What makes a good website?

By Cory Dambach, Sponsored by Back Forty Creative

Today, a website is one of the most important forms of communication a business can implement. In fact, nearly two-thirds of small businesses rely on websites to connect with customers.1 However, a bad website is like a cranky salesperson who hasn’t had their caffeine yet.

Would you want to deal with that?

Assuming your answer is no, we agree! In today’s ever-growing online world, it’s not just about having a website, but having a good website (and in our preference, a really, really good website).

farmer on computer

But what makes a website good? Great question, because it has an easy answer. A good website achieves its goals. The real art to website development is in how you get from a blank page to a strategically thought-out website designed to realize those goals. Any successful web project is going to go through pretty much the same process, but we like to start off by finding answers to the following questions. 

Why do you want a website? 

Who is your target audience?

What do you want from that audience?

How much are you willing to invest to get your audience to do the thing you want them to do?

The better answers we can get to these questions, the better the end product will be. From there, designers and developers take that information, run with it and construct an experience tailored to achieve the identified goals. 

How do we do that? It really depends on what the goals are, but usually we’ll keep the following ideas in mind. 

Back Forty Creative contest

User Experience

A good website should be easy to use. In almost every case, you are asking your visitors to do something. It might be to buy a product, visit your store or engage with your content, but in every case, it’s the job of a high-quality website to make that engagement as easy as possible. Your site should be understandable to the user, even at a glance; this usually falls into place once a clear navigation is developed and calls to actions are placed throughout the site. Your customers won’t spend time hunting around for the things they need. If good user experience is not considered, the user will simply move on to the next site in their search results that can better help them achieve their end goal. 

Appealing Design

A good website should be attractive and professional looking. Have you ever judged a book by its cover? Same thing applies here.

A well-considered, tailored design communicates confidence to the user and heightens a brand’s credibility. If you were to put two websites with similar content next to each other, the better-looking site will grab the conversion every time. Even if the products on the less attractive site are of higher quality, the more professional looking site will be more successful simply due to user indifference. They don’t know what makes your product better than the competition — you have to tell them, and, in most cases, you don’t have much time to convey this. This is what good design does. It helps make your case to the user about why your product or service is worth your audience’s time. Often, web design is about projecting clarity. This is who we are, this is what we do, this is why you should care about it. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO must also be considered in well-thought-out websites. SEO allows a website owner to understand how consumers are searching and finding information about their own brand and their competitors online. Good websites incorporate SEO practices to help increase visibility, visits and rankings. Fresh and engaging content also helps with this. Updating your site with featured news, a weekly blog or connecting social media channels can also help enhance your SEO efforts.

Efficient Development

Last, but definitely not least, a website needs to work correctly. That seems obvious, but you would be surprised how often this gets overlooked. This is the part where attention to detail matters. Does the site load well on mobile, even when you are out in the field? Do all of the buttons work well on your device? Is the information clean, clear and understandable? Every detail is important. Good websites do this well.

No matter what, everything comes back to the same concept in the end. Good websites achieve their goals.


  1. https://espresso.digital/small-business-website-statistics/

Are you looking for a good website? We would love to assist you in growing your brand. To help simplify the process, we have a variety of web design and development packages to choose from, but also offer customization if you’re looking for something fantastically unique. So, give us a call today! (This is a call to action — something else all good websites need to have.)

Back Forty Creative contest

What is sponsored content?

This article is sponsored content, also known as native advertising. That means that a sponsoring company wrote the article and paid for placement. However, instead of the information in a traditional ad, the information in a sponsored article is relevant to a specific topic, in which the sponsoring company is an expert. If you’d like to learn more about Acres U.S.A. and native advertising, visit our advertising page here, or call us at 1-800-355-5313.

Food Hubs Connect Growers, Consumers

By Lauren Turner

Across the country, small to medium-sized farms are forming regional wholesale food hubs to market, aggregate and distribute locally produced food from farms to restaurants, hospitals, schools, universities, grocery stores and other institutions.

These hubs help level the playing field with the competition from cheap, industrial produce trucked long distances, while benefiting the environment by reducing fuel emissions. They help bring communities together, furthering USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, and strengthening the farm to table connection.

The Puget Sound Food Hub (PSFH) serves Western Washington. PSFH is a farmer-owned cooperative operating in the Puget Sound region. It was originally conceived of and started by the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), a nonprofit that works collaboratively with farmers and businesses to increase the economic viability of local agriculture.

psfh tomatoes
Tomatoes sold through the Puget Sound Food Hub.

In 2009 NABC reached out to a dozen local area farmers and recruited them to form the Skagit Wholesale Market, which started by selling their produce at a farmers’ market located under a highway overpass in Mount Vernon, Washington. The farmers came together because they knew there was strength in numbers. They knew they could access the market together where everything would be handled by one entity.

NABC gradually transformed this effort from a physical wholesale market to one that was more easily accessible to Western Washington wholesalers. NABC helped PSFH find buyers who value local produce and would identify the farms by name on their menus, develop an online ordering system, source freezer storage and develop an aggregated delivery system, saving farmers time and money. The goal was to help create the system so that the farmers could then own and operate it. A big turning point was bringing the marketplace online and making the delivery a seamless process for farmers.

Puget Sound Food Hub

NABC operated the PSFH for four years, managing it as a service that was available to the farmers. They transferred it to the farmers in 2016. NABC and PSFH are now two separate entities. The Puget Sound Food Hub is operating for profit as a C corporation, organized as a farmer-owned cooperative. The farmers are now able to govern through their board of directors and decide the values of the organization and have total control of how the business operates. They elected their first board of directors in 2016.

Current membership is comprised of 60 farmers and 200 registered buyers. Farmers wanting to join the cooperative must document that they meet seller eligibility requirements, agree to uphold sustainability standards, and pay a one-time fee of $250 to purchase one share of common stock. The fee is refundable if the farm later chooses to withdraw from membership. Only local Washington farms and ranches that can legally sell their raw and value-added agricultural products commercially are eligible to sell through the Puget Sound Food Hub.

