Technology. It’s a word that you usually either love or hate. I love the internet. I hate smartphones with a passion, especially the way they turn normal people into dead-eyed, thumb-tapping, phone-obsessed zombies. But technology is rapidly changing our world, and on whole, I believe that some of these technologies are changing our world for the better. Social media, Web 2.0 and mini-computers (like smartphones) are opening up possibilities to small farmers that haven’t been around since….well…ever.
These new technologies are helping to make little-ol’ us competitive with the big-hulking mega-food-conglomerates. If you don’t belive me, just ask yourself when was the last time that thousands of regular folk pooled $35,000 to fund a butcher shop for Smithfield foods? Smithfield can’t make social media work for them, but Walter Jefferies knows how to make it work for his farm.
It is said that people do business with entities that they know, like and trust. Here is where social media gives us the huge advantage. We are far easier to know, our practices are more likeable, and we are more easily trusted than any of the big food companies. All we have to do is put ourselves out there and interact with people.
Essentially, the more information that people gather about the big food companies, the less likely they are to know, like or trust them. If we’re doing our jobs right, then the opposite should be true. The more our customers find out about us, the more they will know, like and trust us.
I’m no fan of social media for myself personally, but as a business, it’s too good to pass up. Social media is like someone giving you the keys to the marketing kingdom, or the enchanted sword Andúril of business, or whatever other goofy metaphor you’d like to use.
To quote Scott Stratten: “to be successful, you have to:
– Answer questions about our product or service
– Educate consumers
– Offer post purchase follow up
– Market research
– Discuss industry best practices
Read those five things out to a social media naysayer and ask if they agree about them being smart for businesses. Because that’s a checklist for what social media is used for.“
Another big trend that I see (that farmers aren’t using) is the QR code. QR codes are those little square pixelated-looking barcode thingies that are showing up on real estate signs, business cards, direct mail postcards, coupons and a bevy of other creative places. But what, you may ask, exactly is a QR code?
A QR code is really pretty simple. It’s a hyperlink for stuff that’s not on the internet. In real life, someone would scan a QR code with a smartphone and instantly be taken to a website. For small farmers competing in the cold, distant asiles of supermarkets, this could be leveraged into a HUGE advantage, but I’ve yet to see any small farmers do anything with it.
We shouldn’t be putting too much information on our packaging or signage, but throw in a QR code, and you’ve just linked a massive amount of information to your product without overloading the package and your customer. There’s a lot more that QR codes have to offer, and a lot of caveats for their use, but that’s a subject for another time.
The final area that I would like to see farmers doing better is simply getting their farms online. I know a great many farmers, and a minority of them actually have their own website. Of those that are online, a mere handful actually update their website or put content online on a semi-annual basis.
I can understand the reluctance to get a website going. If you’re web-challenged (like me) then it can be a hassle, but it’s getting easier all the time. That’s a good thing too, because with every day that goes by, there is a greater need to have a web presence.
I am from the first generation to have really grown up with the internet. I had telnet and Alta-vista and an excite email account in middle school, and I have only grown more accustomed to the internet as I’ve grown older. For people my age and younger, the internet isn’t a tool, it’s their default method of investigating and interacting with the world. If you’re not on the internet, you’re missing out on their current and future business.
And remember, in the grand sweep of history, we are still in the beginning of the internet age. With all the advances in the past 5 years, who can tell what the next 50 years will look like? We are just beginning to see the ways that farming can be improved with technology. Take the Holstein Cow for instance.
So anyway, long story short, internet good. Just use it responsibly, and as with everything else, in moderation.