NYT: Marketing Your Business With Facebook

A great article on getting started as a small business on Facebook was in the NY Times today, was the “Most Emailed”.  Follow these words of wisdom, and you’ll make a good showing.


After you read the article, keep in mind that with Internet Farmer’s Newsletter Blog, you can automatically update your Facebook page, as well as MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social network, at the same time as posting to your blog.

Open-Source Software Comes To The White House

This is far from a political blog, but in this article from the NY Times today, I was THRILLED to see that WhiteHouse.gov is now run by the open-source software package called Drupal.

For me as the Internet Farmer, I love open-source. The software is free, and after using it for over 15 years I’m pretty good at helping clients use it.  It is the basis of most of my business.  Without it, I would have no choice but to charge high fees that farmers may not afford.  Using free software allows me to focus on service, and that is what client’s pay for.

Personally, I don’t use Drupal.  It’s a much larger package than me or my clients need in most cases.  I keep it simple by using two open-source packages that do most of what anyone needs. I use WordPress for my Blog Newsletter, and Zen Cart for E-commerce.  That covers 95% of what anyone needs for their website(s).

What is “open-source software”?

You can find the details of what open-source software is technically here.  It can be quite technical and focus on distribution and the code itself, when you get down to it.  For me, the keys to open-source are these simple principles:

  • It’s free to download and use
  • You can change the code to make improvements as long as you are willing to share those changes
  • We all benefit from the improvements that we and others make

It’s a real do-it-yourself thing, and it is supported by thousands of programmers and users around the world.  People writing software like this are literally giving back by letting the community use, and improve upon, their software.  That last part is key… improve upon.

When you make the software better and share it with people, we are all better off for it. I think that idea goes a long way here.  Not much different than two farmers sharing ideas is it?

If you are ready to start using open-source software, contact me today, or start some discussion below.

Common Ground Fair 2009

My friend Tim and I decided to ride our bikes to the fair from Portland. It was great, but more difficult that most rides because of our camping gear and clothes.  Loved every second of it!

Working with MOFGA, I was able to create a new volunteer job for myself. As the Internet Farmer might do, we wanted to record some speakers who discussed topics in areas that MOFGA does not have a regular specialist for so that anyone can learn.  Being the Internet Farmer, I of course agreed, and hope to see a podcast of this great material someday.

Enjoy the photos and recordings…

The audio files are in a very raw form, and each is about one hour. There is several minutes of dead air at the beginning of a couple of recordings, so be patient or click on the bar to fast forward a bit.

Michael Phillips – Home Orchard Basics


Download MP3

Will Bonsall – Backyard Grain


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Will Bonsall – Food Legumes


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Russ Conrad – Current State of Beekeeping: Organic Solutions for Healthy Hives


Download MP3

Charles Yelton – Permaculture Principles


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Mark Fulford – Plants, Minerals & Biology: an Inseperable Relationship


Download MP3

Constructo-tweeting from the MTA

An article written yesterday in the NY Times made mention of what the Internet Farmer will call a “fantastic use of Twitter”.

The article points out a great reason for the MTA to be using Twitter.  Actually, two reasons:

  1. To communicate quickly with a large number of people
  2. To be transparent with the tax-payers who pay for the system

Are these the only good reasons to Tweet?  No.  But they are two VERY good ones.

The first point is about solving a problem. The MTA is a public utility that hundreds of thousands of people use each day.  There are accidents and changes that keep MTA workers busy, with little time to properly communicate the changes to those thousands headed for the subways at 5pm.  Using Twitter, many of those people could be alerted of alternate routes and the reason for the issue.  As a commuter, that knowledge is the power to get home on time.

For the MTA, it’s the ability to notify a large audience for the time it takes to write a memo, which in turn creates a safer and more fluid environment among the chaos of New York City.

Will everyone in New York City get that notification on Twitter? No.  But lots will, and the major congestion can be avoided.  It’s a win-win situation.

Let’s also take a quick look at the second point.

Again, the MTA is traditionally a large and not so friendly organization from the outside looking in.  By using Twitter to discuss the details of construction and other news of what they are doing to solve problems, they make themselves public. I think we can all agree that when someone, or an organization, is more upfront about how and why things happen, we are more likely to be tolerant when trouble strikes.  So for the MTA, opening some communication can only help, and I think Twitter folks in NYC are happy to hear them.

The MTA claims to only be experimenting with using Twitter now, but with the growth of iPhones and smart phones that make Twitter available anytime, the Internet Farmer thinks they’ve found a great way to use the medium and should proceed. But to really give them advice, having a blog with an RSS feed that publishes to any of these services including your own website is the key to doing it all in one keystroke. (anyone can do this with the Internet Farmer’s Blog Newsletter Publisher)

For me in Portland, I’m on the Parking Ban email list, so I get an email when there is a parking ban in the city.  Without making a call, or guessing, I get the note and move on accordingly.  Personally, I like getting emails, but I believe they publish the same information on Facebook and Twitter as well.  So you can get it any way that works for you, and that’s a great thing.

In looking at my own behavior, the point would be that each of these techniques for publishing is in fact a specific channel, just like TV or radio. In the end, the best chance for you to succeed in today’s business world if you have a lot of customers is to be everywhere your customers are, and give them the choice of how to consume what you have to say.  That said, even the Internet Farmer is headed for Twitter eventually, but not today. :)

Are you Tweeting?  What are you Tweeting about?  Is it personal or business?  Share your stories with the Internet Farmer and those who read this blog.

E-commerce & Small Farms

iStock_000004261337XSmallWhen I started working on a farm, it started becoming clear to me that selling online would make a great addition to the local food system. My farmer thought I was crazy.  The most basic reason why… because an online catalog can be doing all the work for me while I’m out working in the field or selling at a farmer’s market or farm stand.  There’s plenty of other reasons to, which depend on what type of sales structure you work with.  Here are some specific thoughts on the major venues of sales for smaller farms.

Farmer’s who have a farm stand or sell at retail in some form will find that e-commerce can directly translate online with an unmanned store taking orders 24/7.  Like a farm stand of your wares, you’ll have a website ready to accept orders using credit cards or purchase orders for pickups.  Your catalog is always up to date and allows customers to place orders without you having to take the call while you are planting a cover crop, harvesting, or making jams.  This applies to both retail and wholesale, as the system of shopping or putting in a purchase order is essentially the same when you automate it online.

For CSAs, displaying your catalog online gives prospective share holders an idea of what to expect for the season.  Some CSAs may benefit from actually selling products as well, so it can suit both purposes, and change as needed.  But selling online may not always be about a money exchange either, especially for CSAs or farmers who just want an easier way to communicate details of their farming.  Sometimes it’s marketing and communications, where you’ll want a blog and a newsletter to enhance the relationship with your members.  It’s all a part of doing e-commerce.

For Farmer’s Markets, groups of farmers and producers all share a single shopping cart can easily offer online ordering for customers to pick up on the day of the market.  The sale is complete before you harvest and carry it all to market, and you’ll have less waste since much of your selling was pre-ordered.  This is starting to happen around the country, and is a wonderful addition to business, and is part of e-commerce for farming.

For Buying Clubs, an online ordering system allows many people to order as groups.  This is a new and developing markets that can let farmers create their own markets, but certainly lives in the realm of e-commerce techniques, and the Internet Farmer is well versed to help you understand this an other emerging ideas online.