CARTHAGE, Mo. — Farmers and ranchers are increasingly turning to online sales to reach customers, especially with COVID-19 disrupting the operation of many farmers markets, restaurants and stores.
You don’t have to be particularly tech-savvy to launch an online store, but the variety of vendors, platforms and services to choose from can be daunting, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, says Maria Rodriguez-Alcala, a University of Missouri Extension community economic development specialist and member of MU Extension’s Food Systems program team.
MU Extension hosted a webinar in June titled “Choosing an Online Platform & Selling Online: Four Missouri Farmers Share Their Success Stories.” MU Extension facilitated the virtual workshop in partnership with the Webb City Farmers Market and the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.
“This panel really helped illustrate the opportunities and challenges these farmers face when making decisions to expand or diversify their operations,” says Rodriguez-Alcala.
A recording of the farmers’ presentations and question-and-answer sessions is available at youtu.be/1hzweVW2j4E, and the farmers are available for free one-on-one consultations.
“The farmers have committed to a set number of hours through Aug. 30, so people interested in receiving consultation or mentoring should contact the farmer of their choice as soon as possible,” she says.
Curtis Millsap, Millsap Farms, Springfield. The first-generation family farm sells vegetables to farmers markets and restaurants. Members of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program receive weekly shares of produce and other items. In his webinar presentation, Millsap compared the pros and cons of two e-commerce platforms designed for farm sales: Harvie and Barn2Door.
Karen Scott, OakWoods Farm, Newton County. This small-scale market farm produces vegetables, herbs, beef, goats, chickens and value-added products. OakWoods sells at farmers markets, its on-farm and online stores, and to local shops and restaurants. Scott says online purchases account for 30% of sales. The farm uses Square Online Store, a service of Square, Inc., the company behind the popular credit card reader for mobile devices. Setting up an online store with Square is free, she says, but it takes a bit of time to learn how to use it effectively.
Greg and Nancy Rasmussen, Sunny Lane Farm, Dade County. The Rasmussens sell grass-fed beef and lamb and pasture-raised poultry and pork at farmers markets and to local stores. Their online store is on Grazecart, an e-commerce platform the Rasmussens say was created by and primarily for ranchers. In their webinar presentation, the Rasmussens also discussed marketing, planning and various practical, financial and legal/regulatory considerations.
Liz Graznak, Happy Hollow Farm, Moniteau County. In addition to operating a CSA, the farm sells at the Columbia Farmers Market and to area stores and restaurants. About 10 years ago, Graznak hired MayeCreate Design, based in Columbia, to develop a custom website for the farm. She worked with the same company recently to add an online store using WooCommerce, a plug-in for the WordPress content management system.
Farmer contact information
- Curtis Millsap – 417-839-0847, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Karen Scott – 970-980-9395, email@example.com
- Nancy and Greg Rasmussen – 417-637-2991, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Liz Graznak – 573-268-6394, email@example.com
“Choosing an Online Platform & Selling Online: Four Missouri Farmers Share Their Success Stories” webinar
- MU Extension Food Systems programs, extension2.missouri.edu/programs/food-systems
- Missouri Food Finder, MoFoodFinder.org
— Curt Wohleber, University of Missouri Extension
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