by Nancy Shuttleworth, VtSBDC E-Commerce Business Advisor
Rutland Area Food and Farm Link (RAFFL) is an enormous resource for Rutland County. The nonprofit organization offers workshops, answers farmers’ questions, and publishes a yearly Locally Grown Guide, which includes info about farms, farmers, CSAs, and where to buy just about anything grown in the county. RAFFL’s mission is “to expand availability and access to locally produced foods, bolster the greater Rutland region's agricultural economy, and increase community appreciation and understanding of the positive impact of farms and farmers on the Rutland region.”
In February, RAFFL and Vt Small Business Development Center worked together to offer RAFFL members and the community an opportunity for one-on-one consultations with Nancy Shuttleworth, a VtSBDC E-Commerce Business Advisor. Thanks to the Vermont Digital Economy Project, this advising was offered for free.
Many small farming operations and businesses have limited resources for marketing tasks such as creating websites, managing social media and email, and growing their customer base. Small business owners understand they need an online presence, but they don’t usually have the time to research the best methods or practices for website development or the creation and curation of a Facebook business page. Small farming operations are increasingly realizing that their customers want to access to information online about their farm products and payment options. Having an online presence provides a great convenience for the farmers also; they can communicate in new and creative ways with their current customers and draw in potential new customers.
The business owners and farmers are creative and entrepreneurial, willing to jump right in and do what it takes to upgrade their online business image. They were also extremely appreciative for the assistance provided. One local farmer, Carol Tashie, co-owner of Radical Roots Farm in Rutland, wrote, “The big THANK YOU comes from the fact that I have started using Weebly to create a new website. It is a bit challenging for someone with my minimal knowledge and experience but I am taking it one step at a time and it is really starting to come together. Without your encouragement I would not have taken this on - your confidence and resources are what moved me forward. I am very grateful!” As Radical Roots Farm proceeds with their website, VtSBDC will provide ongoing assistance with the website creation and marketing ideas.
For extra ideas on using digital tools to help market a small business, take a look at some of our other stories: