The world has changed substantially in the past 25 years. Not too long ago sharing a photograph with a friend would take days if not weeks. Think about it, first you take the photo, then you must have the film developed, and finally you must send the actual photo through the mail for the friend to receive it. Now, in our technology charged environment, we can simply take a photo with a phone and send a text message or an email of the photo instantly. Marketing for small farmers has changed substantially as well. There are so many avenues which can be used through new technologies. The internet has opened a whole new world to the small farmer, and it can be a very good thing.
Facebook has exploded from the “college student only” network to a worldwide networking hub. It is used by more than one billion people, with 81 percent of those being outside the US and Canada (http://newsroom.fb.com/Key-Facts). Some in rural agriculture community have been more reluctant to partake in the new facebook society, but it can be a very useful tool. You can use Facebook for reaching people on a daily basis and also to reach outside of your normal circles of interaction. For example, with the local foods movement there are many people starving for as much local produce as they can buy. If they do not know where to buy it, the first place many will go is the internet with Facebook and Google searches. Use this tool to communicate with your customers; to let them know what is going on at the farm, and to market your products. Here is a great article describing the ways you can use Facebook to market your agriculture business.
Florida MarketMaker is another tool that can be effectively used for reaching your customers through the internet. The MarketMaker system is a partnership of Land Grant institutions and the Departments of Agriculture in various States. Currently the system is up and running in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Its purpose is to introduce and sustain producer/purchaser relationships. There are three main services that MarketMaker provides:
- Demographic Research – sourced from the US Census and State Data, anyone can create a demographic map on several variables. Maps can be made on Age, Race, Household Type, Income, Education, Nationality, and Food Preferences. The advantage a producer gains from access to these maps is the ability to target markets based on preferences and consumer knowledge. This can assist farmers looking to expand their market or ones looking for information on what to produce.
- Business Directory- serves as a central listing of producers, restaurants, distributors, purchasers, processors, and others involved in the food chain. Listings can be maintained by each organization to represent their preferences. The advantage a producer gains from the directory is that it acts as an incubator for online presence, as well as a link to any existing online accounts. Also producers can be found by name, type or listed by location on a map, helping those interested in the business to contact them easily.
- Buy and Sell Forum- works as a classifieds for products, equipment and services related to food. This helps producers and purchasers connect through a common, interactive database. Listings can be sorted nationally, by state or keyword.
For more information on Florida MarketMaker or Facebook as marketing tools email Santa Rosa County Commercial Horticulture Agent – Blake Thaxton at firstname.lastname@example.org.