Louise Divine at her farm collecting squash bees
The internet has changed the way of communication and how people do business. It has brought new possibilities to the traditional agricultural industry. Louise Divine, owner of Turkey Hill Farm, and Katie Harris, Full Earth Farm are Executive Co-directors of the Red Hill Small Farm Alliance, which runs the Red Hills Online Farmers Market. Louise and Katie are speakers for the upcoming Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. Divine agreed to kindly shared some her views with us in a brief interview below.
Farmers who sell their products in the open-air farmers markets experience difficulties. “You harvest your produce and take it to the market, but rain will keep consumers at home, then you don’t sell your product. It can leave you in a bad spot and it becomes a gamble.” Divine said.
The online farmers market gives farmers a platform to show their product and also consumers a window to check what’s new and fresh in the market. The Red Hills Online Farmers Market provide home delivery service for customers that for whatever reasons do not go to the farmers market, but want fresh produce. For farmers, the online market reduces risk, as harvests and deliveries follow the online sales already made by customers.
The idea of setting up an online market was initiated from a software advertisement for online markets watched by Divine. Additionally, she heard one farmer speak about their experiences with an online market. Together with three other farmers who shared her enthusiasm decided to form the Red Hill Small Farm Alliance. With guidance from all the members of the alliance, they decided to create an online market as a good marketing alternative for farmers in the region.
The online farmer market is now in its fourth year, and the farmers have seen high rates of sales growth every year. “Our farmers’ market sells in a radius of 100 miles from Tallahassee, and it has 30 to 40 farmer vendors at any given time. I believe the market has grown by word of mouth. We don’t attempt to make a profit as a market, but rather offer a service to both farmers and customers.” Divine said.
For Divine and all the farmers belonging to the online market, the market has provided an increasingly important marketing avenue and also helped strengthen the farm community in the region.
Turkey Hill Farm Produce
At the end of interview, Divine shared some tips about how to sell online. She said: “You have to know how to present your products and your farm in pictures, while in an open air market, farmers interact with customers face to face.” Contrary to what many expect, the online customers are of all ages and walks of life, just as her regular customers, that is, the older folks make great use of the internet to shop online just as younger people.
If you want to know more, please come to the session called “Managing a Successful Online Market” where Divine and Katie Harris, both Executive Co-Directors of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, will share their detailed experiences, advice and tips.
The session will be take place on Saturday from 1:45 to 3:45 pm in Room 162, and will be moderated by Ed Skvarch from UF/IFAS St. Lucie County Extension.
Find more information about the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance here, and their Red Hills Online Farmers Market here.
See you in Kissimmee!
Photo Credits: Turkey Hill Farm and Red Hill Small Farm Alliance.