While many producers carry USDA Organic or other third party certifications, buyers are encouraged to learn about each farm’s production methods by reading the seller profiles online or contacting them directly. The PSFH has developed a purchasing guide to assist buyers in making informed purchasing decisions. Buyers establish online accounts to confirm they are wholesale businesses within the delivery area. The longest distance from a farm to an aggregation site is approximately 38 miles, including a ferry ride. Member farms are in several different counties. Three different aggregation sites located throughout the delivery area ensure a short delivery radius.

Products are priced on the website, with the farmers setting their selling price. The software adds a markup to that, to account for delivery and other small operational costs. It is transparent so buyers and sellers all know what the price is of everyone’s product. Buyers order weekly, according to the schedule for their geographical location. Each selects various products from multiple farms. Farmers pack and deliver their orders to aggregation sites, following strict food safety handling requirements.

Orders are consolidated into one delivery per buyer, with one invoice, which is paid online. There is an option for buyers to pick up their orders from the Mount Vernon aggregation site. Those who do their own pick-up receive a small discount on their order.

The Hub started small, growing in incremental steps. In 2011 they started selling to wholesalers. Between 2012 and 2016, with the guidance of NABC, they developed partnerships that helped to get product directly into the hands of wholesalers.

psfh trucks
PSFH trucks at the Mount Vernon aggregation center.

The convenience of delivery to customers is a challenge for farmers because it takes time away from the field. Partners helped get PSFH up and going. They provided aggregation sites and delivered orders. At first the farmers delivered orders independently to Skagit and Whatcom customers who paid online. In 2014, PSFH launched their website. This was the biggest step, moving from a physical wholesale marketplace to an online portal. It allowed wholesalers to easily pick orders from multiple farms and moved the farmers’ cooperative toward their goal of being sustainable.

In the past, with the help of NABC, PSFH received money from state and federal grants and private money from the Whatcom Community Foundation. Their goal is to receive all of their funding from sales. After they went online, another partner joined, opening aggregation and delivery in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. The PSFH leadership team formed and created the Farmer Advisory and Marketing Committees, positioning them a step closer to becoming independent. Focus was on branding and growing the business in 2015. Partnerships continue to grow, consolidating aggregation and distribution. The PSFH posted sales of over $1 million in 2016.

The PSFH has six employees, including a general manager, operations manager, sales coordinator and three part-time truck drivers. They own three delivery trucks, paid for by the PSFH, and have a fourth under contract. They have three aggregation sites throughout their service area, each with dry, cool and frozen storage facilities. Farmers who want to store products at the aggregation sites for extended periods pay a small fee for the service. This works well for meat that may be stored frozen, because having local inventory is easier for transportation. The food hub staff can then pull the product when it is ordered. Produce isn’t stored there, because it is often harvested from the field and delivered directly to buyers within a day or two.

The PSFH is successfully carrying out their vision of providing their region with direct access to locally produced foods while supporting the sustainability of their local farms. Their system supports the relationship between regional farmers and their customers, enabling a values-based supply chain for food safety and transparency. This is a success story that others may want to emulate.

David Bauermeister, executive director of NABC, offered the following advice to other communities wanting to start a regional food hub:

  • Do a lot of research and look at how other people have done it.
  • Focus on the potential of a food hub. This is similar to a feasibility study. Will the community support the kind of volume needed to get to be a sustainable business?
  • Leverage all resources you can with other entities and programs. Sharing the overhead costs between farmers makes sense and helps but having multiple food hubs in the same market would create redundancy and wouldn’t help any of the farmers.
  • Allow yourself time. There’s a large capital cost and ramping up is tough. You will not break even right out of the gate.

Follow links to USDA food hub resources and National Good Food Network for more information about starting and managing food hubs. You may also want to visit the PSFH website. 

Lauren Turner is a freelance writer, specializing in agricultural, environmental, and community topics. She retired from a 30-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, where she worked as a wildlife biologist, ecosystem manager and district ranger. An avid organic gardener, she lives in Sequim, Washington, with her husband and their three cats.

Honor System Marketing by Jeff Mcpherson

The book Honor System Marketing, by Jeff Mcpherson, shows you how to implement honor system marketing into your own operation. It offers multiple honor system examples, and details how to avoid common pitfalls, manage finances, and maintain a sense of optimism. This book shows how an honor system payment method can become a useful tool for doing business and reviving our spirit of trust in humanity.

Front cover of the book Honor System Marketing

The excerpt below introduces the concept of honor system marketing, and explores the author’s philosophy of why this system is good for the farmer, the customer and the world.

Copyright 2011, softcover, 200 pages.

From Chapter 1: What is Honor System Marketing & How Do I Determine if it is Right for Me?

An honor system is a unique situation involving a warm, inviting and enjoyable environment. It is a place where you or anyone can buy stuff without the supervision of a sales clerk. The idea is that you serve yourself. You decide whether to pay or not. Customers are left to show their integrity.

The system can be used by anyone to sell products or services, whether it is selling fruits or vegetables or renting parking spaces near a boat launch. The benefit is that the transaction can occur 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. The honor system never stops for coffee breaks, never is rude to customers or complains, never quits on the spot and never draws a paycheck.

This book shows why and how the honor system works. It is an excellent way for farmers, gardeners, green thumb hobbyists and others to market their wares. Whether in the country, suburbs, or the city, many hardworking people need a non-traditional method to sell their fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and many other products.

The honor system can also be used for roadside impulse cash sales to make use of produce that would normally go to waste in the field or garden. Sometimes there is insufficient product ready to make a delivery worthwhile, so some folks will decide to put the stuff on sale at the farm or business using the honor system instead.

The honor system is a lucrative alternative to hauling or peddling what you sell. Many ambitious folks are already using the honor system to earn extra cash, but the vast majority of people who could use it are often afraid to use the system. This book explains why.

Where can yo go to learn about using the honor system? The answer until now has been to talk to someone who already uses the honor system. After the talking is over and you are on your own, inevitably more questions come up. Without someone to ask, many simply continue on and learn using trial and error. Some might get discouraged and quit before giving it a good try. This book provides the answers to succeed.

