The owners of Harmony Ridge Farms rely on their HughesNet broadband satellite service to buy, sell, and market their herd.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Southern Ohio and home to more than 40 alpacas, Harmony Ridge Farms is typical of most American small businesses in rural areas. Though small in size, it needs the same caliber of high-speed Internet access as a large business to stay competitive in the marketplace. For its owners, Jeff and Marie Bradford, their older dial-up Internet connection made it extremely difficult to manage livestock purchases, register for shows, and organize deliveries, let alone attempt any sales and marketing email campaigns.
To keep their business up to speed, the Bradfords decided to upgrade from dial-up to satellite broadband from Hughes. HughesNet Business Internet service has since allowed the Bradfords to streamline communications with customers and suppliers, build a dynamic Web site, and given Harmony Ridge Farms a presence at online livestock auctions. For the Bradfords, as for many other American small business owners, HughesNet is the most cost-effective high-speed option to successfully position and manage their business online.
Green Acre Dreams
In 2006, after three decades of “navy life,” recent retirees Jeff and Marie Bradford began looking for property to build the log cabin retirement home of their dreams. They quickly fell in love with a 200-acre piece of land outside Jackson, Ohio and decided they would build a farm instead. “We spent the first six months or so just deciding what to do with all that land,” said Jeff Bradford. “We knew we didn’t want horses or cattle, and the land is too hilly to grow hay or crops, but we’d heard the alpaca business was booming in the U.S. and knew that raising them didn’t require a lot of livestock education.”
They were first introduced to alpacas at the 1999 Ohio State Fair, but had no idea the South American-bred animal would one day become their livelihood. “We started off buying three bred females, and the rest is history,” said Bradford.
Today, the Bradfords have 42 alpacas on their property and are expecting to add another 15 this year. They maintain their business by selling both alpaca fleece and the animals themselves, by regularly attending alpaca shows, entering their animals in contests, and doing a fair amount of email marketing.
More Alpacas, More Online Needs
Since Harmony Ridge Farms is located beyond the reach of cable or DSL, and a high-speed T1 connection would be too expensive, the Bradfords originally thought dial-up was their only option for getting online.
“We hated that it tied up our phone line,” Bradford said, “but we knew we needed to be sending emails and doing research.” At a previous job as a defense contractor, Jeff worked with a division of Hughes and remembered that the company also provided small businesses with HughesNet satellite broadband. “I thought it would be a great fit considering our location, so we signed up for their entry-level Business Internet plan.”
One thing that drew the Bradfords to HughesNet, they say, is that the Business Internet plans are flexible and built for growing businesses. As their business needs evolved, the Bradfords began to rely on more bandwidth-heavy applications. Monitoring online auctions with streaming video, for example, was becoming difficult. And as they expanded their herd and began to get more interest through their Web site, they realized they needed a faster plan to help expand their online capabilities.
For growing businesses like Harmony Ridge Farms with growing bandwidth needs, HughesNet Business Internet offers the opportunity to upgrade to higher speed plans immediately, when the need arises. “Changing plans just took one phone call to Hughes and the next day we had faster speeds than ever before,” said Bradford.
HughesNet offers a full suite of services designed to help businesses like Harmony Ridge Farms adapt to their marketplace. Starting at only $59.99/month, the seven HughesNet Business Internet plans can also be customized to include private networks and backup solutions, and offer download speeds up to 5 Mbps, the fastest satellite Internet access available in North America.
The Future of Harmony
Today, the Bradfords are looking forward to the rest of 2009. They plan to add alpacas, attend six to eight shows, and hopefully win a few blue ribbons. They’ve also updated their Web site, www.harmonyridgefarms.com, to include pictures, video, and “Ridge Notes,” a journal about day-to-day life and news from the farm.
“We’re constantly reaching out to potential customers through email and inviting people to visit, so it’s really necessary that we have a reliable, high-quality connection. Needless to say, we’re glad we’ve found that with Hughes,” Bradford said.
“Honestly, running a business from a rural community is really tough, but over the past few years we’ve realized that a good Internet connection can make it a whole lot easier.” Jeff Bradford advises that “similar farmers need to realize that they have to be on the Internet and active to be successful.Especially in rural areas, people aren’t going to drive out and find you—you have to find them, and you simply can’t do that on dial-up.”