- Agronomic: potatoes
- Fruits: melons, apples, berries (brambles)
- Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, brussel sprouts
- Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, swine, sheep, fish
- Animal Products: dairy
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives, e-commerce, market study
Some people want to know how their food was grown and who grew it. That was true in the 1990s, when farmers from the Central chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association formed Whole Farm Cooperative in Long Prairie. The number of those people has increased since then. Most of those people live in, or near, urban areas. Whole Farm Cooperative members are exclusively rural. We met face to face with our customers as often as time and expense permitted, but our major vehicle of communication was a monthly email listing our available products. At the time, that was a novel idea. Customers ordered, via email, and we drove a truck full of farm products to an agreed-upon drop site. Today, email continues to serve that purpose. With our grant we have established a Facebook account, added educational information to our website’s home page, and have begun creating farmer profiles based on interviews with cooperative members. In the few months we’ve worked on the project we’ve learned that although many customers like our Facebook page, some customers do not and will not use Facebook. We’ve also learned that many customers like the information on the website but that some don’t look at it. During the two years of grant funding, the honor of learning about our customers, and how they perceive our products, and us, will be as valuable as learning how to use new communications media. We will continue to do both. Sometime around 2000, a series of volunteers and professionals began developing our web site. It was a somewhat lurching effort with a goal of having an online ordering site. It was also intended to provide customers with meaningful information about Cooperative members and their farming practices. That was the 20th century. Now, thanks to a grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE), we are adapting the 21st century’s virtual communication technologies. We hope that will help us further develop our ability to provide solid information to customers and, ultimately, improve our sales.