farm

Improving Pasture Management for Sustainable Livestock Production Webinar Series

Calling all livestock producers, farmers, and service providers! Mark your calendars for this upcoming webinar series.

Register here: http://bit.ly/2021SARE

Please contact Rachel Bespuda with any questions rachel.bespuda@uconn.edu

Best Management Practices for Farm Websites

Why Build a Website for your Agricultural Business

Websites are an important tool to have for your agricultural business. A website provides an online presence and establishes your credibility as a business. Building a website might seem to be a daunting task but this document is here to provide best management practices for building, designing, and updating a website.

Website Domain and Hosting

The first step to building a website starts with picking a domain name and a place to host your website. Your website’s domain name is specific to you and is your internet “address”. Your website’s domain name is specific to you and is your internet “address”. For example, UConn Extensions’ domain name is www.cahnr.uconn.edu/extension and the Walmart retail company’s domain name is www.walmart.com. When picking a domain name, you want it to be unique to your business and close to your farm name. To see what name options are available a domain name search should be conducted.

A domain name can be registered in one of two ways. First, companies like GoDaddy or Namecheap can be used to register a domain name. This step does cost money but is essential to having a website online. The price of purchasing is usually a yearly fee and is less than $20.00/year (depending on the company you select). Wherever your domain name is registered it must be published to WHO.IS and Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP) for it to be official. These programs are a database for all registered domain names on the internet. Another option to consider is that a domain name can also be purchased through a website builder (companies like Squarespace, Wix, etc.). The price for a domain name and hosting fees are combined. There is an option to have a free domain name through a website builder. Your domain name would look like this, yourname.sitebuildername.com. This option doesn’t look very professional.

infographic image
Download a fact sheet.

Choosing a web hosting/builder platform is the next and most important step when starting a website. Website hosting and the building of a website will take time, effort, and money. Look around at the different options available. Popular web hosting sites to consider include Wix, Weebly, Square Space, and WordPress. These are only a few of the more popular sites and each one offers different options.

Wix offers very easy and helpful designs that make designing your website simple even for those that are technology challenged. There are helpful widgets and ready to use templates available. A storefront can be set up on your website and event bookings can also be taken. Wix offers “farm & garden” templates that can easily be made to fit your agricultural business. The cost to have your website hosted using Wix starts at $18/month or $23/month for an e-commerce option.

Square Space is small business focused and has options for e-commerce. Templates are available to build on, but I had a hard time navigating and editing their templates is challenging. The cost per month starts at $12 or $26 for an e-commerce option. Square Space offers a very professional front for your business, but it takes time to learn and navigate their website building tools.

WordPress comes highly recommended for business and is widely used by Connecticut agricultural businesses. Templates are picked by the pages and it is easy to navigate. Your website is built and maintained through a dashboard and that may be unfamiliar at first. There are support options if you need help. A recommended price option for this company is $25/month. WordPress offers Google Analytics. This allows you to monitor your online presence and the traffic brought to your website. Google Analytics is a service that allows you to track website activity and gives useful information.

If you are looking to spend little or no money on your website there are a few options; however, it doesn’t look as professional to a customer. To save money don’t buy a domain and use free web design companies. These include Bluehost (has options as low as $4/month), Wix (free for a year), WordPress (free), and Weebly (free). When you go for a cheaper or free option the user experience is slower since you are sharing internet space with other websites.

Once you pick a web hosting/building platform company it is hard to change to a different one. When picking a company consider the cost, knowledge, time required to build and maintain the site, how easy or complex the builder is, and available space you are allowed for your site. Before choosing a web hosting/building platform look at the websites they are currently hosting and look around before making a decision. Your online experience should be just as easy for you as it is for your customers. Maintaining a website requires dedicated time, effort, and money. A business should budget about $250-$400 a year for a website if they want to provide a professional online appearance.

Website Design

man sitting at an Apple computerIt is one thing to have a website, it is another thing to have a well-designed and informative website for visitors. In general, items that are at the top of the page are large, have a strong contrast of color, and are surrounded by white space that creates high visual prominence. This means that a reader’s eyes are drawn to this spot and are more likely to be seen. Important information you want to be seen should follow those guidelines.