With the right attitude and mindset, you can learn the skills to be successful. What this book does not show is how to grow or make the products to sell. This book does though show the skills needed to use honor system marketing correctly and gives many examples of what others are successfully doing.

From Chapter 9: Why Does Our Society Need More Honor Systems?

In this book, I have explained how, why, where, and when you could use the honor system. But we have only briefly discussed why our society needs more honor systems. I truly believe in using honor system marketing and I have talked with many around the country who feel the same way. In North America, there are thousands who proudly employ the honor system. Even though many of us employ honor system marketing we are small in number compared to that could be using it. However, we are setting the mark and providing an example for others to follow.

Most people seldom see an honor system of any kind. When they do encounter one, they are often perplexed (honor systems are commonly overlooked and are even misunderstood). Once in a while they may stop at one along their way but many pass right on by and the honor system remains a mystery. Those who stop and utilize them quickly realize that honor systems are a good thing. Their eyes are opened. They often proudly describe the experience to the next person they meet. Honor systems have a lot of repeat customers and thrive on word of mouth.

This chapter will explain why our society needs more honor systems. It is important to understand why more honor systems mean a better quality of life for everyone. It also introduces the Universal Honor System emblem, a form of logo for anyone who uses the honor system.

Character & Integrity

Our society needs more honor systems. The number of honor systems we have reflects the ethical and mental characteristics of our society. We can’t hide from the world (our neighbors). The rest of the world looks upon us with great scrutiny.

People in our society must exhibit high ethical, mental and moral standards for the world to see. The lofty expectations of people from other nations of the earth about us are very real. The people of the world are looking for something to believe in. They look at our nature and our disposition. They want to know about our true makeup.

I sense an ability to remold the character of our society and our world. I believe we (at this time in history) have the power to influence positive change. It is not just the responsibility of our leaders or government. Politics and religion are not going to solve our problems. Ordinary people like you and I must use wisdom. Exercising honor and integrity is wise. Exercising wisdom starts with each of us as individuals. Basic standards of good, wise behavior should be practiced regardless of our racial, social, political or religious backgrounds.

Everyone likes to be treated nicely, so why not treat others the same? We must help others. It is important to see the real importance of true love for our fellow man. Development and acceptance of the good standards (a way of love) is pure wisdom. These good standards include qualities such as trust, truth, love, respect and integrity. The leaders of other nations are looking for an example to follow. They are watching and listening to our leaders. Do all leaders exhibit integrity? Do they all tell the truth?

The world is looking at the integrity of our people too. We should set a good example. We must adhere to a higher standard of values and conduct within our own society if we expect those looking at us to follow us. Our problem is we expect other nations to follow us without setting the good example.

Where does character and integrity begin? It starts with the individual. A person must decide to be honorable in spite of outside pressure. The use of honor systems in our society promotes this. What better place can a person go and decide whether they should do the right thing than at an honor system? This is a start!

An Honor System Every Mile

I’ve been called a dreamer (even crazy at times). A few skeptical people think that honor system marketing cannot be successful have even put me down. Thank goodness for the many people who consistently prove the skeptics and doubters are wrong. I am grateful to everyone who supports honor system marketing in our neighborhoods and communities.

Writer James Allen in As a Man Thinketh describes a dreamer as follows:

“The dreamers are the saviors of the world. As the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so men, through all their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers. Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it lives in them; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know. Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage, these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived; without them, laboring humanity would perish.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were honor systems in every community with one every mile? Wouldn’t it be nice if more of our neighbors operated honor systems? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were honest, and trusted and respected his or her fellow man? These things should be part of our goals as a society. They are mine! What about you?

For those of you that are still skeptical of those who employ the honor system I challenge you to answer these questions: Why are there so many honor systems scattered all over this land of opportunity? Are we who run them just trustful dreamers or are we on to something? I believe that there are many more folks like us, from all walks of life, scattered all over this beautiful planet Earth. As time goes on I believe there will be many more of us. Who knows? Maybe even you will decide to try honor system marketing after having read this book.

I invite you to join me (and many others) who employ the honor system. But, if you should decide not to sell using the honor system, please stop and patronize our honor systems every chance you get. The joy and thrill of exercising your honesty will linger in your heart for a long, long time.

Want more? Buy this book here.

About Jeff Mcpherson

Jeff Mcpherson, author of the book Honor System Marketing

Jeffery L. Mcpherson holds a B.S. degree in agronomy (crop and soil science) from North Carolina State University. He has over 20 years of experience growing and marketing horticultural crops, such as wine grapes, fruits and vegetables. He has also taught horticulture and enology at a North Carolina community college. Mcpherson travels frequently giving presentations and workshops on honor system marketing and basic enology or winemaking. He and his wife Brenda have been operating an honor system market on their farm for more than a decade.

Successful Crowdfunding for Agricultural Pursuits

By Eric Gibson

With bank loans hard to come by, many farmers are looking for alterna­tives, and one of the new models is online crowdfunding, a form of Inter­net-based donations, loans and invest­ments. Many of the online platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, attract large numbers of entrepreneurs looking for funding.

According to Eileen Gordon, founder of Barnraiser, hers is the only crowdfunding platform devoted spe­cifically to funding the sustainable food movement “one farm or healthy food business at a time.”

Speaking at a recent EcoFarm con­ference, Gordon told attendees, “We’re trying to connect with the 40 or more million Americans who care about sustainability, health and wellness, yet they don’t often know how to affect change. There are still many parts of the country where consumers don’t have the opportunity to vote with their forks at the grocery stores by choosing sustainable foods.”

Gordon asserts that crowdfunding is rapidly changing the way we drive innovation, personal aspirations, new products and social change.

“No group is more deserving than those on the front lines of the food movement, leading us toward health and sustainability,” she said. “Barn­raiser is a place to meet and back the thousands of food and farming innovators and put better food on our collective table. When one farmer gets a new barn, the whole community gets better food.”

eileen gordon
Barnraiser founder Eileen Gordon with Rob Keller of the Napa Bee Company.

