Southwestern Community College’s first ever AgriBusiness Summit this week brought together farmers of all kinds to learn about new regulations, grants and skills.
Over 100 farmers – both veteran and beginner – attended to learn new skills or brush up on old ones. Tiffany Henry of Southwestern’s Small Business Center reminded them all of the importance of having a business plan.
“If you are a farmer, you are a business. Even a hobbyist will sell their excess at a farmer’s market,” says Henry.
Beyond seminars on tax regulations and finances, a good portion of the day’s events were devoted to a new prong on any business plan: social media marketing.
Laura Lauffer is with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. She’s worked in sustainable farming for almost 30 years and has been teaching farmers about social media for the last 3.
“It is such a visual opportunity for people to see the variety and quality of farm products and to learn really about what is happening on local farms,"says Lauffer. "It’s an opportunity that food and farming businesses should be aware of.”
She went over about five different social media platforms such as Facebook and Instgram. Then she explained how each can help grow business a business in different ways. Some farmers in the seminar were already on social media but wanted to learn more tips.
Laura Craig already has an active Facebook page for her business Shade Tree Farms in Franklin. She raises goats and makes their milk into scented soaps and other products.
“It’s real important for me to post on there so that people know where to find me,” says Craig.
"Like if my product gets put in a new store so they know where to buy it or if I’m running a special or a contest - or if they just want to say, ‘hey.’”
Other attendees were still wary of social media. Chris Tomsic is an environmental restoration engineer. He’s thinking of investing in his Weaverville property to grow industrial hemp.
“I’m pretty skeptical. I’m 43 and I’ve never used social media - and I don’t know if I ever will,” says Tomsic.” I’m trying to figure out from a business perspective if it will help create a bigger platform for the business.”
For Laura Lauffer, the idea isn’t to stay glued to screens. Instead social media is a free tool for marketing.
“I say it’s what you do when you are off your phone. The ultimate idea is that you take that information that you are learning and ideally that connection that you are making with them on social media moves you to action,” says Lauffer.
The summit also covered beginning graphic design such as free tools like Canva. These come in handy when launching a business on social media.