The 2012 US Census of Agriculture asked farmers to respond about internet connectability on their operations. At RAFI, we are using this data to determine how we can best distribute the resources that we have developed for farmers.
According to this map, farmers have fairly high access to the internet in their operations in our home state of North Carolina. We were surprised to find that of the farms in every county in North Carolina, at least 50% reported having access to the internet. The distribution of these percentages is not as surprising. Farms that are in urban or peri-urban counties show higher connectability to the internet than farms in more rural counties. This could be because a greater number of farm operations in close proximity to urban areas are using the internet more heavily for the purpose of marketing to urban consumers. There could also be greater infrastructure for forms of internet access in areas closer to metropolitan boundaries.
Similarly, we examined mobile internet access by farmers and got results that are a bit more mixed. There is a much greater instance of connections to the internet via broadband and other home-based connections than with mobile internet. Interestingly, the farmers with greatest mobile internet connectability were in more remote rural counties like Bertie in eastern NC and McDowell in the western mountain region.
There are many applications being developed that are geared toward farmers with mobile devices, such as the software platform FarmLogs and other farm management applications. We would like to further investigate the needs to build capacity for mobile usage in agriculture to fully adopt these technologies.
While serving as an Americorps VISTA volunteer, I’m helping to develop online resources for farmers at RAFI. I am working to produce easy-to-use, online “How-To Guides”, interactive maps of innovative farmer-led projects, among other tools and resources driven by hearing and understanding the needs of farmers today.
How do you see the internet being a helpful tool for farmers? What’s missing that would help farmers gain access to critical resources for farm profitability? We are interested in getting feedback from you. Please email me, Ben Paynter, with any observations, feedback, or suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org.