I’ve been writing this blog for three years now, effectively covering the time span in which the farm has grown from a gentle beginning to a full-time, year-round occupation for us. We started the blog for several reasons: to reach & educate potential and existing customers; as a personal outlet for opinions, frustrations, and joys; and to provide some documentation of our path. I think all three of those goals have been achieved, and I’ve enjoyed doing it. However, as this fall and early winter progress, it’s getting harder to find the time and motivation to keep up with the writing commitment.
One, my old laptop died a few months ago, such that we’re down to one computer (we can’t afford, and don’t really need, another). This time of year requires a great deal of computer work to handle seed planning & orders, organic paperwork, accounting/taxes, other business needs, and so on. Neither of us enjoy spending too much time in front of screens (that’s why we’re farmers), and the blog just isn’t a priority compared to all the other needs.
Two, I’m no longer sure we’re getting a satisfactory return from the writing. We’ve justified the time expenditure as a marketing tool, and it certain has been valued and used by a number of customers, but it’s hard to judge whether we’re really getting enough extra sales and loyalty overall to justify the many hours/week I spend making this an interesting, unique product. It certainly doesn’t generate any revenue on its own, and I’m philosophically opposed to introducing advertising. I could in theory put a Paypal button or something up, but also doubt that would generate any real revenue. In effect, as our budget gets tighter and our time more valuable, I have a harder time justifying giving away hard-earned intellectual property for free (like most other online media).
Three, we’re wondering whether the blog hurts us as well as helps us. Certainly we have…unorthodox views (for organic farmers) on a number of subjects, and are concerned that being too outspoken hurts us. Customers make choices based partly on personal opinions, and I don’t know whether we offend people as well as attracting them by making our views known. The same is true for our Organic Certification, which I know for a fact drives some customers away who associate “organic” with “dirty” or “overpriced”. Are we better off just shutting up and letting the average market customer think we’re “normal” organic farmers? Certainly I don’t know of many conservatives who choose to patronize us because we refuse to apply for USDA grants, and can easily envision more liberal customers being bothered by certain opinions. I like contributing to a more open discussion of food policy, but am not sure it’s worth it for our business.
Four, we’re looking into finding more lucrative outlets for my deep enjoyment of writing. Many of the things I have or intend to write up for the blog are also potential paid articles/columns for local, regional, or national outlets, whether small-farm journals or other media. Why keep giving it away on an obscure 30-hits-per-day blog when I can focus on getting that once-in-a-while paid publication? This shift would at least help justify the writing & research time in a way that a blog does not. Over the winter we’re going to explore those options and see what happens.
So all of this means we’re going to significantly reduce the posting and content on this blog, at least for the winter. Look for something maybe once a week or twice a month, mostly just general updates on what we’re doing and how the farm is preparing for next year. I’m going to lay off the politics almost entirely, and try to stick to easy, photo-rich subjects. I’d be happy to get any feedback you all have, but this pretty much has to happen for now. We’ll see how winter goes, and maybe relaunch with a different format in spring. I still like this as a market-report forum and want to at least keep that going.
Anyway, enjoy your winter, as we certainly will, and remember to check in here now and then for a few updates.