- Author: Molly Nakahara
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great places to tell the story of your farm. In a recent survey conducted by Eat Local Placer and Nevada, 60% of participants chose “supporting local farmers” as the primary reason for purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables. Our community and your customers care about you and your farm business! By sharing photos, thoughts, recipes, the good times, and the bad times you are creating a way for local consumers to feel connected to your farm.
If you are already sharing your farm business on social media, it's a great idea to begin thinking strategically about how you post, when you post, and what you share. Everything that you share on the internet (including what you share on your personal profiles) affects your brand. And only sharing what you have for sale and when it is for sale is no fun for anyone- these posts will be regarded as SPAM and your social media profiles will lose attention. The better choice is to think about a larger strategy for sharing the activity of your farm, engaging your community by providing useful and interesting information, and also providing opportunities for people to purchase your products when available.
I like to think of posting to social media as story-telling. Many of you chose to be farmers because of the lifestyle it affords. That lifestyle, or at least a romanticized version of the farming lifestyle, is very popular right now. Share your life as a real farmer. Post a photo of your field when you first walk out in the morning. Post of photo of your farm-fresh lunch and include a recipe. Share your thoughts on the drought and its impact on local agriculture. You will gain followers (who are also potential customers) by providing information that is engaging and images that are striking.
I challenge you to not paint too rosy of a picture of your farm. Be honest with who you are and what life is like on your farm. Sharing the bad times may engage your community in a “call to action.” Check out the response our farm received when we broke the news about our high-tunnel blowing over in a windstorm. There may be some catharsis in sharing the hard times; so often we farm alone and can feel isolated and unappreciated in hard times when, in reality, we are a part of a community that is deeply invested in our well-being.
To craft a social media strategy that will help increase sales, follow these simple rules:
- Post useful and interesting information. Remember- you must be actively farming for your story to have value.
- Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your posts should be interesting and useful, 20% of your posts should encourage sales of farm products.
- Post regularly. Avoid posting erratically. Try to share a couple of times a day.
- Post at the right time. Posts between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. tend to be viewed by the most people.
- Share your personal life with intention. Everything you put on the internet affects your business reputation. Think wisely about the parts of your life you may want to keep out of the public domain.
- Have a strategy. Simply using a social media platform is not a marketing strategy. What, how and when you post is the strategy. Set a goal, like increasing sales of a new crop at the farmers' market, and then craft your posts with this goal in mind.
- Make your social media presence known. Follow and share other peoples' posts to increase your own visibility. Ask your friends to “Like” you on Facebook. Be sure to put up a sign at the farmers' market letting your customers know how to find you on the internet.
- Don't become addicted! There is so much information on the internet. Don't get bogged down by social media posting and don't spend too much time doing it. Set limits for yourself if you feel like you are spending too much time online. Those carrots won't plant themselves!
- Author: Molly Nakahara
The benefits of social media are numerous. On a personal level, sharing through social media adds a creative element into your day and an opportunity for you to let others know about the life you lead as a farmer. Social media can help you to connect with the community of eaters that support your farm, many of whom are often eager for a deeper connection to the food they eat and the farms that produce it. Social media is a great way to connect with other farmers as well, both here in your own backyard, around the country and even internationally. Share the technical aspect of your work. Other farmers DO want to see a picture of that new irrigation header you just built or the insulation in your walk-in cooler.
Another very useful benefit of social media is the automatic record keeping that occurs alongside your social media posts. Just planted your next radish succession? Take a picture, post it, hashtag it so you can find it later, and voila- you've just make a very accurate record of a farm event. Just made a beautiful bouquet of today's best blooms? Take a picture, post it, hashtag it and you've just made a record of flower availability for years to come. These farm records are not a pile of partially filled out charts crowding your inbox; they are a beautiful, chronological display of your farming activities, easy to access, and stored on the internet for all, foreseeable time.
A note of caution: be mindful of what you make public on the internet. Try not to over share your life. Choose posts and photos that are both useful to your farm as well as interesting to the people that follow you on social media. Remember that people you don't know and may never meet will see your posts.
There are many platforms to choose from and the majority of them are easy to use from your smartphone. Twitter and Instagram are applications that were designed specifically for hand-held devices which means they are very appropriate for farmers to use in the field. A great thing about many of these social media sites (Instagram and Twitter in particular) is that they are fast and dirty (kind of like farming, except for the fast part) and won't take much time out of your busy day. A blog is a great way to tell your farm story, but it is also a considerable time commitment. It will take a few minutes to snap a photo and post it to the internet.
