Here’s the thing—your farm has to make money. That is, if you want a farm tax ID number, your farm needs to produce income at some point. And you do want that number, because it exempts farm purchases from taxation and makes you eligible to receive certain grants. You don’t have to show a profit (thank goodness—farming doesn’t often put you in the black), but there’s no reason you shouldn’t make as much money as you can in the pursuit of farm income. Marketing helps this happen.
Whether you grow tulips, turnips or tenderloins, consider taking your farm product to the farmers’ market. Also take a few extra steps toward marketing your market stand to new and existing customers. In this modern age, myriad ways exist to share the story of your farm and keep stakeholders in the loop for little to no investment other than a computer and an internet connection.
1. Make a Website
It has never been easier to build and maintain an attractive website for your business as a marketing tool, with web-based templates readily available. And many of the services are free to use with a domain that includes the service’s name. Two good examples of free web hosting services are Weebly and WordPress, which offer no-cost service levels. If you’d like to step up to sell CSAs or reserve items online, Squarespace offers low-cost, easy-to-use online retail services.
What should you put on your website? A simple blog can help people follow along with your farm’s seasonal goings-on while keeping customers up to date on what products you’ll have available at the next market. An “About Us” page can help customers feel more connected to you, their farmer, and a page dedicated to recipes gives market shoppers ideas for using your farm products. And an image gallery is a must—people love farm photos.
2. Use Social Media and Email
Sure, some people believe (and not without merit) that social media is an evil scourge of our time, but it’s a necessary evil if you aim to attract and engage market customers. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the big three, but you can choose which platforms work best for your marketing efforts in the form of farm communications. On our farm, we use Facebook extensively to communicate with customers. We post updates and use the service as a way to let curious customers ask us questions. Our Instagram page has been a wonderful way to share our hard work and happy days with people.
We also have an email address, which we use to send newsletters to folks who sign up to receive them. Here, again, things are easy and free—SendInBlue and MailChimp help you easily manage subscribers and compose and send email messages. Newsletters don’t have to be exhaustive, either—this isn’t the family Christmas card. A weekly reminder of your market schedule will suffice, and short updates about farm events can be fun for customers. Look up some best practices for communications if you want maximum results through use of active language and appropriate calls to actions.
3. Shoot Video
You can’t scroll through your Facebook feed for longer than a minute without encountering a video. That’s because video is an optimal tool for engaging customers and a great tool for marketing. You don’t need a film school degree to make a fun little farm video—just pull out your phone and hit “record” when the chickens are acting silly or the flowers are dancing in the wind. You can upload your video as-is or learn a little video editing to fancy things up. (Some computers even come with movie software installed.)
Slideshows are another effective way to share words and images from around the farm. Rocketium and Lumen5 are free and intuitive platforms that let registered users upload photos, add text and choose music. With this material, the site generates a video that can be shared on social media or your farm website.