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Social media marketing helps Ohio farm market
 
By SUSAN EMERSON NUTTER
Ohio Correspondent

CANFIELD, Ohio — Like any business, today’s farm markets need to get the word out; about what they sell, about what events are taking place, about what makes their establishments special. And few have taken on this endeavor with more gusto than White House Fruit Farm, Inc. in Canfield.

White House has always marketed its business well. But this past March, this organization decided to take it up a notch. A social media expert is now on staff and is using all venues available to put White House Fruit Farm in the public eye.

It’s not like White House was lacking buyers. This farm market has been a mainstay of the area since the late 1960s, though their roots in Ohio greatly preceded that date. The market’s ancestors first settled in Mahoning County in the early 1800s.

In 1924, Jerome Hull, then Mahoning County Superintendent of Schools, purchased the 100-acre family farm from his uncle. Hull and his wife, Doris Humes-Hull, raised nine children all while establishing apple and peach orchards on the farm.

Their son, David, also had a passion for fruit-growing; and in 1968, turned the farm into a fruit-and-vegetable retail operation. It was in 1978 when David and his wife, Phyllis, along with their four children, cleaned out the farm’s 1881 bank barn and turned it into a year-round farm market. It is that same building, with additions, that people shop in today.

The second and third generations of Hulls, David and children Dave Hull, Debbie Pfifer, Wendy Lynn and families now operate White House Fruit Farm and currently grow more than 75 acres of fruit and vegetables. All of the produce grown on the farm is sold on the farm.

Produce, however, is not their only draw. White House also offers Ohio cheeses and meats; operates a bakery specializing in homemade donuts, pies, breads and cookies, and they squeeze and sell fresh apple cider. The market sells many specialty foods, as well, such as ice cream, frozen produce and fudge. They offer educational farm tours and specialty weekends.

And while White House does service many consumers, they hadn’t really tapped into the exposure that can be generated through social media. Debbie Pfifer said, “We have always done well with consumers ages 50 and older. We do a radio spot on WKBN’s AM channel and we have always placed ads in area newspapers, but we wanted to tap into the 20, 30 and 40 year old demographic.”

And that’s where social media came into play. “We had created a Facebook page and a website, but we just didn’t feel like we were getting everything out of it that we could,” Pfifer added.

What to do? Easy – place an ad on Facebook stating the farm is looking for a social media expert to take White House to the masses; then step back and see what happens. “The response was overwhelming,” Pfifer explained.

White House actually pulled the ad off of its Facebook page a few hours after posting it; the influx of job-seekers was abundant.
“We have many, many talented people in this area,” Pfifer said, “and it took us several interviews to find the right person, but we feel confident that person is now in place.”

Enter Joe Sarigianopoulos. This computer guru’s mother-in-law saw the ad on Facebook and encouraged him to apply. With his photography talent, website developing, Photoshop talents and social media skills, hiring Joe was a no-brainer.

“One of White House Fruit Farm’s greatest assets is how visual it is. I think my understanding of this; of how to utilize this, helped me secure the job,” Sarigianopoulos stated.
And use it he does. Since coming on board, White House Fruit Farm (WHFF) now has an active presence on Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, youtube, and of course, its website.

“I plan on posting on Facebook two to three times a week if not more; updating the website as often as possible, and also having Bonnie tweet two to three times a week,” he added.
Bonnie? That would be the farm’s popular pooch. Yes, Bonnie, the farm’s dog, is a main attraction, and is its official “tweeter” on Twitter.

“Bonnie’s birthday in May is always a major event,” Sarigianopoulos said.

And events are a big deal at White House. There’s the Strawberry Festival in June, Farm to Fork – a United Way fundraiser in July, the first annual Farm-Fresh Cook-Off Challenge in August, the Harvest Festival/Craft Show in September, plus Fall Celebration Weekends every weekend starting Sept. 28 through Oct. 20, Halloween festivities, and Christmas at the Farm in December.

The WHFF Facebook page’s updates now include “This Week in the Deli,” “Tip of the Week,” “Fun Farm Facts,” and “Did You Know?” plus loads of pictures hailing everything from Spring Fling donuts wearing pastel icings to images of the peach orchards in bloom.
“The interest Joe has generated through social media in just a few short weeks is amazing,” Pfifer said. “We are already seeing a difference, and it is wonderful.”

WHFF is closing in on 21,000 “likes” on Face-book. Traffic at their website is up, and Bonnie’s followers on Twitter are growing daily.
“It is easy to market a great place like White House,” Sarigianopoulos said.

“There are so many photo opportunities. The company is such a big advocate of other local businesses, and make educational experiences for area school children a top priority. People recognize White House is community orientated and that is as much of an attraction as the local honey, bread dipping oils and sour cherries they sell.”

Hard work resulting in farm fresh produce has always been the backbone of White House Fruit Farm. Its motto is “your destination for all seasons.” Now, as the company continues to expand, and with a strong social media presence in place, finding out what’s happening “on the farm” is just a simple mouse-click or smartphone tap away.

For more details, call 330-533-4161 or visit www.whitehousefruitfarm.com
5/9/2013