Feb 7, 2012
New technologies changing farm marketing

When farm market guru John Stanley spoke at the 2011 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dec. 6, one of the many things he said was that smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, have changed farm marketing.

That notion was further enhanced by a presentation by Steve Tennes, president of the Michigan Farm Marketing & Agri-Tourism Association (MIFMAT), when he announced the official launch of the Michigan Farm Market Finder application (app) for Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods. The app was a joint effort of MIFMAT, the Michigan Apple Committee, Michigan Farmers Market Association and the Michigan Cider Makers’ Guild, and is free to download.

“In the short time the app has been out, we’ve had over 1,000 downloads, according to Apple,” Tennes said. “And to date, there are 337 markets and farms listed in the app. The initial investment was $4,500, and we’re already seeing a significant return on that investment.”

When you search, the app identifies the farm markets, cider mills, farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards closest to your location. Users can select a list of the markets or have their location and yours shown on a map. On the map, a color code shows which locations are farm markets, cider mills, etc. Users can search for a particular market, and there is a function to save a list of your favorites.

Information included in the app indicates hours of operation and a list of products offered for sale. The app also lets the user link to the market’s website, place a call to the market – it even provides GPS navigation.

The free app is listed in the Apple App Store under Michigan Farm Markets. At this time, it is only available under the Apple format. A similar version for the Android operating system is being considered, Tennes said.

Square takes credit cards

Farm marketers and other business owners can use their iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones to make credit card transactions, thanks to the Square.

The Square is a free card reader and app based out of San Francisco that allows the user to accept credit card payments through a smartphone or tablet computer.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB), Americans carry 609.8 million credit cards, and 80 percent of Americans carry a debit card. FRB also reports that, individually, consumers use debit cards more often than cash or checks.

That was one of the main selling points for Kathy Unger, Unger Farms, Cornelius, Ore.

“We felt like customers would spend a little more if they could use their debit or credit card,” she said. “Our next hope is that The Square will be able to accept the Oregon Trail cards (food stamp debit card).”

According to the Square website, set-up takes minutes, and funds are automatically deposited to your bank account the next day. There is a fee of 2.75 percent per swipe for all cards.
“We felt the cost of this is much less than any of the traditional ways of doing credit or debit,” Unger said. “Receipts are via email or text, which we thought may be an issue but it hasn’t been. We have used the Square for one season and we love how simple it is. The money is put into our account that day or the next, and we can view all transactions immediately.”

The Ungers attend 20 farmers’ markets in their area. They plan to add two more smartphones this year, so they can have a Square at all markets they are at on any given day, which is usually four, Kathy said. Last year, they had two smartphones equipped with the Square. They also plan to have one set up for their on-farm market.

For more information or to sign up for the Square, visit the Square website.

By Derrek Sigler, Assistant Editor

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