Technology... the best and the worst of the modern age! Our customizable, completely flexible, online-based farm share program is the core of our business model. It's been very popular—we've had a waiting list since the first year. I love the easy access our online store gives our customers and the way it opens up our farm to our community.
BUT there are a some things that we don't love about the online store... to date we've been operating the farm store through Small Farm Central. This is a software system built for farmers. It's great, it does a lot of things well, and it has allowed us to grow to where we are today. Unfortunately, Small Farm Central is not prioritizing their e-commerce platform (the part we use). They have told us they are focusing on growing their company in a different direction, and we can feel it! The site is outdated, the back-end components (the parts you don't see) are clunky and hard to work with. Many of the issues you all have faced (missing the dreaded confirmation button, struggling to update your balance, getting lost between "accounts" and "balances" etc.) are things the company has said they will not be fixing.
As a result, I've been on the hunt for a new software system for the last few years. This year, I think I've found one. We're moving the farm share program to a full e-commerce platform (as opposed to a farm-specific CSA software model). It's not perfect; our program is very unique and doesn't mold easily into more standard online business models. But it does have some real advantages that I think will benefit us on the back-end and our farm share members on the front-end.
- Room for growth. The new platform is very flexible. It has no limit on customer accounts, products, photos, sales methods etc.. So should we continue to expand our offerings and even potentially expand the definition of our farm share program, this software will help us do so rather then hold us back.
- Aesthetics. It's a very pretty site :). The old software looks like it was built in the 1980's and doesn't seem to be changing. I love the new look and feel of this site and all of the room for adding beautiful images and products!
- Easy to Use. Three clicks and your order is placed! I really don't think anyone can mess up an order with this site. If anything goes wrong, it will be my fault and I'll be able to fix it (hopefully :).
- The learning curve.... I had to learn a lot more about coding with this system and I'm still learning. Because the software is more sophisticated and has so much more room for growth, it also has a different, much more complicated code—it's like learning a new language. So, I think I'm pretty up-to-speed, but I think it could take a few weeks of ordering before we work out all of the kinks on my end.
- Change. There is always risk in moving to a new system. Old habits die hard. I have a lot of ingrown patterns based around the old software and it is going to take some time to adjust our planning, harvest, and packing methods to match the system.
Overall I'm excited. I think this is a good move for us and it's certainly something I've wanted for a long time. We'll keep you posted, but here's to a new year and a new chapter!