An innovative app strengthens the farmer-consumer connection.
“The idea is to turn occasional browsers into regular shoppers by incentivizing repeat business,” explains Simon Huntley, the 33-year-old computer-programer son of sheep farmers in Pennsylvania.
Most folks who grow up on unprofitable farms turn away from the family business. Simon Huntley, 33, decided to confront agriculture’s inherent financial challenges head-on.
Three years ago, Huntley, the computer-programmer son of Pennsylvania sheep ranchers, developed FarmFan, an app aimed at a major conundrum for many indie producers—namely, how to move enough merch, given limited farmers-market schedules.
The app allows farmers to text opt-in customers messages notifying them of special discounts, market reminders and photos of the fruits, veggies, and meats available on any given day.
“The idea is to turn occasional browsers into regular shoppers by incentivizing repeat business,” Huntley explains. As for the casual communication method: Stats show that 90 percent of texts are opened and read within three minutes of receipt, compared with 25 percent of emails and 4 percent of social media posts. Even better, texts don’t require smartphones, a plus for flip phone–prone rural residents.
Nearly 27,000 consumers, or “Farm Fans,” in 30 states have downloaded the free app and willingly given their cell numbers to the 100-plus participating purveyors and farmers markets, all of which pay a monthly fee of $35 or more (depending on the number of patrons reached). “Texting is such a personal medium because we’re accustomed to using it with friends and family,” says Huntley.
It’s a lucrative one, too, according to Art King of Harvest Valley Farms in Valencia, Pennsylvania. “Last year, my sales were 13 percent higher than the previous year, and I didn’t do anything different other than use FarmFan,” King says. “The app’s a no-brainer. Any way you can improve your relationship with your customers will positively impact your bottom line.”