Why Do You Need a Farm Website?
Your farm website is one of your best tools for your business. If you are a farmer, or any local food business, you need a website!
Having a farm website may not seem worthwhile when you sell at the farmers market and find your customers there. However, you don’t control that market, or the weather. Having your own farm website means you can find your own customers without depending on outside factors.
Thanks to weather (and pandemic) influences, a business cannot depend on the farmers markets, or their customers, to be available at all times. Plus, if you plan to grow your business, a farm website is invaluable to reach more customers.
In my research to build my foodshed map, I have learned a lot about the farms and markets in the Baltimore area. I know that I’ve missed many, as not everyone is online.
Some farms have chosen to go online with Facebook, which works for a small business to help them update their customers. However, that means they are at the mercy of Facebook. If it goes down, or the algorithm changes, or Facebook kicks them off, they may lose the customer base they have built up.
Building your own farm website means you look more professional. You can better organize the information for your customers on your website, and can build a mailing list so you can better communicate with your customers.
Through my research to find farms and markets, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to an online presence. Some have a farm website, others stick with Facebook exclusively, and I know there are many who have nothing at all.
Some farmers markets websites list their vendors each week, but the majority don’t. Many of the markets don’t list their vendors at all. Sadly, the market closest to me, Severna Park, doesn’t even have a website. Their Facebook is limited to those who have an Facebook account, which means those not on Facebook cannot see their updates.
Getting your business online isn’t hard. You can start with a Facebook page, and many farms have one. Ideally, you have somewhere easily accessible on your Facebook page where you are located, where you sell, and when.
On Facebook, you should post something regularly about going to the market and what you are offering that week. If you haven’t posted since 2018, your business looks closed.
If you want to stick to Facebook only, I recommend you add the locations of your farmers markets on your logo or main image. That way it’s easy for anyone to see exactly where they will see you that year. You want customers to know where to find you!
However, be aware that Facebook usage is going down, at least for users under age 55. Who are your customers? Are they older or younger?
In addition, you don’t control Facebook, and they can shut you down or change their terms of service at any time. Having your own website is the best way to control your business online. A simple farm website is all you really need.
With your website, you can continue using Facebook for all your updates, but having a small website that talks about you, your farm, and how people can find you is a smart move.
What to Put on a Farm Website?
A farm website does not have to be complicated! Andy’s Eggs and Poultry is a great example of a simple website. He has all the important details on there – contact information, pricing, what he sells, and where. He links to Facebook for all his updates.
Andy’s site is simple, to the point, and all most farms really need. Updating via Facebook will let people know the latest news about your farm and products.
Chase’s Produce is a more complex website for those that want to add more information. I like how they add a map to help find them, and testimonials from other customers.
Adding photos and recipes can really help your site look professional. Chase’s Produce has people come to their farm, so listing their rules is very helpful.
Pleasant Hill Farm also does a local foods website right. The front page tells you how to sign up for their CSA, which markets they sell at, and how to sign up for their mailing list.
Pleasant Hill’s CSA page lists what you get, and if you click on their sign up you can see where pickup points are. It’s very important to tell your customers where they can get your food! Knowing there is a pickup location that is close to your customer even if you aren’t near can mean more customers for you.
When setting up your CSA season, if you don’t know where your pick up options will be, you should still give a potential range. The Baltimore area is big! Don’t let your customers think you won’t deliver near them.
Pleasant Hill also offers information about when things will be harvested, to help their customers know what they can buy.
One Straw Farm also lists where you can get their food. They offer preorders at the farmers markets they attend as well as a long list of pickup locations on their site for their CSA. Their harvest calendar looks great, as do their faqs.
All of the four previous sites are great examples of how to do a great farm website. However, one thing they all lack is a way to sign up for a mailing list.
Having a mailing list means you can send information directly to your customers to tell them when you will be selling, where, what changes you have made, and to remind them about your business.
If something happens to Facebook, or you stop selling at a venue, you want control of how you communicate that to your customers. That way they are your customers, not Facebook’s, or the market’s.
Thanks to COVID, I’ve had farms that had a mailing list able to contact me directly about how to find them, to preorder, and whether they had problems with supplies.
How to Build a Farm Website
Ready to create your own website? There are many resources out there to help you do it easily. A simple site, like Andy’s, should work well for any farm that sells to markets.
Website Setup is a fairly easy site to help non technical people figure it out.
To start your farm website, you first must pick your domain. This is something like www.yourfarm.com. Search online to see if what you want to use is already being used or not.
After you choose your domain name, you need to find hosting. I use GreenGeeks. Your hosting company will be where you pay for your domain name, and for the ability to put your website on their servers. Once you have hosting and a domain name, anyone can find your website.
Now that your website exists, you need to build it. I’m old, and started learning to code websites back in the 90s. Fortunately, now you don’t need to know any code at all to build your website.
I recommend that you set up a WordPress site for your farm website. How to Make a WordPress Website is a great resource to help you navigate domains, hosting, and how to use WordPress.
In WordPress, you can choose a theme to use as the basis of your website. There are a ridiculous amount of them. I recommend you look at the most popular (they have the most support) and pick one that looks best to you.
Once you have set up wordpress and your theme, you should be able to practically drag and drop anything into your site. You will want to make sure you add the following information:
- Your Contact Information – address, email, phone (if you want), social media
- Your Products – talk about what you sell
- Your Locations – where and when you sell
- You – tell them about your farm, your family, your process
- Your Pricing – if it is useful
- Your Blog, Facebook, or Mailing List – so you can update customers
As your business grows, you might want to add more information to your farm website. You could add photos, or testimonials from your customers. You can update your customers, add rules for visiting, or different ways to buy your food. Maybe a map, recipes, a list of what you grow.
Always add a place for your customers to sign up for your mailing list! Then you control how you communicate with them. Mailchimp is a popular option for small websites.
Marketing Your Farm Website
Start by telling the Baltimore Foodshed about your farm website! I want to have the most up to date information here. Please tell me how I can add your farm and website to the Baltimore Foodshed map!
Even if you don’t have a website, tell me anyway. I want everyone to find you. If you aren’t online, it’s hard for me to find you, and definitely harder for your customers as well.
Tell your customers about your new site. Link to it on Facebook. Get some business cards printed up. If you attend a market that has a website, ask them to put your site on theirs. Mention your site when you talk with people online or off.
Don’t underestimate the power of information for your customers. You may find they seek you out if they learn more about your farm. Other markets might come calling. Control how you connect with your customers online!