Gordon is also co-owner with her husband, Michael Chiarello, of Chiarello Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. About 12 years ago, she and Chiarello acquired a 100-year-old vine­yard in the Napa Valley and converted the land into a sustainable farm. It was an old historic farm that had been planted before prohibition and hadn’t been farmed in over a decade.

“In the process of taking this old farm and rejuvenating the land and converting it to sustainable farming, we met some fantastic people in the realms of organic and biodynamic farming. As we saw our property come back to life as a healthy ecosystem started to thrive, this was incredibly exciting to us.”

Gordon believes crowdfunding is a way to eliminate some of the tradi­tional gatekeepers.

Crowdfunding can be faster than traditional fundraising, so you get the benefits of celebration and public awareness which can have a snowball effect.

“What you’re doing with crowd­funding is asking people to enter into relationships with you,” she said. “And for people who care about this move­ment, that’s an exciting thing to do. It’s a fair exchange — it’s a relation­ship. When you structure rewards for certain levels of pledge, your fans are getting something exciting from you in addition to being part of your success or growth.”

Barnraiser, like Kickstart­er, is an example of the all-or-nothing model, in which you set a goal and you keep the money only if you meet or exceed the goal you’ve set. There is no cost if a campaign is not success­fully funded. If the campaign reaches its fundraising goal, Barnraiser’s fee is 5 percent of the total funded amount, in addition to third party payment pro­cessor fees of 3-5 percent.

“Statistics show that people raise more money by being invested in a goal with the all-or-nothing model, and that’s what Barnraiser uses — so it gives more motivation and success rates.”

Other platforms offer an alternative, “keep-what-you-raise” model in which you keep the funds you’ve raised, but are charged a higher fee for the service. Kiva offers a way to ask friends for an interest-free loan rather than a do­nation. Some other crowdfunding plat­forms that cater to sustainable food en­trepreneurs include StartSomeGood and WeTheTrees.

Crowdfunding Success Stories

Gordon claims that Barnraiser has on average, a 60 percent success rate of participants meeting their fundraising goals, or nearly double that of other platforms which have about a 30-40 percent success rate.

“One of the benefits of having one focus for our website/platform is that our platform has become one of the faces of the movement — consumers come here, and find sustainable farm­ing success stories.”

The average payoff for a successful Barnraiser project has been around $12,000. A lot of people can get to a good place in a project with $5,000, while others can get up to $40,000 or more, depending on where they are and what they need.

“We’re very careful to make sure that people don’t fall into the common mistakes like not setting goals right and not setting a reasonable timeline or not staying within the timeline — we help them with all that,” said Gordon.

She says that Barnraiser’s campaign tools make it fast and easy to launch and run a campaign. The platform helps users decide what they should be doing and how to spend their time at every stage of the campaign from a marketing standpoint.

“We give lots of examples like what successful emails look like and what you could be doing on social media and or special events; we help you do these things one thing at a time so that it’s not overwhelming. We also help you expand your network by finding useful contacts on social media and how to understand and use the net­work that you already have in your daily work.”

One of Barnraiser’s showcase suc­cess stories is that of Amigo Bob Can­tisano. Under the nonprofit Felix Gillet Institute, an organization that Cantisa­no founded and runs, the project used Barnraiser to raise more than $33,000 to start an heirloom “mother” orchard of fruit and nut trees that are drought-and pest-resistant, most of which were introduced to the northern California foothills by Felix Gillet, a French horti­culturist, in the late 1800s.

Certainly one of the factors in Can­tisano’s success with the fundraising project is his own credibility in the sustainable food movement: he is a 40-year veteran organic farmer, agri­culture consultant and co-founder of the Ecological Farming Conference. Cantisano was getting some funding for the Mother Earth project from grants, Gordon explains, but when he went public with a Barnraiser cam­paign, more people jumped on. Other organizations saw Cantisano’s project because of the media attention and came forth to help. One public dona­tion often begets more donations. Even if you don’t meet your funding goals, there are lots of downstream benefits of public fundraising. These involve refining the way you market and your potential audience.

Mistakes & Misconceptions 

“If I just build it they will come” is a common misconception with entrepre­neurs starting their first crowdfunding campaign. As Gordon said at the Eco­Farm workshop, “Many entrepreneurs think that if they put up a crowdfund­ing campaign they’ll come up with $60,000 overnight. In fact, at least 80 percent of the funding for success­ful campaigns comes principally from your customer base and the people you’ve lined up to fund in advance. You can’t just wait for the campaign to go viral before you ask supporters to put in their money. The initial support provides the inertia to start the snow­ball effect.”

Another common mistake is not giving yourself time to plan. For most crowdfunding platforms, you’ll need 30-60 days to prepare.

“You need to get going right out of the chute,” said Gordon. “It helps to do a pre-launch so that your website is ready, and you should let your friends and family know that your launch is coming so they can help fund it right from the beginning. Every form of fundraising takes time, so give yourself time to plan.”

Tell Your Story

Some tips that Gordon shares for start-up campaigners are to pay careful attention to crafting a story, work your network properly, set achievable goals and utilize rewards creatively.

Find and craft your story. Sometimes it’s tough to introduce yourself, your dreams and big plans all on one page. Start with the basics: the who, what, where and why of your cam­paign, and flesh it out. Then find the hook. What sets your campaign apart from others? How are you en­riching your community? Are you finally making a lifelong dream a reality? Are you the only one doing something like this? Can you help others learn from your idea and start something on their own?

“Just be playful and tell people who you are,” said Gordon. “You might ask your network of friends if they can contribute unique rewards — if they can contribute something that they’ve produced that is handmade, for in­stance. We just had one funny example of a small farm that wanted to go from hand-pushed tractor to something more automatic and mechanized, and they made the funniest, cutest video and kept everyone entertained.”

Tap into your network. Crowdfunding at its core is all about using your net­work to tell your story and encour­aging them to share your story with others. Younger people are more used to using social networks and are not afraid to ask for funding.

