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Farmers using internet for marketing

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The NC Department of Agriculture is encouraging food producers to market their products on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. A local grower who blogs about her blueberries says it's really helping business. Melissa Hendrickson has been growing blueberries on this family-owned farm in Hampstead since 1985. Sales have been steady, but Hendrickson has found a new way to broaden her blueberry business-by blogging. "About 40 percent of our customers are not from this area so I thought you know we really need to have a web presence because if folks are trying to decide what they're going to do on their vacation,” she said. Hendrickson says she has seen 25 percent more visitors to the blueberry farm since she started blogging last year. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is encouraging small-business food producers like hers, to market their products through social media. "It is relatively inexpensive and they have some good control over what their message is and it is a form of interaction with their customer base,” said Annette Dunlap of the Department of Agriculture’s marketing division. “It's just a terrific tool for small business people and in this case small food business people to let people know about their products but also know about themselves, tell their own story." Hendrickson writes weekly blog entries to keep people interested in Farmer Mac's Berries year-round. It is now the off-season, which makes finding topics to blog about very difficult. Melissa said they have to get creative. "In the off-season, we focus on things like changes that we're making on the farm, or changes to the animals we have on the farm, or recipes, or how to choose good blueberries in the grocery store." Now that Farmer Mac's has an internet presence, there's no turning back. "I'm absolutely sold on having a website or a blog; from here on out we'll always have one because it has made a noticeable and real difference in the way we market our blueberries,” Hendrickson added.

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