Whether it is through photos or words, tell us the story of your farm. We should all pause more often to appreciate the wonder, beauty, intensity, hilarity, pain and grit of our daily work.
Check out what some of our Placer and Nevada county farmers are doing on the World Wide Web:
- Author: Molly Nakahara
In the current, extreme drought we are experiencing in Placer and Nevada counties, making decisions about row crop production can be challenging. Many of us already employ water efficient irrigation techniques like drip and mulch. But drought planning on the farm needs to be a combination of dealing with current situations while also preparing for the high probability of future, and potentially more severe drought conditions. One production decision addresses both: growing a summer cover crop. By growing a drought tolerant, summer cover crop you can productively fallow land during the dry months to conserve water. A summer cover crop will provide a large addition of soil organic matter which will increase the water retention in your soil during future growing seasons. Cover crops also add nutrition to the soil and decrease weed pressure.
There are a number of great summer cover crops to try. Sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor) is a great choice for the foothills during the heat of summer. It requires an initial watering at planting but can be dry farmed once established. Take caution before grazing ruminants on sudangrass as it contains highly toxic prussic acid (hydrocyanic acid.) Sudangrass has lower concentrations of prussic acid than its relative Sorghum or Sorghum-Sudangrass hybrids but it is still present in the leaves and roots of the plant. Hogs and chickens are less susceptible to prussic acid poisoning.
Another great choice for a summer cover crop is buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum.) Buckwheat will also grow in very dry conditions once established. It creates wonderful forage for bees and beneficial insects, is very fast growing, and helps make phosphorous more available in your soils (http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/covercrop/res/1994-1996/other/mini-review). Buckwheat's broad leaves and fast growth make it an ideal “smother crop” that will effectively shade out problematic weeds.
Cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) is a good legume choice for the dry summer. They will add a lot of nitrogen to your soils and will also help suppress summer weeds. Both buckwheat and cowpeas can be used as forage crops as well.
Grow a bed of summer cover crop or grow an entire field. Try a mix of species or just one type of plant. Whichever choice you make, summer cover crops will help you farm productively under the constraints of drought.
For more information on summer cover crops, check out these resources:
- Posted By: Foothill Farming
- Written by: Allen Edwards
The radical fluctuations in the timber market, along with increasingly expensive logging permits have refocused attention on other crops. Some of these, such as firewood, Christmas trees, and tree fruit, have a long history. Others such as berries, and cool-season vegetables are new, but are well suited to soil and climate conditions.
There is also a renewed interest in livestock -- particularly high-end, locally produced meat. This includes grass-fed beef, sheep, and increasingly poultry raised on irrigated pasture. It also includes browsing meat goats and sheep on brushland – both as a way to produce salable meat, and as a means of controlling brush and reducing the risk of wildfires.
Within the traditional lumber crops there is increased interest in producing lumber and other tree products on-the farm for local sales, rather than selling raw logs to the large regional sawmills.
Everything considered, there are many opportunities for viable farm businesses in Sierra forestland.
Posted by Allen Edwards, Edwards Family Farm, Colfax, CA
- Author: Cindy Fake
Welcome to the Fooothill Farming blog!
Our new website (http://ucanr.org/foothillfarming) has a lot to offer and will continue to expand as we add more information. If you have a question or you have information to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're interested in starting a small farm or ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills, this is the time of year to start your quest. In January and February 2011, there are lots of options to learn about small-scale foothill farming and ranching.
If you are just starting to think about farming or ranching, the Beginning Farm Planning class will be useful for you. It's a two session class on January 11th and 13th in Auburn. For more information and to register, go to http://ucanr.org/beginning farm planning.
If you need to learn more about marketing, check out the Sierra CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) Marketing and Value-added Workshop on Friday January 14th in Auburn. For more information and to register, go to http://ucanr.org/sierracraft marketing & value added
For lots of options to choose from, consider attending the PlacerGrown Farm Conference on February 5th. For more information and to register, go to http://ucanr.org/placergrownfarm conference
If you've already started farming or ranching but need help with making your business pay, consider the 6-week Farm Business Planning class starting on February 10th. Starting in January, check the UCCE Placer/Nevada website for information and registration.
Another event to consider attending is the Nevada County Grown Sustainable Food and Farm Conference on January 22nd. More information at: http://www.nevadacountygrown.org/conference/
For more opportunities, check the Foothill Farming website regularly.