If your network is physically in front of you, such as at a farmers’ mar­ket, you can tell customers about your project and help them sign up for news about your crowdfunding campaign. Other farmers may have to network within the business relationships they have, like distributors, wholesalers, re­tailers or other local business relation­ships.

Every project is different, but gener­ally the momentum starts and builds within your own network. For some farmers, their network might be Face­book or Twitter, or the customers at the farmers’ markets they go to, but Can­tisano didn’t use either of these social media tools, nor did he go to farmers’ markets. His network was primarily in his email list.

Set appropriate goals. A common mistake is setting your goals too high for the size of your audience. Set realistic goals. Consider what you need the money for and how big your community or network is, as well as what other outlets you have for telling your story and the people who might spread your story.

Set a minimum funding goal that you feel confident you can meet and then set additional goals that you can add to once you’ve met the minimum. Let’s say your ideal vision is for a $24,000 project. The first phase might be $12,000 and makes the minimal tip­ping point so that your project has met its initial goal, and then have a second phase of another $12,000.

Establish rewards. Offering rewards to customers is an invaluable way to make contributors feel more connected to your project, as well as a way to market your products or services by getting them into the hands of as many people as pos­sible.

Some ideas for rewards include sending acknowledgement, such as a thank you card, email or social media shout-out; swag, such as a T-shirt, your product, a video, trinket, or subscrip­tion; recognition, such as naming rights or a sponsorship; experience, such as a restaurant meal, garden/farm tour, or a class or workshop or consultation.

Create rewards with a variety of levels so that goals are more readily achievable. You also might include some rewards that have a higher dol­lar amount, such as a workshop or a seminar that you can present for a smaller number of people. It’s also important to have rewards that are not limited to your local area — this helps broaden the potential for your potential audience.

“Find rewards that are fun and play to people’s interests and be aware of bigger trends. Tap into bigger stories out of the world if you can — this will help you come up with rewards that may be broader than your inner, core circle. Stay in touch with your fans/ funders after the campaign is over. They want to hear how you’re doing and feel they are part of your success.”

Make a video. Barnraiser encourages projects to post a short 1-2 minute video, especially if trying to raise over $5,000. This doesn’t mean it has to be a blockbuster hit, instead go for short and compelling, with good shots and clear audio. Con­sider creating short edits from your main video, keeping them to 15 sec­onds or less, to make it easy to share video clips on social media, such as Vine, Twitter and Facebook.

Make contact. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! Taking the time to call people shows your dedication to the project and provides an op­portunity for you to answer ques­tions and share more details. After the call, be sure to follow up with an email including a link to your campaign.

Make if fun! “Add some monkey to your business. Have fun, and what­ever you do, never underestimate a cat photo.”

This article appeared in the March 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine.

Eric Gibson is the author of Sell What You Sow: The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing and the co-author of The New Farmers’ Market: Farm-Fresh Ideas for Producers, Managers and Communities

Barnraiser (Crowdfunding platform, seminars, blog tips, etc.)
Grow It! The Crowdfunding Guide For Food Startups (free ebook)
Raising Dough: The Complete Book on Financing Socially Responsible Food Businesses, by Elizabeth U.
CrowdsUnite (List of crowdfunding sites)

Direct Marketing for the Small Farm

By Bob and Bonnie Gregson
Excerpted from their book, Rebirth of the Small Family Farm

A small farm must primarily sell directly to the consumer.

To make a living on a small farm, we must cut out the middlemen who today make virtually all the profit between farm harvest and ultimate sale to the consumer. Subscription farming and good use of a farmstand allow the farmer to sell produce for substantially more than the normal wholesale price.

Example: If we grew summer squash on a large scale, early in the season it would sell in bulk for about 35 cents per pound to a local wholesale warehouse. Or we could sell lesser quantities at about 55 cents per pound direct to a few organic-friendly local grocery stores who would price it to the consumer at about $1.00 per pound. Or we could sell even smaller quantities directly to consumers at our farmstand for about 75 cents per pound. The latter is clearly “price optimal” for us and the consumer, cutting the consumer’s produce cost by 25% while raising the farmer’s gross by 36 to 114%. Those are big numbers in aggregate.

vegetable prices
Three potatoes for $2.50 versus $1.00 each at the store saves both the customer and the grower money!

Advantages of Direct Sales

The farmer makes more money, while the consumer spends less money. That was clear in the example.

But there are other factors not so readily obvious: food travels the 100 feet from the field to our farmstand in several minutes, with much less handling than during its four or more days from a faraway farm to a wholesaler to a grocer and then to the consumer. That means our model provides much fresher (translated as more nutritious) food with less wear and tear on the interstate highway system, less fuels burned to transport, handle and preserve the produce, less cultural stress on our social system since two-person farms are not dependent on migrant workers, encourages use of more interesting varieties (not just bred for easy transportability) within plant families to protect genetic diversity, reduces the need for energy-intensive food storage facilities with attendant chemical preservatives, and keeps more dollars in the immediate local economy.

Those add up to a huge plus for the taxpayer/consumer.


There are really two main drawbacks to direct sales: first, it takes time and effort to establish/maintain sales facilities; and, second, the quantities that can be sold by the farmer are much less than from wholesale opportunities.

Time and effort are the principal inputs on a small farm, so we have to be careful that we don’t overextend our human hours. The farmstand at our Island Meadow Farm is self-service and only one hundred feet from our house, yet it still requires 20-30 minutes per day for restocking, sign-making, checking status of change on hand, and so on. Our little stand also cost about $500, and the 800-foot driveway plus parking area requires about $200 worth of new gravel each year, but these are well worth the expense.

Building a pleasant, attractive facility takes time and resources.

Quantity of Product Available for Direct Sale is a Real Issue

For example, it is not reasonable to even consider selling truckloads of wheat from a farmstand. Nor will one normally sell thousands of pounds of any one thing. So the small farmer realizes that along with the higher selling prices possible through direct sales comes a smaller sales volume potential. The clever farmer plans accordingly, ideally growing enough of each crop to just saturate the highest price market available (the farmstand customer group), with maybe a little left over to sell to the next-highest price buyer (usually a local grocery store or restaurant.)

