The Best Ecommerce Platforms for Farms and Specialty Food BrandsDecember 27, 2022
Grazecart: Our Favorite Ecommerce Platform for Selling Beef, Pork, Chicken, and other Farm Products OnlineJanuary 5, 2023
If you’re in business, you need a website. Your website is your home on the internet and one of the first places a potential customer will go to learn more about you and your products.
Some websites offer e-commerce, an online storefront directly built into the website itself. E-commerce is a great option for products that can be shipped like jarred and canned products, frozen meat, and items with long shelf life.
If you’re interested in learning about the best e-commerce platforms for farms and food brands, check out this blog post.
In this article, we’ll cover the best platforms for building a website for your farm or food business without e-commerce. In some cases, a basic website is all you’ll need. Many of our farm clients (especially CSA-style) choose a basic website with a third-party customer management system like Farmigo or Local Line. We’ll cover all that below.
Website hosts for when you don’t need to sell products online or are using third-party e-commerce software like Local Line, Farmigo, Barn2Door, etc.
Wordpress is a very popular option because it’s low cost and highly customizable. That level of customization can be powerful if you have a complex business with specific needs, but it can also be overwhelming if you’re new to websites and just need something simple. We typically recommend Wordpress to more mature, complex businesses who need a site that will continue to grow with them. It has lots of helpful plug-ins and tools.
Choose it if:
You are not a start-up
You want to take advantage of custom design tools and plug-ins
You’re comfortable with web development
You’re interested in working with a designer
Skip it if:
You’re brand new to websites
See it in action: Dragonfly Hill Farm & Kitchen
Squarespace is known for its beautifully designed templates that make it simple to get a professional, polished look. Squarespace also has advanced marketing tools baked in, like the ability to manage email and digital ad campaigns, pop-ups, SEO, and more. You have the option to build a complete e-commerce store with Squarespace, or not. Squarespace is our go-to for farms that do not need to sell online.
Choose it if:
You want advanced design tools combined with integrated marketing tools
Skip it if:
You need advanced tracking and analysis of online sales (while Squarespace is a robust e-commerce platform that rivals Shopify, it still lacks Shopify’s sophistication with data)
See it in action: Middle Ground Farm
Wix is a popular option for first-timers because it’s cheap. Their design templates are pretty good, but its drawbacks include poor customer service, clunky email tools, and an inflexible subscription service (there’s no ability to make subscriptions seasonal or to pause and restart them, which is challenging with seasonal products).
While Wix makes it easy to build your site, manage products, and incorporate shipping, it lacks the sophistication to help you scale as your business grows. If you plan to grow your business, we recommend getting off Wix and onto something more capable as soon as possible.
Choose it if:
You have no money and no experience
Skip it if:
You’re able to pay a little more for functionality and flexibility
You have ambitions to grow your business soon
See it in action: Willow Haven Flowers
Which third-party software to use?
For some farms, a third-party customer management system (CMS) works best instead of a dedicated e-commerce site. Often, these CMSs have flexible options specific to farm businesses, like the ability to manage multiple pick-up locations and vacation schedules.
As an agency, our expertise is in e-commerce and web platforms, but we’ve worked with a lot of farmers who utilize these types of CMSs. Here’s what we’ve learned.
We’ve worked with traditional CSA clients and a-la-carte “online farmers’ market” clients who were both loyal to Farmigo. It excels at handling multiple pick-up locations, vacation schedules, and other complications of the CSA model. Like many other CMS softwares, Farmigo can help you streamline and automate invoicing, order collection, pack lists, delivery routes, and more.
Cost: 0.2% of deliveries (if you sell $5,000 each month, that’s about $100/mo for your membership)
Local Line is similar to Farmigo with the added ability to send custom order forms and catalogs, so you can offer unique products and prices to different audiences like wholesale, CSA, and retail customers. We’ve also heard great things about Local Line customer service. Local Line is similar to Farmigo and in some cases more affordable.
Cost: Packages begin at $23/mo
Grazecart is a CMS and an e-commerce platform in one, and it’s our stand-out favorite for businesses selling products that vary by weight (like farms selling meat products). We love Grazecart so much we gave it its own blog post.
We’ve yet to see a client thrilled with Barn2Door—while it has a lot of functionality, the platform also has a reputation for being expensive, difficult to use, and lacking customer support. That’s not to say Barn2Door isn’t a great fit for some businesses, but explore all your options first.
Cost: $84/mo for basic
Businesses that offer home delivery often opt for Delivery Biz Pro, which integrates with Woocommerce and Wordpress. We’ve seen it work well for food hubs with large product catalogs and subscriptions. However, Delivery Biz Pro makes it very difficult to update your website - you have to create a ticket and work with their customer service for even the simplest edits. You also do not have control over your own Google Analytics (making paid ads hard to optimize), and are limited in the ability to add things like events. Another drawback: As of December of 2022, Delivery Biz Pro doesn’t integrate with any email services, making robust email automation campaigns difficult to execute.
This list is by no means exhaustive. For a full comparison of third-party customer management systems for farmers, see this breakdown from the National Young Farmers Coalition.