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Agriculture Online Allows For Digital Harvests

Farmers grow offline, then connect with a new audience online as the use of websites and social media gain ground in agriculture and helping people find local food.

| January/February 2012

  • Agriculture Online
    Now you can find local food online!
    Lori Dunn

  • Agriculture Online

The farm-to-fork mentality is less a trend and more a lifestyle. Sites like Eggzy, which locates local chicken farmers, and Home Grown Cow, a conduit for beef, chicken and cheese lovers looking for farmers in their area, are bringing a digital edge to agriculture.

Consumers are concerned about the traceability of their food, but 98.5 percent of the population is not directly involved in food production, according to Ag Chat, a site focused on “agvocating” and connecting farmers through social media. Even though foods with local origins have a lower deliverable cost, consumers still pay up to 50 percent more for these items. Consumers see the value in eating local and are willing to pay. As farmers compete for recognition and repeat customers, new online channels are specifically aimed to help agricultural businesses maintain their presence off the farm.

Relying simply on word of mouth, Mark Thompson and his wife, Charlene Smith, of New Hope, Pennsylvania, launched a public online eggstand called Eggzy. Thompson, a software developer, used his tech background to create their concept. He knows the keys to good agricultural commerce: face-to-face marketing and traceability. Currently a free service, Eggzy allows those interested in purchasing eggs to search for local chicken farmers.

Home Grown Cow launched in early 2011 for consumers to find cattle farms. Taking a small percentage of each transaction, Home Grown Cow is a marketplace for farmers to post their entire inventory. Meats and cheeses are packaged and distributed around the country. Home Grown Cow is open to all beef, poultry and cheese producers.

Connecting with consumers on a local level leaves a neglected clientele: businesses. Undergoing a major relaunch in the summer of 2011, Food Hub is a regional site with a business-to-business mindset. Restaurants, corporate food service providers and cafes utilize Food Hub in the Pacific Northwest to find goods local to their area. Food Hub is currently considering expanding its service area to the rest of the United States.

More farmers around the country are creating their own sites to fill a digital gap. “If we’re not going to use social media, we might as well be talking to the cows,” says Jan Hoadley, a farmer and avid blogger based out of Alabama’s Birmingham area.

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