Don’t Forget…

A small farm should be within a reasonable distance of potential customers. Towns offer wide varieties of food consumers in a rather dense cluster. Since everyone’s time is at a premium, logic dictates farming within a short distance of a city or town where one can quickly deliver to the consumers or they can easily come to pick up produce and see the farm.

If one out of every 20 families would participate in your farm program, it only requires a population base of 2,000 families to make that program successful. About 100 cars come down our driveway to the produce stand each week, probably representing 100 families.

Your customers will come to consider you “their farmer.” Most will love the opportunity to see — and have their children see — where their food comes from.

Source: Rebirth of the Small Family Farm

Marketing & Selling Pastured Pork

By Andrew French

Raising pigs on pasture is wonderfully rewarding work, but it will not lead to a viable farm enterprise unless we take the time to develop our marketing program for effectively selling pastured pork. In this article I share some key points and tips I have gleaned in five years of pork production.

Before you start marketing your pork to potential customers, it may be worth your time to go through the logistic hurdles that ensure that your pork can be USDA approved: the time, energy and money you invest in this can give you access to the entire U.S. market. This was the first hurdle that I tackled this spring in order to open up my market to every direct consumer interested in buying my pork.

To be honest, I would rather be harvesting my pigs on my farm, as I believe that on-farm slaughter leads to a more humane and peaceful ending for my pigs. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t allow you to legally sell cuts of meat to off-farm customers, such as restaurants, grocery stores or families wanting certain cuts of pork.

The process is not too difficult. I began by cleaning up a corner of our old farmhouse and installing a used freezer with the capacity to hold three to five pigs’ worth of various cuts. I applied for and received an on-farm meat distributing license from my state (Wisconsin). This allowed me to sell cuts of pork to consumers in my state; either on-farm or shipped directly to them. In order to cross state lines, I needed to bring my pigs to a USDA-inspected processing plant.

After many discussions with my local meat processor Mike (who is absolutely the best at what he does), and with the input of other pig farmers in the area, Mike decided to go through the process of becoming a USDA-inspected facility for processing pigs.

pig in bushes
To be honest, I would rather be harvesting my pigs on my farm, as I believe that on-farm slaughter leads to a more humane and peaceful ending for my pigs.

This was a lucky turn of events for me, as his facility is located about 20 miles from my farm. In order to fulfill the requirements of the USDA, Mike had to build a restraining device for the slaughtering process as well as a holding pen and chute. After a few months of work he had fulfilled the USDA’s requirements for slaughter and processing, and now a USDA inspector is on-site certain days for processing pork.

The other piece of the puzzle for me was to figure out how I would bring the pigs to the slaughterhouse. I had an old horse trailer being used to shelter my pastured poultry, and it became obvious to me that using what I had was far cheaper than trying to find anything bigger or better.

The trailer was in good enough shape to travel the 20 miles to the processing facility. I didn’t have a working truck that could safely haul the weight of that trailer, so I enlisted the help of a friend, borrowing her truck for a few days of the year in exchange for some pork.

Raising, transporting, slaughtering and processing are all parts of the whole farm system. Selling your pork, although it almost seems like an afterthought, is just as important as these other aspects of farming — to become a good marketer is key to a healthy cash flow. Marketing in the traditional sense of trying to sell a product to a customer can feel strange and awkward in the beginning stages of a farm enterprise. It can feel out of place in our farm lifestyles that are full of practical tasks and tending to our animals and growing crops. But we don’t need to sell out or become slick; we just need to be passionate about why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and we especially need to feel proud of the quality and flavor of our product.

We need to tend to and grow our tribe of pork customers. And as I’ve learned over the past five years, being open and honest about your practices and keeping all lines of communication open is the best way to do that. Your enthusiasm for your product is contagious.

On the flip side, if you are desperate to sell 100 pounds of pork to pay for your processing costs, most customers will feel that negative energy.

We simply have to work at communicating our story and our passion to the customer, and then have faith that once they try our pork they will be hooked for the rest of their lives!

I have customers who are truly addicted to the pork I raise because it is the best of the best, and they know all about my farm and how I raise my pigs. In order to connect with our customers we need to focus our efforts on communicating our passion for the pork we produce.

Selling Pastured Pork: Methods of Sale

There are many ways to sell your pork: direct sales to the customer and wholesale to grocery stores or other businesses being the two main avenues. I concentrate on direct sales as that is what I am most familiar with, and I also believe it to be the most beneficial to farmer and consumer.

Having complete quality control over my product is very important to me as well. It is important, I believe, to get the most return on your investments in the first few years of a farm business, which translates to getting the best profit margin that you can.

This may mean a lot of legwork in the beginning, but if you are up for it, it can be very rewarding — I love delivering pork directly to a customer’s house and letting them know I stand behind it 100 percent, and that I think it is the best pork on the planet.

Another option is to join a group of other pork producers in order to pool marketing, delivery and storage efforts to sell larger quantities of pork to wholesale accounts. This could be a very good option for farmers that are extremely averse to marketing. If you are reading this article that probably isn’t you.

As a beginning small farmer, I choose to grow my own brand and develop a loyal following.

I believe that the future of permaculture pig farming, and the marketing and sales logistics of all regenerative agriculture in general, will probably involve cooperative ventures as the scale of what will be needed to move a significant amount of product through the marketplace will surpass the level of individual farm capacities.

Consider CSA

A subcategory of direct sales is creating a CSA program. In a CSA program you can sell half or whole hogs to individuals in numerous ways — it is a great way to make sure all your pork gets sold.

Requiring a deposit helps offset the operating costs of raising the hogs, and when they are processed you charge a set price for the hanging weight or processed weight and collect the remainder of that income at the time of pick-up or delivery. This is a good way to start out raising a few hogs, but there is a limit to how many folks are around that want to have half a hog in their freezer, or have the funds to pay top dollar for a half of pastured pork all at once.

A friend of mine parcels out the shares and payments over a period of a few months, and that sounds like a wise plan if you have the freezer space. In general, though, the vast majority of folks out there would like to buy the specific pork products they want when they want them. If we can help fulfill that desire, we can build sales.

