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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: N.H. Farmers Sow New Seeds on Social Media

Farmers gathered at Alyson's Orchard in Walpole

When you imagine the daily tasks of a farmer in New Hampshire, scheduling Facebook posts probably doesn’t come to mind. But it turns out that social media skills have become an important part of the modern farmer’s resume.

Inside a large reception hall at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, about fifty farmers from around the Monadnock Region gather for a meeting of the minds. But they’re not here to talk about the growing season, the price of grain, or animal husbandry -- though that sort of thing does come up.

“Hi I’m Caitlin Caserta, my husband is Chris, unfortunately he may or may not make it, we had to take pigs to slaughter today so part of the farming experience travels with me today.”

What they’re really here to talk about is something that couldn’t be further from the stereotypical image of life on a farm -- digital marketing.

Caitlin Caserta of Walpole Valley Farms and Beth Hodges of Echo Farm Puddings lead this workshop on how to get the word out about your farm. It’s part of an event hosted by the Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition.

Caserta and Hodges take questions like ‘should you try making your own website or hire it out? Should you be using Twitter? Instagram? How important is having a logo?’

“I think it’s huge," says Caserta. "There are reasons why these logos stand out in people’s minds -- they’re simple, they’re elegant, they’re easily recognizable and easily reproduced.”

Caserta says it’s especially important for farmers to be on Facebook. She says she saw a huge uptick in business once she started using it four years ago. And while there is discussion about what kinds of posts do well –there’s consensus that pictures of children on the farm tend to get the most likes – there’s also the issue of negative attention on social media.

“We’ve had a few posts on our Facebook page from vegan groups and from animal rights groups and some really graphic photographs have been posted on our page because we are a meat farm," says Caserta. "And it’s been difficult.”

The growers here come from a variety of farming backgrounds: vegetables, meat, even wine. Some are in their mid-twenties, just starting out; others are established mainstays in the region.

Terra Fletcher of Cloverly farm in Greenfield says digital marketing has been useful for her. But she says it’s also important to know who your customer base is.

“Some of our shareholders barely have an email account," says Fletcher. "I mean barely. Don’t even have a computer; they go to the library to check their email. And it’s like how do we communicate with you? I had just a piece of paper show up in my mailbox one day and it said I’m signing up for a share. And I was like I don’t know how to reach you, how to connect with you.”

Brittany Dooling runs a CSA in Chesterfield called the Mad Radish. She’s getting help from some students at Keene State who are tracking her website’s traffic with Google analytics.

Dooling says the Mad Radish is only a few months old, so the work of just letting people know it exists has almost completely taken over her normal farming responsibilities.

“I think the marketing has been our biggest focus because without that we can’t really farm anyway because we need the financial support," says Dooling.

And as more and more farmers start realizing that, you might begin to add the image of a well-designed website to that of a well kempt garden.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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