websites are made up of numerous linked pages of information, a blog consists of one page into which the blogger regularly uploads fresh content. Each new posting shows up at the top of the page, archived older posts are typically listed along the left or right side of the page.
What this means is blogs–just like farm life–are constantly changing and evolving.
Interactive in format, readers can post comments and engage in dialogue directly with your blog–very different from a static website.
It’s About Passion!
The growing interest in blogs stems from the fact that blogs are easy and often free to create.
They’re so easily assembled, in fact, that our 7-year-old son created his own homeschooling blog.
The growth in blogs roots in something much deeper than accessible technology: Bloggers exude passion for the topics they write about–from politics to potatoes–and use the blogosphere to tell their story.
By creating a farm blog and sharing stories of your life in both words and visuals, you can keep connected to various groups including friends, family, customers and the world at large, depending on your needs.
Importantly, you create your own platform for communicating your perspective on the joys of rural life, sharing with others–perhaps those living in urban areas–a slice of contemporary country living.
Assemble Your Blog Tools
Here’s the really easy part: All you need to start a blog is a computer with an Internet connection and basic Web browser software like Firefox or Internet Explorer.
Free Blogging Sites: The simplest way to get started is to use one of the many free blogging sites; www.blogger.com and www.wordpress.com are two of the largest.
These free blogging sites provide extensive information, tutorials and templates to help you get set up and running quickly.
Research and review the different free blog sites; some will give you a free blog with no ads while others will run a continual banner ad on your blog.
The main downside to using a free site: Your blog Web address will be at someone else’s site, for example: "http://yourfarm.blogspot.com"
You can still put links from your own website and domain name, if you already have one, to your blog.
Know Your Blog Goals
Decide what purpose your blog should serve: personal or business.
This ranks an important first step, because while there can readily be crossover between these two categories, blogs are intended for public viewing and should be created with that goal in mind. Who is your audience?
Tell a Story and Keep in Touch
As a personal goal, blogs can be the perfect venue to capture your story of starting a farm.
When Yvonne Brunot moved with her husband from the Baltimore area to their farm in rural Vermont, she started a blog to keep in touch with friends.
“From the start,” says Brunot, “our friends and family were supportive of our new venture and always curious about how things were going.
“With all the work involved with moving to the farm, we didn’t have time to keep in touch with everyone on an individual basis, and a blog enabled us to get quick updates out to everyone.”
Market Your Farm Business
Identify your specific marketing goals when starting a business farm blog; realize a blog may serve multiple needs.
One important goal may be keeping in touch with and communicating key information to your existing customers.
Kriss Marion of Circle M Farm in Wisconsin uses her well-established blog to keep in touch with her fiber, meat and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers.
“People love reading about my day-to-day farm life, increasing their connection to our farm by understanding the source of their food,” says Marion. “My blog puts a face to my business.”
Marion posts updates to her CSA members on her blog, identifying the produce in their weekly delivery box and offering recipe suggestions. CSA members can also post comments and questions directly to the blog.
An additional business goal may be marketing to potential new customers.
“Remember, everything you post to your blog can be read by a potential new customer, so you want to make sure your content reflects the message and image you want to portray about your farm,” advises Marion.
A third marketing goal may be educational outreach.
Do your current customers–or potential customers–need information to use or appreciate your product or service?
For example, potential customers might be interested in buying your grass-fed, pasture-raised beef because they heard it’s healthier, but they may need information on why this approach has less environmental impact and requires different cooking methods than conventionally raised beef.
A practical consequence of both personal and business blogs is that you end up with a detailed account of your farm venture.
This helps from an organizational perspective: You can look back to archived links and reread a posting from last spring to identify when you planted the potatoes or when that batch of chicks hatched. Blogs can be much easier to access and read than hand-scribbled farm notes.
Get your blog started today! (Get five tips and more advice on keeping it going>>)
About the Author: Lisa Kivirist is the co-author of ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance and is a W. K. Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow. She blogs weekly on food and agriculture issues for Green Options