Using Online Marketing to Build Resilience
Offering guidance on how to sell online to help build your farm’s resilience through this pandemic.
Many of you have already geared up to be doing sales differently this year. Whether you are running your farmers market booth with new physical distancing practices, or have joined with other farmers to sell your products via direct delivery, you are doing the work of building resilience.
For some, the idea of selling online may seem out of reach. Yet, there are some small steps you can take to get the word out on what you grow and sell. Are you listed on your county and region’s “Buy Local” websites? Your local cooperative extension office can help you find these lists (for those in NY, see our local contact list of CCE educators). Many farmers are reporting an uptick in calls they are receiving because they are listed on these types of websites. We provide a few examples below, but there may be others that are working well in your local area.
A few weeks ago we shared some marketing resources to help with building resilience in the face of COVID-19. We wanted to do a deeper dive into online selling platforms. Below you will find an overview of what these platforms offer for services, costs for use and benefits suggested by the company. We offer these for your information but do not endorse any specific platform.
Please share your experiences with us! If you are using one of these platforms, we would love to hear your review. We will collate your stories and comments to share these in a few weeks. Your experiences will help others think through which platform might best work for their situation.
We will continue to update our farm resilience resource page as new information becomes available.
Resources on Selling Online and Doing Direct Delivery
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released Guidance for Home Delivery by Grocery Stores and E-Commerce Stores on March 29, 2020.
Erica Frenay, online course coordinator and livestock specialist at the Cornell Small Farms Program, recently wrote about how farmers can think through what type of online sales tools would work for their farm (Summer 2019 issue of the Small Farms Quarterly). It is especially relevant today as we all consider how to reach current and new customers.
For a more comprehensive list of online sales platforms, the National Young Farmers Coalition created a “Farmer’s Guide to Direct Sales Software Platforms.”
Oregon Tilth hosted a webinar about online sales platforms for direct-to-consumer sales. Hear from representatives from four online food sales platforms and see the list of common questions when considering online sales.
The Niche Meat Processors Association Network hosted a webinar on considerations for selling meat online, with guest presenters from three operations around the country.
Local Line shared quick tips on using email, social media and word of mouth to promote online sales in their guide on “How to Launch and Promote Your Market’s Online Store in Under Three Days.”
Online Farmer Lists and Marketing Directories
Buy Local Food NY: This directory connects local farms and food with consumers within New York State. You can search by distance, growing methods used, or by the product you’re looking for.
Harvest Connection: Harvest Connection connects farms and families throughout Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Washington counties. You can search by distance or product and it has an “ask a farmer” feature as well.
Market Maker: This database connects markets and food sources from farm and fishery to fork. This is not a sales platform, but any farm can create a free profile.
Meat Suite: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County provides MeatSuite to farmers and consumers in New York as a free service. MeatSuite has online ordering capabilities and local farms can create their own farm profile.
ripeCommunity: This is a directory of food businesses serving the local community during the COVID-19 crisis. The goal is to connect those providing food (restaurants, farms, farm businesses, grocery stores) to community members who need food and ingredients during this unprecedented time.
Online Platforms for Direct Sales
Barn2Door is designed to increase farm sales with pickups, meetups, delivery or shipping and plans have features like invoices and order reminders.
- Coronavirus page includes many free resources
- One-time $299-399 set up fee depending on package
- Depending on the package, fees range from $69/month paid monthly; $59/month paid yearly to $119/month paid monthly; $99/month paid yearly
Cropolis is a software to manage and grow restaurant and wholesale sales, and farmers market sales. This software can accept mobile payments.
- Three plan options ranging from $29/month to $99/month
CSAware is a software to manage your farm CSA: schedule deliveries, membership management, schedule deliveries, and more.
- 2% of cost of delivery fee/month, only months when delivering and $100 min.
Eat from Farms is a New York based company aiding in direct sales by directly integrating their software into your website or hosting a website on their platform.
- The signup cost is $36. That covers the account fee for the first four months. After, $9/month, plus 1-2% of sales (depending on volume)
- Responsive and personable tech support
Farmers Web helps farmers inform their buyers of product availability, handle orders, send invoices, keep track of payments, simplify customer interactions, and more.
- Offers a free basic plan and an unlimited plan for $75/month
- First month free when you upgrade from the basic plan
Farmigo provides software for CSAs and Food Hubs. Their farm directory shows NY farmers using the service.
- Pricing is 2% of deliveries ($150 per/month minimum), only charged during months when you are delivering
Graze Cart allows users to build a website, host online sales, set-up deliveries and more. They also have some free marketing resources, including a Marketing Makeover online course.
- $79/month as listed, but only $59/month if paid YEARLY in lump sum. All plans include the website starter guide for free.
- Free 14 day trial
Harvie provides CSA members customized shares, flexible share sizes and flexible weeks. The software has customer-friendly features to aid farmers with the logistics of customized shares.
- $500, one-time set-up fee with 90-day money back guarantee
- $0 monthly payment; 7% transaction fee
- Contact for a demo and to work through a cost-benefit analysis with the team.
- Starting point:
- Growing or sourcing at least 95% of share from local producers
- Minimum $25,000/year goal in sales
- 5+ years growing experience
- FSMA/GAP certifications suggested
HarvestHand is a CSA management software to build local food communities by offering online payments for CSA shares, a website management platform, and CSA membership management.
- Free to try
Local Orbit offers sales and business management tools for local food aggregators, distributors, and producers. In addition to their software, they offer some free advice in their Local Food Distribution Tool Kit.
- Offers three plans ranging from $70/month to $450/month
- Refunds offered within 30 days of purchase
Local Food Marketplace was founded 12 years ago and serves 5,000 farmers in the U.S. They have a NYS office, with a big portion of their customer base on the East Coast. Their software helps you to plan, sell, and distribute local food, including features like planning production, harvest lists, packing lists, invoices, and payments.
- Set-up $499-$999
- Monthly $79-$149
- Offers a free trial
- Three plans ranging from $14.99/month to $79.99/month
Locallygrown.net is appropriate for selling at a traditional farmers’ market with many other vendors or using a small email list to market produce off your farm, you can host a website for your farm on their platform.
- Free set-up, no monthly fee
- 3% of your completed sales are paid on your own schedule to the developer
Shopify is not a food or agriculture specific website, but it can be integrated into a Facebook page to create sales for farms who may have a Facebook page and not a website. Additionally, you can host stores as a website on Shopify.
- 90 day free trial due to COVID-19
- Three monthly plans ranging from $29.99/month to $299/month
WhatsGood Online Farmers’ Market is currently being used in Otsego and Schoharie counties. These community partners host drop-sites where, on the designated exchange day during the morning hours, farmers deliver products that have been ordered; during the afternoon hours, customers pick up their orders. Farmers can set up a free profile, without transaction fees, and begin to upload their products, size, and quantity.
- Local contacts:
Wildkale.com is an online farmers market where the farmers can sell and ship directly to the surrounding residents within 300 miles from the farm. There are no upfront costs to sign up, and farmers set their own retail pricing. Farmers are in direct communication with the retail consumers and can customize order cut off times, and days they ship on.
- Service fee of 25% to subsidize the shipping cost, cover processing fees and other costs.
- Minimum of $35 per order.