Communicating a Passion for Pork

As a small farmer with a very unique story, method and attitude, I already have a unique brand ready to be developed, as do you. We can begin our marketing efforts with the story of how we got into raising pigs in the first place. For me, it was when my ex-wife and I were starting to date.

We did a lot of farm dating, which included dreaming about our future farm and all that we would do. We decided one day that it was time to purchase two pigs to raise up to butcher in the fall — we had pig-raising fever.

It was a brand-new endeavor for both of us, and with thoughts of happy pigs nestled in piles of hay and succulent pork chops dancing in our heads, we went to work. We rapidly scanned classifieds to find some “feeder” pigs in the area — sadly it was the time when 4-H kids were buying up every good pig around for top dollar. We finally found a guy with a couple of feeder pigs available for a good price up the road a ways, and we went immediately over to his farm and purchased them.

We were thrilled, and the piglets were very aromatic in the back of the Subaru. That story is told in more detail in my essay “Two Pigs and True Love” in the Greenhorns book, “50 Dispatches from the New Farmer’s Movement.”

Know Thyself

So, a simple and exciting impulse in a romantic circumstance led me down this porcine path into the world of pig-raising and now breeding, marketing and selling my pork. It has become my passion as a farmer, and part of my passion is to share what I’ve learned.

The school of hard knocks has been endlessly edifying, and the more we share our knowledge, the better permaculture pig farmers we become.

In terms of marketing, you get to pick the level of information that you share with your customer tribe on a regular basis. It has been my experience that most folks are interested in the general picture, but not the nitty-gritty details. That said, maybe your tribe is. Follow your heart to find out what your farm brand is all about.

Developing a unique voice, the one you use for all of your farm brands marketing efforts, is part of the work of cultivating your tribe of die hard customers who absolutely love your products.

Know Thy Customers

How do we communicate our story to our customers? Probably the best and most effective way, if you are at all social and have passion for your product, is face-to-face communication.

People will pick up on your passion, and even if you are shy you can tell them a bit about your products and hand them a sample. A sample is worth a thousand words, but it takes a lot of energy and time to get samples of your pork into consumers’ mouths.

If you can meet with people and give them a sample; that is the best possible marketing. Another direct-to-consumer aspect of marketing involves social media, which most people partake of in some quantity every day.

I have customers who are truly addicted to the pork I raise because it is the best of the best, and they know all about my farm and how I raise my pigs.

Using a combination of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and a farm website in a cohesive manner is an effective way to put your farm presence out into the world.

A well-designed website with information about you, your farm, your farm products and regular updates on your activities provides a professional backbone to the rest of your Internet presence. I highly recommend updating your website’s blog at least once a week — it is hard to do that in the busy seasons, but it will grow content for your website that otherwise would become a static and boring page that is not often visited by even your most loyal fans.

Keep the look of your website updated, and streamline the information and features so that people can easily find what they are seeking.

You can never go wrong with a post that includes baby animal pictures. DIY ideas are very sought after, as well as cooking ideas for your products. In fact, including cooking ideas and pictures of your product is one of the most important aspects of your web presence — the more delicious ideas for your products that you can share, the better the odds are a potential customer will buy your products to try them out for themselves.

Post, Pin, Tweet, Snap

Facebook is a great tool to keep your presence vibrant on the web. Facebook is both dynamic and static, in that you need to post at least once if not thrice a day to maintain a certain level of engagement, and static in that everything you post creates a longer narrative of your farm’s existence, trials and tribulations, inspirations and efforts.

The Facebook page is there to reach out and engage in conversation with customers, colleagues and even friends of your farm business.

A Twitter account is totally dynamic in that you post a tweet and it essentially disappears within hours. Tweeting can help with very dynamic events like sales, deliveries and updates on everything from moving pigs to new products. Instagram gives your farm a face and an illustrated story of your farm life that appears in the feeds of those who use Instagram often.

Pinterest can be a great repository for recipes and pork ideas, as well as other things your farm brand is interested in and loves. Attraction toward like minds is a huge part of being a social animal, and all of these platforms help solidify what you are all about as a farm and farmer.

By spending 30-45 minutes on the Internet every day, you can start to build a farm tribe from the ground up.

Out and About

Being featured at a special event is another way to highlight your unique brand in the crowd of other farms that may offer similar products. Unlike a farmers’ market, which can attract bargain shoppers, an event can highlight you and your products in a way that creates interest in a very focused demographic.

Following up on all of this interest is the job of the salesperson with plenty of samples and information. That is the area where I think a lot of us farmers tend to backslide, as this follow-up demoing is difficult to arrange if we don’t make it a priority.

If the passion is there, though, the conversations we have with potential customers will be relaxed and open, and selling your pork will be like giving a gift to a friend, if that is truly what you believe it is.

A good farm brand logo or graphic will help show customers that you are a serious business and not just a fly-by-night operation. Your attitude and story should strongly influence all aspects of labeling, or other print media that you end up producing.

For instance, it took me a long time to select the right font for our farm logo, as I believe a font can convey an overall feeling for your brand that can last a long time. Sharing a snippet of your philosophy and story on all your printed materials is beneficial.

Choosing your image to reflect who you are is a big part of the marketing process. Are you laid back? Are you focused and technical? Are you community-oriented and open to the public? These are some things to be honest about and share throughout your media communications.

After initial marketing efforts pay off and you are selling some product and getting accolades from consumers, you may end up getting some press, whether it is Internet blog posts, newspaper articles, radio interviews, etc.

It is your job and duty to share your unique and interesting story and your passion for your product.

The official venue of the press reflects that you are a real farmer and farm business, and new folks outside of your network will want to know why they should switch from their current product to yours. An accolade from a respected food writer is a very valuable thing — and they will only praise your product if it is really of the highest quality and you sing its praises as well.

