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.