If You Build It Online, They Will Come

Colony Pumpkin Patch, North Liberty, IA

When the economic realities of modern agriculture hit home in 2005, Katie and Dean Colony knew they needed a fresh approach to save their Iowa family farm. They found seeds of hope in digital technology, planted them online, and nurtured their new business until it produced fruit.

Colony Pumpkin Patch developed such a strong following that Google featured the company in its 2018 Economic Impact Report about successful online ventures. “We just know that’s where people are,” Katie said, adding that Google My Business drives a lot of traffic to the farm.

The family has owned and worked the small property (by Iowa standards) for 90 years. The Colonys added the annual pumpkin patch, corn maze and other seasonal activities to help locals connect to the Hawkeye State’s agricultural roots. Colony Pumpkin Patch hosts an annual fall festival, as well as group events.

The farm’s first foray into the online world consisted of a website. Katie still does all of the work on that herself. Next came a Facebook page and Google business listing. The pumpkin patch has a presence on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, too. With a digital marketing specialist helping now, they may produce more videos to broaden their audience demographic.

The Colonys know people are paying attention, because they get queries when their online forums aren’t updated. That level of interest has them thinking of ways to draw people to the farm during three seasons of the year instead of just six weeks in one season.

Behind the scenes, the Colonys use digital tools for staff scheduling, project management, payment processing, accounting, and calendars. The online platform Google Calendar is great for organizing group events, and the team creates marketing graphics in Canva.

“The learning curve isn’t too bad once you take the initial step,” Katie said. She incorporates digital tools into the business based on their ease of use and overall cost, and appreciates the tech companies that make them. She hopes federal policymakers keep that in mind.

“Some of our biggest challenges are rules and regulations, both on farm & off,” Katie said.  “so if there are more fines and fees imposed on the tech companies, it will come back down to us.  We are already struggling, so this could unfortunately weed out small businesses like ours.