The homepage is the most important page because this is the page everyone sees when coming to your website and you want to make an impression. A logo, your motto/tag line, location, and basics of what you offer should be included on the home page. A clear navigation menu should be available to guide a viewer to more of your content. Social media and a quick way for people to contact you should also be available on the homepage. With all this information to include you don’t want the homepage to be too crowded because you want the viewer to explore the rest of the website. Less is more when it comes to information on a home page.

Pictures are very important to include on your website. Photos are an easy way to display your products and attract the attention of the viewer. Ideally, they should be your own high-quality photos. If you decide to not use your own photos keep in mind there are copyright infringement laws and if not followed can cost a lot of money. Make sure when using other’s photos, they are labeled for reuse and are royalty free photos. You can find photos labeled for reuse on Google or another website like unsplash.com. It is easier to use your photos that are unique to you!

Once photos are uploaded to your website make sure that you fill in “alt text” or alternate text. This means labeling your photo with a description. For example, if a photo of an apple orchard is uploaded the alt text could be “row of apple trees with red apples hanging against a blue sky”. Alt text also helps if a photo won’t load properly on a website and with page views. A properly labeled photo can help garner more page views due to the search algorithm. Another benefit of using alt text is for the visually impaired. Color blindness affects a person’s viewing experience by making your website impossible to read. Color blindness can affect 1 in every 20 visitors to your site. Contrasting colors on different ends of the color spectrum work the best for people with color blindness. White and black are the best example of this. Elements should have more than one indication. For example, a link should be underlined as well as bold or a different color. Making your website accessible for different groups of people shows you care and helps with page views in the algorithms.

An “about” page is a very good idea to include on your website. This tells the visitor who is behind the business. This builds a connection with the viewer and is known to be one of the most visited pages on the website. A summary of the people involved in the company and history should be included. Achievements and what makes you stand out from your competition should also be included. This summary doesn’t have to be lengthy. The goal of this page is to put a face with the name and business.

A products page should be included on the website. This page allows you to put details about the products your business offers. Although you mentioned briefly the products available on your home page this is where you can dive into the details. If you offer products for different groups of people (ex. retail or wholesale) consider making two different pages for the different groups. Product pages can also be split by seasonal products (spring, summer, fall, or winter sales). If one product is really important to you and has a good deal of information, it can have its own page (e.g., CSA).  Information to have includes short descriptions of products and what to expect when purchasing.

If you know you want to start selling products online, an e-commerce package should be purchased when picking a web hosting site. E-commerce requires a website builder to have more capabilities which is why it costs a bit more. This page should be user-friendly for both you and a customer. High quality photos of products and a description are required and help a sale go through. An integral part of e-commerce is how payments will be accepted. Using online payment services like Paypal or Square allow a customer to securely purchase your products online. One of the pitfalls to e-commerce for small business is transaction fees. For example, Square and Paypal charge 2.9% plus $0.30 per payment.

A contact page is essential for allowing communication between your business and visitors. An address, phone number, email, and hours should be included on this page. It is important to note that whatever contact information is put on the website is out for the masses to see. If you don’t want people getting your cell phone number don’t put it on your website. A contact form should also be included on this page for an easy way for visitors can get in touch with you. Most website builders have template forms already built-in; you just need to enable it. To ensure your contact form is used for its intended audience install a tool such as reCaptcha. Internet bots, which are automated programs, could fill out your form and mess with your data.  To use this free tool all you have to do is register on the reCaptcha website or use the built-in tool on the website builder.

Besides the navigation bar at the top of the page, a footer is an important tool that is critical to your page. A footer can be found at the bottom of pages and is the same throughout the website. A list of all your pages should be here and quick contact information should also be available at the bottom of the page. Another suggestion is your address and hours of your business. This should act as a site map. A site map is a list of the pages that are on your website. Footers allow your website visitors to easily navigate important information about your business and website.

Website maintenance should be done regularly to ensure your website is relevant and to address any issues such as outdated products or broken links to other websites. Put aside an hour every month or at the least every season to look over your website. If your website doesn’t work properly or is hard to navigate, potential customers will leave your page, and this could mean lost revenue. It doesn’t look professional to have out of date information on your page. Making sure your website is secure is also important to maintain. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification is a free program that provides a layer of security for your website. It protects information from hackers. You can notice if a website uses SSL by looking for a lock near the web address.

 A well designed and maintained website is helpful to your agriculture business in this digital age. It is important to establish an online presence and your credibility as a business. Take your time building a website and most of all have fun taking your business online. 

