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Website Bytes: Curating (and Culling) Farm to School's Online Content

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

Website content managers in Family Development worked hard this summer to reorganize two University of Minnesota Extension website sections to better meet the needs of their audiences: Farm to School and Financial Capability, formerly Personal Finance.

As website coordinator of the core FD web team, I walked alongside content managers as they tackled these projects. I am so pleased that these two projects are complete and so proud of the work the content managers did that I want to share their stories. If you are contemplating how to better serve your audiences online, you’ll want to pay attention to their experiences. These reorganizations had two things in common that helped guide their work to completion:
  • Dedicated and knowledgeable content managers.
  • A goal to better serve users.
This week’s the focus is on Farm to School.

Extension's Farm to School website in 2013.

The digital landscape of online farm to school content has changed dramatically since Stephanie Heim was hired as statewide farm to school coordinator in 2010 by Extension’s Health and Nutrition programs. Seven years ago, Minnesota led the way in putting farm to school resources online using a comprehensive approach. A few years later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Farm to School Network (NFSN) expanded their own websites in order to meet growing demand for their services.

Sorting Out Staffing

Meanwhile, Stephanie was promoted to an associate program director with Health and Nutrition, which put her work on Extension’s Farm to School website section on hold. That also meant Extension lagged behind both USDA and NFSN in getting up-to-date, Minnesota-specific farm-to-school information online. "Reorganizing the Farm to School website section was a project I kicked down the road for years," Stephanie said.

This summer, the staffing stars aligned for Extension to reassess its Farm to School website section. Jackie Billhymer and Callie Recknagel, two Health and Nutrition employees with a passion for farm to school projects, made time in their schedules for these essential steps in the process:

  • Audit the existing 140 web pages of the Farm to School website section.
  • Discuss content strategy with the Minnesota Farm to School Leadership team.
  • Work with Family Development’s core web team, which includes Heather Lee, myself, and Ruth Ellis, to plan a new structure and to revise content.

Planning a new structure can be as low tech as sticky notes on a white board or as "high tech" as a table in a Google Doc.

Everyone on the team had a role to play.

  • Jackie, then project coordinator for the SNAP-Ed Community Partnership Funding initiative, dove deep into the website to find and highlight Minnesota resources. 
  • Callie, former SNAP-Ed regional coordinator, reviewed all content in collaboration with Stephanie and made recommendations for what to keep and what to drop. 
  • As website coordinator, I advised the team about how to best organize content. 
  • As the lead subject matter expert, Stephanie made the final decisions about what to do with content. 
With the content an structure decisions made, Ruth and I worked together to move, archive, and reformat content.

Reaching the Finish Line

Once the reorganization neared completion, the content managers asked the Farm to School Leadership Team to review the website. They provided a one-page form to guide reviewers' feedback and asked open-ended and task-oriented questions.

With Callie and Jackie’s fresh perspectives and Stephanie’s institutional knowledge, these content managers whittled the content down to actionable information for Minnesota producers, foodservice professionals, and other farm to school champions. Stephanie attributes the success of the project both to Callie and Jackie’s involvement, but also to my contributions as website coordinator. “Hannah kept the work on track, providing valuable insight, expertise and motivation along the way," Stephanie said, despite no promise of a kickback from me.

Fewer Pages, Prettier Pages

As a result of this extensive and inclusive conversation and planning, the Farm to School website section is down to an astonishing 15 web pages. From the homepage on, each web page features more visuals and hones in on Minnesota-based content from partners around the state.

Extension's new Farm to School homepage. Look at all the visuals!

So where did the other 100+ web pages go?

A guideline from Extension central communications that we uphold in FD is that out-of-date content, whether on a web page or social media account, reflects poorly on Extension’s credibility and needs to be either updated in a timely fashion or removed. So pieces of content that were out of date have found new temporary and permanent homes:
  • Web pages that were written as timely articles about Minnesota people, places, and events were archived to the Family Matters blog. 
  • Web pages that were out of date but could be useful in the future with some elbow grease were also archived on the blog for easy access and future review. 
  • The Minnesota Farm to School Toolkit does not reflect new school foodservice guidelines and was temporarily archived in the S drive and is under review for a future update.
  • Web pages that the team determined outlived their usefulness or were duplicativewere deleted.
Tune in next time for the Personal Finance story!

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