New farm Web site could create virtual co-op
By JAMES F. DUFFY
"Farm locally, trade globally" is the motto of the Website,
A computer is one of the last things many would associate
The idea of a farmer sitting on his John Deere and tapping
on his laptop, checking the latest weather reports,
commodity prices or applying for loans may be incongruous,
but as with all jobs, times change.
It's a trend Ted Farnsworth, president and chief operating
officer of Farmbid.com, is banking on as he lays the
groundwork for what he would like to see become a "virtual
co-op." His Web site, www.Farmbid.com
, which came online last week, has a motto: "Farm locally,
The site offers farm-related material for auction, from
$188,000 "self-propelled forage harvesters" to $25 piglets
to miniature plastic cattle tags starting at $4. Similar to
other auction sites like ebay, Farmbid.com includes a photo
and description of each item.
"Most people think that farmers aren't technologically
advanced and they're wrong," Farnsworth said. "Research is
showing that about 70 percent of farmers have computers and
about 35 percent are using the Internet - it depends on the
Building the site, one of the first of its kind to offer
auctions on farming products, is one thing, but getting
people in the agricultural industry to use it is a
Ethel McCulloch, administrative assistant at None Such Farm
in Buckingham, for example, said the farm isn't even
connected to the Internet and has no plans to be until
after January 2000, "after the dust settles."
Michael Fournier of the Penn State Cooperative Extension of
Bucks County, a university-run agricultural agency, said
farmers have been using an electronic service, DTN that
offers grain prices, weather reports and market information
for quite some time. Use of the Internet by local farmers,
however, has not exactly caught fire.
"Certainly the market is there and as E-trade evolves it
has some possibilities down the road, but I don't see an
immediate need. When a farmer needs seed now, he'll call a
seed dealer or if he needs parts for his tractor, he'll
call a parts dealer," he said. "They'll use a handful of
dealers and they get to trust them."
Lou Saporito, an agent with the Montgomery County branch of
the Penn State Cooperative Extension, said the popularity
of such a site could come down to which generation is doing
"Sometimes farmers are slow to adopt new technology," he
said. "Unless they have children who are using the Web,
they may have no exposure to it at all."
Concerning the idea of the virtual co-op, Scott Dengler, an
official of the Middletown Grange, said it appeared to be
"a step in the right direction for farming in the 21st
century." The grange promotes farming and a rural way of
"I think it will be more well received by the younger
generation. Older farmers are unlikely to change the way
they are doing things," said Dengler, who has a horse and
hay farm in Plumsteadville and a nursery in Feasterville.
"This area has more older farmers than younger, but I think
the up-and-comers, the kids involved in the 4H now, will
benefit the most and take the most advantage of something
Thomas Trycieki, president of the Bucks County Farm Bureau,
who farms about 600 acres in Mechanicsville, agreed.
"Farmers like to deal with people and build relationships
with individuals. They like that personal contact, that
handshake of trust," he said. "I think farmers will check
it out because they realize they have to change with the
times to stay in business. I'm sure if some think it will
make their operation better they'll use it, but I think
there needs to be a balance between the technology and the
Farnsworth said the goal is to create a site that combines
the technological with the personal. While continuing the
auctions, weather reports and market news, he would like to
add a veterinary drug store for animal medication, e-mail,
chat rooms and bulletin boards.
The site gets about 30,000 hits a day, with interest coming
from Russia and China.
"We'd like to be the Amazon.com of the agricultural arena.
If nothing else, seeing the prices here could work as a
good bargaining tool when dealing with a local guy," he
said. "I think the true benefit will be savings to the
farmer, giving smaller guys an outlet to sell their product
and also bringing the farming community together. In the
virtual co-op, if we have a half-million farmers online we
could go to someone like State Farm and take bids for
health insurance or help a farmer get financing."
James F. Duffy is a reporter with The Intelligencer,
Friday, July 30, 1999
Do You Yahoo!?
Free instant messaging and more at http://messenger.yahoo.com
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: