Savvy farmers are harnessing the power of the Web to build relationships with consumers and keep landlords up to speed on farming operations.

Ray Delhotal, whose family farms near West Brooklyn, in north-central Illinois, says his farm’s Web site (www.delhotal farms.com) attracts almost 2,000 visitors a month — and keeps growing.

“One of the reasons we set up a Web site is to tell the story of farming,” Delhotal says. “Sometimes farming doesn’t have the best public relations with the general public. We wanted the Web site to show what we do. People are drawn to it.”

The Delhotals also wanted to improve communications with landlords. “We have a lot of landowners who live in many parts of the country,” says Delhotal’s son David. “The Web site makes it possible for them to keep track of what we are doing and what is going on.”

Jon Guentzel, who farms near Kasota, in southern Minnesota, had the same objectives in mind for his farm’s Web site (www.guentzelfamilyfarms.com).

“My main reason for the Web site was to build relationships with landlords,” he says. “The Web site also is a good opportunity to open up the window to show what we do from day to day. There’s just so much misinformation out there about agriculture.”

Building a site

The Delhotals and Guentzel took separate approaches to constructing their sites, both of which have been on the Web since 2009. David Delhotal built the farm’s site through Webs (www.webs.com), a company that provides free Web page templates and other content management tools, as well as Web site hosting services. Guentzel hired a cousin, who works for a Web design firm, to set up his site, after receiving quotes ranging from $700 to $1,200 from various Web developers. Annual Web-hosting fees and other fees for the sites run about $100.

The bulk of the work in setting up both Web sites wasn’t technical. “The real work is the content, which is difficult to farm out,” Guentzel says.

David Delhotal estimates he invested about 130 hours in building their site. He spends about an hour every week to update content, including videos and photos. “The only downside of the Web site is that it takes time,” he says.

The story of farming

Guentzel’s home page highlights his heritage in agriculture and his commitment to productivity and environmental stewardship. His tagline: “The nostalgia of a sixth-generation family farm, the productivity to feed our future.”

The site emphasizes his use of technology, including machine-mounted crop sensors, soil and yield mapping, and navigation systems. That’s contrasted with photos of his team of Belgian workhorses, which he uses for hay and sleigh rides for community groups. There’s also a password-protected landowner section for information about soil tests, crop varieties and more.

The Delhotal Farms Web site focuses on photos and videos to capture day-to-day farm activities. Each month, there’s a fresh gallery of photos. The video section includes more than a hundred videos, which also are posted on YouTube. “We work with landowners all over the country and they enjoy it,” Ray Delhotal says.

The site attracts visitors from across the U.S. and around the world, including regular visitors from Germany, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom. David says, “It’s a very good way to network with people around the world and locally.”