Tips for Marketing and Selling Your Pork

  • Begin by making sure you have all your bases covered in regards to rules and regulations.
  • Get your pig transportation and pork delivery methods set up, or at least have an idea and a plan of how you will go about solving these critical logistics.
  • Create the backbone of your Internet presence — your website — with the help of web-savvy friends, business partners, or pay for professional web design services.
  • Begin your social media campaign immediately, and spend time every day updating it all.
  • Go out into the world and sample the heck out of your product.
  • Work with event people to be showcased at relevant gatherings.
  • Make sure your pork ordering webpage is clear and attractive. Include information on payment, shipping costs and delivery schedule.
  • Set up your inventory system so that you have a general idea of what you have on hand at any given time. You should be ready to fulfill orders when you add an email link or phone number for customers to submit orders and begin to advertise your pork and request orders on your social media or any other marketing materials you produce.
  • When a customer emails you or calls you with an order you can now create an invoice in Paypal or other format. Utilizing online invoicing or a simple invoice pad and cash/check system is up to your preference, but definitely keep an ear open and listen to what your customers want. After you receive your orders for the week, it is time to map out your delivery route. Your invoices become your packing list.
  • Deliver your products on the correct date and time with a smile.

Profit Potential

So now after your thoughtful marketing efforts have paid off, you have customers waiting on the sidelines to regularly purchase your pork. To make that an easy process for them is my current goal and challenge — what is the system that works best for small farmers to get their products directly to the customer? How do we price and sell our pork via the Internet?

Pricing is complex, but in my days as a chef and food service manager I found that there is definitely a sweet spot where the product is priced within an acceptable range to the customer, and if the product stands out in quality and is what the customer wants then you’ve found the correct price point. As farmers we must do a little research to find the average price of similar cuts of meat in our area markets, either online or by visiting retail stores, in order to establish the norm in our foodshed, and then go from there to establish our own pricing.

To establish margins, we need to have a good accounting method set up so we can deduct our costs from our sales in order to see what the gross profit margin may be. Subtracting our other expenses, including labor and overhead, will give us a better idea of our net profit at the end of the year, and then we can project our figures into the future to predict income and cash flow numbers. With this information, we can adjust our pricing to reflect the kind of profits our farms need in order to stay economically healthy.

pigs grazing
Raising pigs on pasture is wonderfully rewarding work, but it will not lead to a viable farm enterprise unless we take the time to develop our marketing program for effectively selling pastured pork.

You could begin by selling your products at a lower price point in order to jumpstart the growth of your sales, or you could stick to the margins that you need in order to grow the business and work harder at marketing.

Your freezer is kind of like a bank — you have a bunch of potential sales tied up in your products, and it is essential to have a sense of your inventory.

The invoice we receive from the butcher has the processed weights of the pig, and I make estimates on the different cuts and total weight. I write this down to have a basic inventory on hand, and you could go further and do a detailed inventory for a much more accurate picture of how much pork is on hand. Knowing our inventory, we can request sales orders from our customers and begin to create invoices for delivery.

In this age of one-day delivery, we expect to buy our products with a click of a button and have them conveniently shipped to our door. I’m convinced this is the way of the future for small farms, because the more convenient it is to buy something, the more likely it will be bought.

Technology has leveled the playing field in the world of commerce — everyone can easily sell anything online these days from handmade chocolate to car parts. If it is easier for a customer to buy directly from the farmer than it would be to go to the grocery store, perhaps the existing paradigm of middleman may shift. Paypal and other credit processing services make it somewhat easy to set up online payment systems, although selling different cuts of meat online is not a simple process, with many different price points and various weights. The logistics are a bit complicated, as you must deal with your inventory and shipping costs and other aspects of accounting and banking that can quickly become overwhelming.

A potentially straightforward way to sell meat online is to utilize the Online Invoice option in Paypal. The variables in your day-to-day inventory of meat cuts and their various price points make it difficult to create static ordering forms.

Utilizing Online Invoicing, I can simply take orders from my customer for what they would like to receive, take inventory of what I actually have on hand, and then create an invoice that they can pay via credit card or Paypal; if they would like to change something about their order, it is easily accomplished. For the customer, this is a little more involved than simple pointing and clicking on an order form, but I believe it has potential to be a great initial payment system. Another easy way to sell pork online or by phone is to take the order by email or phone, and then simply invoice the customer at the delivery site, who then pays when they receive the products with cash or check, or you can utilize a credit card reader on your smart phone if that is something that appeals to you or your customer base.

After some deliberation I have concluded that the only sensible way for me to ship my products frozen directly to my customers in my area is to do it myself in coolers or a reefer truck. As my pork is USDA certified, as long as I keep it frozen and handle it correctly, it can be shipped by me or utilizing UPS, insulated packaging and dry ice across state lines directly to customers.

Another shipping option is to pool resources with other meat producers in order to purchase a reefer truck to consolidate delivery efforts. Even if each farm has its own customer base, the benefit of a shared reefer truck and driver/delivery organizer is that there is a consolidation of delivery time, a decreased cost in ownership of a reefer truck and an increased ability to move product. A warehouse with freezer space, essentially a jointly owned meat locker, could also be a great cooperative venture if farms are close enough together to make this logistically possible.

These are some cooperative ideas that could lend themselves to future development as small farmers together face the real-world obstacles of getting product from the farm to the customer efficiently.

If we focus our efforts on direct sales, we are working hard to organize our sales and deliveries but maximizing our potential profits. If we focus more on wholesale, we are moving more product but getting less profit. It is up to you to see your way forward, as I see pros and cons in both approaches. For me at this point it makes sense to work harder at growing a customer base through direct sales and maximizing profits that are already very slim after all costs are accounted for, than to take on wholesale accounts to move more product and make slimmer profits.

Increasing production at this point increases my costs all around. In the beginning stages of a farm enterprise keeping those costs down is key to financial flexibility. A few positive aspects of getting into wholesale sales is the regularity of sales for the farmer, decreased time in developing a customer base, as well as decreased complications and time in ordering and delivering. Again, you have to find what fits your farm enterprise.

This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A. magazine. 

Andrew French is a livestock farmer and permaculture designer based in western Wisconsin working on developing a viable model of regenerative pig farming from farrow to finish using a whole-systems design approach. He also offers online permaculture coaching services.