Agricultural micro-businesses are numerous in Vermont, but research shows that many of these entrepreneurs are unaware of, or intimidated by, the prospects of incorporating e-commerce and information technology into their marketing and business practices. The potential of e-commerce to help these entrepreneurs span rural distances to market and sell their products is largely untapped.
Over the last two years, the UVM Center for Rural Studies and Women’s Agricultural Network have developed and tested a new curriculum for agricultural entrepreneurs who want to incorporate e-commerce features – e.g. email lists, online marketing, online ordering – into their operations. The curriculum was specifically developed to accommodate the learning style and preferences of female farm entrepreneurs, and to address potential risks small farm businesses face as they enter the e-commerce arena. The curriculum emphasizes integrating e-commerce with overall business and marketing and encourages participants to think critically about what features are appropriate for their businesses.
We have run three separate pilots of the course, adjusting format and content of the course to respond to feedback from participants. Follow-up evaluations show that participants are using information, technical skills and knowledge they gain through the class to implement a variety of e-commerce strategies.
This presentation provides: an overview of the curriculum, lessons learned along the way, and impact so far on the 29 students who have completed the course.
|2008 National Women in Agriculture Educators Conference