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Blog // Connect Michigan

Broadband Helps Local Farmers

By Chris McGovern

It’s June, and that means the start of summer. Around here, that equals the end of classes, evenings on the lake, and the return of the summer farmers market.  Even though the county’s open air market feels like it’s a thousand miles from technology, local farmers are still benefiting from the ability to use broadband to grow, advertise, and sell their wares.

The entire agricultural sector benefits from the access and usage of broadband service. In May, a Hudson Institute report noted that rural broadband services supported over $100 billion in e-commerce and nearly 70,000 jobs in 2015.  While that figure includes e-commerce from a variety of sectors, mobile broadband technology now provides small vendors the ability to easily accept credit card payments through mobile credit card readers like Square or GoPayment from Intuit Quickbooks. 

Small farmers are also using broadband to help promote their crops and get them distributed to large-scale buyers. The UP Food Exchange (UPFE) is an online marketplace that connects small farms in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with distributors and buyers who want locally grown fruits and vegetables. Large farms, such as Titan Farms, the largest peach grower on the east coast, are increasingly relying on technology as well. Based in Ridge Spring, South Carolina, Titan Farms uses web-based applications to track water usage across their orchards, as well as GPS-controlled farming equipment and resource management tools to care for their 5,000+ acres of farmland.

Many communities are also using innovative solutions to support their local farmers through broadband, and they are getting help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities. In one case, the agencies are partnering with Montrose, Colorado, in a pilot program called Cool & Connected that will increase broadband access in downtown Montrose to help promote the local farmers market, increase awareness of local food options, and attract more shoppers to the weekly outdoor market.

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