Download an infographic with these website suggestions.

Article by Emily Syme

UConn Extension has Stress Management Resources for Ag Producers

UConn Extension has Stress Management Resources for Agricultural Producers

Article by MacKenzie White

 

graphic that says it is okay to ask for help and provides contact information for UConn Extension agricultural stress management resourcesWe understand many of our Connecticut farms and families have been dealing with stress long before this pandemic took place. May is National Mental Health Month, although it may seem like there is nothing to celebrate, reaching out to someone could really help them, and that’s worth celebrating.

Through a collaborative of UConn Extension faculty and staff along with some of our critical partners (Farm Credit East, ACA, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, Connecticut Farm Bureau, CT NOFA, Eggleston Equine, and Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services) we created a resource page to help agricultural producers mitigate some of the stressors they are facing. The page is located at:  http://ctfarmrisk.uconn.edu/agstress.php

We know caring for your crops and animals is hard enough but caring for your own health and wellness in this high-stress profession should be a priority as well for your farm business. Your mental health success is part of your agribusiness success.

It is hard to get the help you need when you don’t necessarily know where to begin. If you are experiencing symptoms of depressing or have suicidal thoughts, ask or reach out for help.

  • Reach out to a loved one
  • Talk to your friends or a medical provider
  • Are you at risk? Need help now? In Crisis call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 211 in CT, or Text “CT” to 741741.
  • In an emergency call or text 911

Making time for self-care can help you manage everyday stress and achieve more energy, have better focus and even reach new levels of productivity. Some self-care steps to take include the following:

  • Eat well
  • Get enough rest
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Exercise
  • Writing in a journal

We have also created a Private Facebook Group for Farmers and Agricultural Service Providers to communicate with one another through this challenging time for all of us. Join the group today at https://www.facebook.com/groups/361718224745725/

We at UConn Extension are working though unable to make farm visits at this time. We do offer assistance via email, phone and virtual meetings. Please let us know if we can help you. Please remember, if you see something, say something!

Economic Assistance Programs for Agriculture & Businesses

Economic Assistance Programs

Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Applications can be submitted starting today.

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

For more information and updates, visit Treasury.gov/CARES and SBA.gov/PayCheckProtection.

Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering all states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here for coronavirus relief loan options.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan  

  • The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
  • These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
  • The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.
  • Click here to apply.
  • For questions, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail  disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan
In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000.

This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.

Apply for the Loan Advance here.

Other Coronavirus Assistance
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are currently eligible to apply for a loan advance of up to $10,000.

The Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program allows small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loans or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan.

Terms:

  • Up to $25,000
  • Fast turnaround
  • Will be repaid in full or in part by proceeds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

The SBA can also provide debt relief to small businesses as they overcome the challenges created by this health crisis. For information click here.

Farm and Business Financial Analysis

SRAC 4400: Introduction to Financial Management of Aquaculture Businesses – click here.
SRAC 4401: Assessing the Financial Position of an Aquaculture Business: Using Balance Sheets – click here.
SRAC 4402: Determining the Profitability of an Aquaculture Business: Using Income Statements and Enterprise Budgets – click here.
SRAC 4403: Evaluating the Liquidity/Cash Position of an Aquaculture Business: Using Cash Flow Statements – click here.

Please note federal websites are being updated daily to reflect loan program changes to improve access or new programs authorized by the CARES Act.  If a link no longer functions, go to the agency website and look for a coronavirus economic assistance program link.

Ask UConn Extension Your Questions

Indu
Indu Upadhyaya, Food Safety Assistant Extension Educator. Photo: Kevin Noonan

UConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time.

We are still delivering the science-based information you need. We are ready to answer your questions. Consult with us by email or on the phone. All of our educators are working and ready to serve you. Ask us a question online.

We are developing virtual programs to offset canceled in-person learning Abby Beissingeropportunities. Our educators are writing and updating fact sheets and other information. You have access to educational materials on our YouTube channel. We are growing our suite of online resources every day to meet the needs of our communities and stakeholders.

UConn CAHNR Extension educators have curated resources related to COVID-19 for our statewide audiences, including families, businesses, and agricultural producers.

Resources for all audiences includes:

  • Food safety and cooking
  • Hand washing and sanitizers
  • Infection prevention
  • Financial advice
  • Listings of open farms/farmers’ markets and school emergency meal distribution

Parents and families with children out of school can use the resources from our UConn 4-H program to provide new educational activities for youth. Activities available will keep youth engaged and learning and are appropriate for a variety of age groups.

Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy
Bruce Hyde presenting at Land Use Academy.

A list of resources has been collected for Connecticut businesses. It is a clearinghouse of resources, and not an official site. Business owners can connect to the state resources we provide for official and legal advice.

Agricultural producers are still working on farms, in greenhouses and along the coast in Long Island Sound during the COVID-19 outbreak. Extension educators have developed resources for specific agricultural sectors, including fruit and vegetable farms, aquaculture, and nursery and landscape professionals. Links to important updates from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture also are available.

Our Extension educators are updating and adding resources regularly. Please visit http://bit.ly/COVID-19-Extension.

We are also ready to answer your other questions, including:

  • How do I get my water tested?
  • What is wrong with my plant?
  • Can I eat healthy on a budget?
  • How does my son/daughter join 4-H?

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

We are here. We are ready to serve you.

 

Agriculture Producer Survey Request

Angie Harris
Agricultural Producers: Please take this five minute survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on your business. The Governor of Connecticut issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order except for essential businesses on March 23, 2020. The Commissioner of Agriculture clarified, per Executive Order 7H, that agriculture businesses are considered “essential businesses”. This anonymous survey will help us to better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s agriculture industry. Results will be used to continue developing Extension resources.
 
Take the survey at: bit.ly/Ag_COVID

Join us for a Farmer Focus Group Tomorrow

vegetables in a wheelbarrow in a greenhouse
Photo: USDA
Invite to Farmer Focus Group

Do you struggle with getting all the work done on your farm?  Do you have challenges attracting and retaining employees?  Are you interested in working with other farmers to design solutions to labor challenges?  If so, consider attending the farmer focus group, Exploring Novel Approaches to Farm Labor, at the CT NOFA Winter Conference in Middletown on March 7th from 12:30—1:45.  [A vegetarian box lunch will be provided]  We will discuss three potential farm labor models and the opportunities, challenges, and interests of each one.  Be prepared to provide your input and feedback! Register now by clicking here We are seeking small to mid-scale diversified fruit and vegetable farmers in Connecticut (and New England + New York) who practice sustainable growing methods and market products directly to consumers or engage in wholesale/institutional markets.  We are particularly interested in producers who hire full-time, part-time seasonal workers, and/or family members.  An electronic gift card of $50 will be provided. 

FYI – A second opportunity to participate will be in the evening of March 30th at CT Farm Bureau Association, time tbd.

This project is funded by a Northeast SARE Novel Approaches grant, LNE19-386R. 

Agritourism and Direct Sales Survey

norton brothers farm market

Agritourism and Direct Sales Survey – If you have visitors on your farm, ranch, vineyard, or fishery, you are invited to take part in a national survey about agritourism and direct sales. Whether you have a farmstand, u-pick, CSA, tastings, school field trips, events, tours, hunting, overnight stays, or open your farm to the public in any other ways, your experiences are important. This survey is confidential and should take about 10 minutes to complete. Results will be used to develop tools and resources for farmers. The survey will close January 31. Questions can be directed to Lisa Chase, lisa.chase@uvm.edu or 802-257-7967.

The survey is at: www.tinyurl.com/agritourismsurvey 

One-On-One Agricultural Advising Sessions

one on one agricultural advising with UConn Extension

The UConn Extension RMA program has offered one-on-one advising sessions for several years. Due to the popularity of this program, we are offering 3 days this winter for you to meet in a private session with an advisor. We are offering a wide array of topics to choose from. The brochure has the full schedule.

Contact MacKenzie White at mackenzie.white@uconn.edu or at 860-875-3331 to register.

Workshop: Production Agriculture – Back to Basics

back to basics flyerProduction Agriculture – BACK TO BASICS 

Farmers of all experience are encouraged to join the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, University of Connecticut, and the American Farmland Trust on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon, Connecticut to hear the latest in IPM/biocontrol, soil management, and water programs.

Aaron Ristow of the American Farmland Trust will discuss his findings on the economic and environmental impacts of soil health practices. This is a free program and pesticide credits will be offered.

Register online now at http://bit.ly/2PNPDPC. For more information please contact Erin Windham at 860-713-2543 or Erin.Windham@ct.gov.