The original home based business – the local farm – is experiencing a renaissance. And today, the internet is the new farmers’ market for some of the emerging heirloom, artisan and organic new small and micro farms. Small farm consultants say a farm’s web presence is as important today as a telephone was long ago.
Here are some major ways small and micro farms can improve their websites.
Tips for building or improving farm websites:
Let the world know where “the lake” is. If you were from Wisconsin traveling to Maine searching for a Maine u-pick blueberry farm, and you came to a blueberry farm’s website that said, “We’re on Road 68, turn left on Garrett just past the lake,” would that tell you if you’d found a Maine u-pick? What state? What country? Too many farm websites make the mistake of reading as though everyone who goes online is their neighbor. That potential customer will leave and find a u-pick blueberry farm that tells them what country, what state, and only then does it help to know which county and road the farm is on.
Your first main page (the landing page) should have beautiful images, and briefly summarize: who (your farm), what (what benefits await the customer), where (see above), why (what’s special about your farm), and how (a “buy from us” section leading to pages with driving directions, product descriptions and prices, opening days, online ordering, calendar of events… However you sell, make it easy for them to find out how to buy from you directly from the landing page).
Deeper into your farm website, offer a history and story of the farm, and your farmer’s blog. These are especially important for retaining loyalty from customers you already have, and can sometimes also help win over the hearts of new customers.
Also deeper in, give lists and descriptions of how your farm benefits the environment, local economy, community, and/or preserves heritage, regardless of organic certification. Organic certification became so paperwork-heavy and expensive for smaller diversified farms, that some small farms have opted out and instead are just listing what they do that’s positive for the environment and community, and it’s proving very popular with customers. (You can do this even if you’re certified). One farmer lists the wild native birds that live on his eco-friendly farm. Other examples include listing positive soil amendment practices, your traditional methods for making apple butter, how you hire local senior citizens for your farmstand, etc.
If there are other non-competing farms in your area, consider a page that cross-links with them. If you sell heirloom vegetables, cross-link with a local organic apple orchard, a nearby goat dairy and a farm that sells free-range pastured eggs.
Maintain your own independent url and website to protect from cancel culture and closure of online shopping sites . Even if you use social media or have fill-in-the-blank webpages on a site that hosts pages for many farmers or local businesses, try for at least a small and simple independently hosted website using your own independently owned website name. If you become too dependent on Facebook or YouTube, for example, they could cancel your entire existance at any moment with no recourse if too many unknown viewers complain about your content. A site operated by your regional agriculture extension that displays a free page for all regional farmers can be wonderful, but if they lose funding and have to close it, or decide you're offering too many arts and crafts and not enough farmed products to be included, you could lose your presence that way, also. These online locations can be secondary and beneficial while they last, but emphasize your own web address when promoting your farm rather than sending viewers to these secondary sites, and maintain an independent site that only you decide whether to keep it up, remove it, or change it.
Possibly rewrite a few lines on your landing and other pages so people using search engines can find you via keyword searches. Though it’s fun, romantic, and good literary skill to call your fresh organic Maine blueberries, “juicy drops of indigo sweetness,” when people are searching for organic Maine blueberries, they don’t type in “juicy drops of indigo sweetness,” they type in “organic Maine blueberries.” So make sure you use the keywords your potential customers would type into search engines to make sure the search engines can then find you. Put them naturally within your content without saying them so many times that it has the opposite effect, and search engines see it as keyword stuffing.
Scrap everything said here if... you already have customers or know a target demographic very well, and you know their needs are unique to what was described above. The rules just described are very helpful for many farm websites. But there are always exceptions to the rule. If you serve a large group that hates pretty images, for example, then accommodate.