January 31, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

As fruit and vegetable growers look for ways to market their products, the World Wide Web is becoming an increasingly useful tool.

One reason is because the Web can reach people no matter how distant they are from your farm.

"We got a phone call from a potential customer in New York the other day, and that tells me the Web is working," said Trudie Reed of central Kentucky's Reed Valley Orchard. Trudie and husband Dana sell 45 varieties of apples both wholesale and direct-market.

"Our home page doesn't cost us anything, so my advice to other producers is to go ahead and start a Web page, especially if it's free," Reed said.

Another advantage of a web page is that it's not constrained by time -- it's always there, waiting for a computer user to click-in.

"Web pages are usually accessible 24 hours a day, so you might have someone who can't sleep one night and at 3:00 a.m. is on their computer looking for Kentucky products or a product they've never found before," said Anna Sidebottom, marketing specialist for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. "Access to customers is one of the reasons we offer free help to any Kentucky grower who wants to establish a home page on the Web."

"Direct marketing is one way the web can be used by growers, but it also can facilitate wholesale transactions as well," said Brent Rowell, Extension vegetable specialist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "A few companies have been very successful at bringing buyers and sellers together using the Internet."

Rowell said some of these "e-commerce" type companies are extremely effective at helping growers, buyers, and shippers communicate with each other quickly without having to rely on other methods such as telephones, fax machines or regular mail.

"When you're playing phone tag with someone it takes up a lot of time, and that can be critical if you're marketing perishable products," said Jim Taylor of Agribuys, a California-based company that uses the Internet to bring sellers and buyers together. "The interesting thing about the Internet is that it's accessible to all sizes of producers – the large international companies as well as the small producers, and that tends to level the playing field so everyone can compete."


Brent Rowell, 859-257-3374