By the end of this tutorial you will know how to set-up your farm website. Getting started online does not have to be hard, expensive, or time consuming. As a fellow farmer I know that we are always hurting for time and money. That is why I put this tutorial together with everything you need to know to set up an inexpensive website, quickly, but still have it look professional.
Do you need a farm website?
If you want to to grow your business in today's market you have to have at least a minimal online presence. For farmers I would say the bare-minimum is to have a website, and to have a Facebook page (Farm on Facebook video tutorial). Let everything else online continue to be just noise until you put those two things into action.
Through the farmers that I have talked to, and through my own experiences, I have been able to narrow down what type of internet presence really gives a good return on investment. Having a farm website is definitely one of those avenues.
The amount of information on the internet, and the amount of options you have to connect with your customers can be very overwhelming. Different "experts" will tell you the "best ways" to reach your particular demographic. The only problem is a lot of those "experts" are not making a living farming. They are not struggling with the same constraints of time that you and I are. It would be great to be able to check and update many social networks and keep an extensive blog from your office in corporate America, while you avoid the work you are supposed to be doing, but we simply don't have the time for that.
Just How Easy is Setting Up A Website?
In this video I create an entire farm website with four pages, in under four minutes.
Benefits of Having a Farm Website
That being said, some investment of time and mental energy goes a long way toward benefiting your agricultural business. Having a farm website benefits you in a lot of ways. It acts as a digital brochure letting people know what the story of your farm is, what you have to sell, and where they can go to get it. It gives you the opportunity to add value to your products, making consumers more likely to buy. It gives you a way to update all 300 of your CSA members at once without printing 300 fliers which is expensive. It increases your public visibility which will make you more likely to be found by newspapers, magazines, and other local press. The list continues, but you get the point. You are here to learn how.
- Update hundreds of people at the same time for little to no cost.
- Saves money in the long term!
- Drive traffic to your farm through digital marketing.
- Connect with your customers to build value into your products.
- Increase media exposure by ensuring tradtional media can find you. (print, TV, radio)
- Advertise new products. Market testing and cusomter feedback.
Options For Starting a Farm Website
Again with the options. So many options. There are a number of ways to start your farm website. Some of them are free, and some can be quite expensive. Some are quick, and some take a little time and skill. At the end of the day you are going to pick what is best for you, and that's fine with me. I just wanted to provide you with the knowledge and options, and you can take it from there.
Free Website Options
There are a number of free options. You can start a farm blog on Wordpress.com. Wordpress will let you sign up for a farm website for free with one caveat. Your site has to be "www.your-farm-name.wordpress.com". They are advertising their site right in your website URL. Same thing with starting a Blogger.com website. Your website will be "www.your-farm-name.blogspot.com".
With Wordpress you still have to learn how to create and edit posts and pages for your site. It is not a visual editor like the one I outline below. You can do it, and I will create a tutorial on it (it is what I use), but it will take more of your time, and you will have to know a little bit more technical stuff.
With how inexpensive it is to set up your own domain, and how much more professional it looks to have your own name I don't recommend the free route.
Paid Website Options
There are a number of paid website options out there. If you "Google" something like "starting a website" or "buying a domain" you will get a lot of different companies selling hosting and domain registration, and you will see many blogs talking about who is the best, and least expensive companies that do that.
The company that I suggest on this post is the company that I have used for years. Literally years. That is why I am recommending them. It's not a theory, I am a huge geek, and I have a lot of experience with them. That company is FatCow.
With the links on this page you can ensure that you get a screaming discount on their website hosting services. I am affiliate for them, and I earn a small commission by recommending them. I also get to offer you a discount for going through my website. I would only recommend them if I use them myself and was happy doing so. Also, you get a discount, it's a win-win-win situation.
I explain all about FatCow hosting in the videos below.
Other Paid Options
You may have heard of Small Farm Central. It is a company in Pennsylvania that offers farm website services at a relatively affordable price. I know several farmers that have gone this route and have been really happy. Small Farm Central offers website design and set-up, professional support, and some useful add-ons for farmers wanting to have a website and not have to learn a lot of coding and technical "stuff".
While it can still be affordable, it is way above hosting through FatCow. The most basic plan starts at $30 a month. With that higher price you do get service that is tailored to farmers, which is really what you are paying for. Depending on what "package" you buy you get more or less in terms of hosting space, special add ons, and file storage. Their plans and pricing on their website here: http://smallfarmcentral.com/plans
How to Quickly and Easily Set-Up Your Farm Website With Weebly
I have recorded almost an hour of video to help you get started on the internet. Not only that, I am giving it all to you FOR FREE!!! Why? Because my goal is to see small farms succeed. You need to be on top of the digital age, and you need to do it inexpensively and quickly. I know that if you watch all these videos you will be able to set up a website of your own.
If you already have a website there are definitely good things to glean from these videos. I discuss some simple Search Engine Optimization tips in the videos, as well as the benefits of having a website, and what should be on it.
If you get through watching everything and have any questions please feel free to leave your questions in the comments section at the end of this post. Chances are if you have a questions someone else does too. By leaving your questions in the comments section it allows me to answer them publicly so we can all benefit. And NO question is too simple or stupid. No such thing as a stupid question.
I could go on writing out step by step directions. However, I think the easiest way to show you how to do all of this is to show you. I have created almost an hour's worth of video to help you on your farm website journey. I hope it helps, and remember, I am open to any and all questions.
Farm Website Business Plan
In the first video I talk about the different types of farm business plans, and how having a website or web-presence works into them. There are three main types that agricultural businesses fit into.
Which do you think you fit into? Which do you want to fit into?
Registering Your Domain and Purchasing Hosting For Your Farm Website From FatCow
This video walks you through what exactly a domain and hosting is, and how you can register for both of them really easily. I use my own farm website to illustrate points,and then walk through the sign-up process on FatCow.
Have you thought about starting a website but you don't know what a domain is, or what hosting is? Confused by all the options out there? This video clears things up.
Accessing your Farm Website Through Your FatCow Control Panel
This video explains the FatCow Control Panel. There is a lot of information on that one page. I break down the elements of the page so you know where to focus your attentions, and what areas are pertinent to you. Trust me, it is easy. After a few times visiting this page you will be very comfortable with it and you'll know exactly where you need to go and what you have to do.
Scared of not being computer savvy? This website or "control panel" is very easy to use. I highlight the areas you need so you don't have to spend time searching.
The Easiest Way to Build Your Own Farm Website That I Know Of (and I am a huge geek!)
In this video we get your farm website started with the Weebly Website Builder. It is a visual "drag-and-drop" editor that has your site up and running in no time. As you watch me piece together a quick website you will see just how easy it is to do.
Four Pages You MUST Include on Your Farm Website
In this final video I explain what information is "must have" on your website. I illustrate my points using my own farm website FoodCyclist.com. I know this works because I am using it right now to sell CSA shares. You are certainly encouraged to create more than four pages, but this will give you a good place to start.
I also outline what those pages are right below this video so you don't have to take notes.
Is your farm website presenting the proper information? Have you made the mistake of having pages that say "coming soon"? Here's what you need to know.
Necessary Farm Website Pages:
This page should be a summary of your and your farm. It should be very apparent to the visitor where to find more information about you, about your farm, and how to contact you. Think if this as an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper where you have to sell your farm to a customer. Make it brief, to the point, visually appealing, and leave them wanting more.
You can see an example of my home page on my farm website: FoodCyclist.com
This page should have all of your contact information. Be sure to include your address, phone number, e-mail address, embed a Google Map so people can get directions to find you easier, and even put a contact form on this page for people to write to you right on your website. All of these elements are easily added with Weebly.
You can see my contact page for my farm website at: http://foodcyclist.com/contact/
About Us Page
This page should tell your story. The USDA is pumping a lot of money into the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" movement for farm marketing. Benefit from that marketing push. Your customers are buying into you as much as they are buying into your farm. This is your chance to share that story. Everyone has a good story. You may or may not think so because you know it so well, it is boring to you by now. Someone who has never met you is going to want to hear it. Take some time to write it down, and you will be surprised how many people are interested.
You can see my About Us page at: http://foodcyclist.com/your-farm/
This is your sales page. Let people know what you have, and when you have it. Be sure to describe your products. Get people interested, get their mouths watering.
You can see how detailed my products page is here: http://foodcyclist.com/pastured-chicken-csa/
Blog (optional depending on your goals and dedication)
I have seen a huge return on investment from keeping a blog through the years. It is a way for me to update many people at once. It makes the search engines happy. It is a good way for me to continually share information with cluttering up my website.
However, keeping a blog current is a lot of work. It is an investment on my part, or your part, but I know that it has paid off for me. Having a farm blog is up to you. I find it best when you have a farm intern or apprentice that is willing to upkeep the blog for the season.
What do you do now?
I hope that by now, if you do not already have a farm website, you have a more clear understanding on what it is going to take to create one. It doesn't have to take that long, and it can make a difference in your farm marketing efforts.
Once you have a website you can add it to your social media accounts, pos it on LocalHarvest.org, add it to your printed marketing materials, tell people at the farmers' markets, etc... Once it is up, you have to let people know it exists.
Here's the link again to make sure you get the discount on hosting through FatCow. It is my affiliate link, but I assure you, there is no extra cost to you, and I only add the link because I use it myself and I can recommend it.
Thank you for taking the time to read through the tutorial and for watching all of the videos. I hope it helps. If there is anything else you would like me to create a tutorial on, let me know, I am open to suggestions.
Remember if you have an questions, leave them in the comments section below. That way everyone can benefit from my answers.