Social Media Helps North Carolina Farms Grow
Jones County Farm Bureau member Rebecca Scott keeps close tabs on how much customers “like” what she and her husband, Trent, grow on their certified organic produce operation. Whether it’s through Facebook, interaction via the farm’s website or email messages, the Scotts are harnessing what’s available online to reach customers in New Bern, Jacksonville and beyond.
“We learned that we really didn’t have to spend a bunch of money to advertise since there was so much we could do online through Facebook, our website and email,“ Rebecca Scott says. “We didn’t spend much on business cards or flyers or mailers. We just do pretty much everything online.”
In January 2007, the Scotts turned a portion of the farm that’s been cultivated by their family since 1835 into a certified organic produce operation with beets, turnips, sugar snap peas, herbs, onions, leeks, radishes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, okra, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, slicing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, beans, sweet corn and sweet potatoes.
Diversity in the vegetables they offer is one of the elements Rebecca Scott tries to promote in the email messages she sends out regularly to a customer base that’s grown partially through consumers doing online searches.
“People have learned that we’re the only certified organic farm in this area,” Rebecca Scott says. “They know if you’re certified you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. They can trust that what they’re getting from us is organic, and it’s locally grown – probably within 10 miles of where they live.”
With a full-time job off the farm and a child, Rebecca Scott says she has to manage her time. And the flexibility of using online methods she learned through dialogue in the North Carolina Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program helps tremendously.
“It’s very easy for me to email someone or send messages back and forth on Facebook,” Rebecca Scott says. “If it’s at night and late, I can still do a lot of that stuff.”
Just like determining which crop is going to grow best, Rebecca Scott acknowledged that getting the farm’s website up and running efficiently took some effort. “But now we keep it updated with pictures, articles and anything we try to do. Getting it started initially took some time, but now a few years later, it’s really easy,” she says.
Wayne County Farm Bureau member Jennifer Britt agrees about the value of a website. Jennifer and her husband, Vernon, sell through several community supported agriculture programs, including a market at Duke University. They also fill boxes for subscribers who sign up online and pick up the produce at locations in Research Triangle Park, Holly Springs, Cary, North Raleigh, Goldsboro and Pikeville.
“You have to be very inventive and a website is one of the best ways,” Jennifer Britt says. “If you don’t have a website, you’re fighting from behind.”
Both Rebecca Scott and Jennifer Britt post links to their websites on marketing sites that support organic farming, CSAs and more. For them, getting the word out online is like planting a seed and watching it grow.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of time,” Rebecca Scott says. “Get your name and your face out there any way you can. That way people can go back to your website and learn more about the farm and what you do and what you believe—good family farming.”