By: Pat Shaver Published: The Pantagraph, April 05, 2014
Congerville farmer Henry Brockman admits he doesn’t understand Facebook.
“I’ve never seen Facebook with my own eyes,” said Brockman, whose business is called Henry’s Farm.
Yet the Henry’s Farm Facebook page is updated frequently by his sister, Terra Brockman.
Marketing online and in person has become more important for small farms that do everything from sell at local farmers’ markets to produce for large companies, said Atina Diffley, a Minnesota organic farmer and educator who spoke during the recent Central Illinois Sustainable Farming Network annual meeting last month in Bloomington.
Since small farmers compete with large grocery chains, branding and marketing their farm and maintaining relationships with customers is an important part of business, she said.
“It’s a lot more work to buy from local farmers. Always be thinking about how to make it easier for the customers to buy from you,” Diffley said, adding that many small farms benefit from social media marketing. “You are selling more than just food; you are selling values.”
Brockman farms 10 acres and grows about 625 different vegetable varieties. He sells his produce at the Evanston Farmers Market and runs a Community Supported Agriculture program for 230 customers in Central Illinois. CSAs are typically family-owned farms that provide produce directly to customers who sign up and pay a weekly fee.