133: Simon Huntley on Marketing a Small Farm
Helping small farmers negotiate the world of marketing through online technology.
Simon grew up on a small farm in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania before pursuing a degree in Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. Soon after college, Simon helped a long-time western Colorado fruit farmer expand his operation to include vegetable production and a CSA program. The project grew to serve five area farmers markets and a 130-member CSA.
During his tenure at the farm, Simon took advantage of his education in information technology to develop a highly interactive website for the CSA. In retrospect, this website was a prototype for what Small Farm Central would eventually become. After leaving the farm in the Fall of 2006, Simon started Small Farm Central with a core group of 10 farmers from across the country. In four years, Small Farm Central has grown to serve more than 1000 farmers (as of October 2015) across the U.S. and Canada.
Outside of Small Farm Central, Simon is kept active by his two sons, Eliot (age 4) and Theo (age 1). He enjoys food experimentation projects like beer making, fermenting various vegetables, and whatever other challenges come up. The 70-acre family farm is still in the family, so there is a chance of returning to growing food some day!
In This Podcast: Simon shares his story with Greg about how he went from avoiding the farm as a kid, to now using his technology skills to help farmers promote their farms online. Farmers who are just starting out with a small farm, are the people that Simon is focusing on helping and he shares what some of the techniques and tools he has developed specifically for this unique market. With this they also discuss the differences between social media and email marketing.
Listen in to Learn About:
- How he grew up on a small farm, with parents that basically homesteaded
- As a kid he wanted nothing to do with the farm and so he focused on computers instead
- How the time in college helped him focus on how to bring farming and computer technology together
- His experience as a WOOF with a farmer that wanted to start a CSA
- What inspired him to start Small Farm Central
- Community Supported Agriculture – where the concept started, what that means
- How someone just starting a farm can use a CSA to help get started
- The focus he has had on CSAs and how he is excited to help them with technology
- Some examples the small farms and CSAs can connect with their community
- The software he uses to help farmers and the customization aspects and support
- What the first thing a farmer needs to do to get started
- His recommendations for those who are filling CSA orders
- More about what he teaches farmers to do to help start the marketing for their farm
- The difference between emails and social media marketing
As well as:
- How he attempted to add to the typical CSA process a tool for the end user, and what he learned from the process and is now focusing on a different aspect of promotion
- How he is now grateful that he has built a sustainable business that he enjoys doing on a daily basis
- That he kept coming back to farming and he wants to help farms have a profitable and sustainable business
- His advice to podcast listeners is “Just get started! And if you can’t do that, join a CSA or go to a You-Pick, and get involved.”
Book Recommendations & Mentions by Simon:
The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work by Ben Hartman
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Simon’s New Book:
Cultivating Customers: A Farmer’s Guide to Online Marketing
How to reach Simon:
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