Farmers in Cyberspace

We know about high-tech tractors and computerized farm management, but can Internet home pages really replace the roadside farm stand?

Probably not. But some farmers in California are toying with the idea. A dairy farmer from Tulare, Calif., is experimenting with the Internet as a way to sell his products. Another fellow is thinking of setting up a World Wide Web site to market plants from a citrus nursery.

Jeff Ennen, manager of the Advanced Technology Information Network at California State University at Fresno, has helped such ag interests as the state's Department of Food and Agriculture and the Diamond Walnut company find a place on the Web. "In about another five years," says Mr. Ennen, "I think everyone will be on the Internet in the agriculture industry."

Surely that doesn't mean the local farmer who used to sell apples, peaches, or ears of corn from under an awning-draped shed will soon be glued to a keyboard, trying to close a deal with buyers in Toronto, or wherever. More likely, a lot of people tired of keys and screens will be clustered at his farm stand, eager to buy food the old-fashioned way.

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