supporting the future of
American agriculture

How MetroStar Supports America’s Farmers & Ranchers
Through Human-Centered Digital Transformations

supporting the future of
American agriculture

How MetroStar Supports America’s Farmers & Ranchers
Through Human-Centered Digital Transformations

overview

A Mission Accelerator –
Creating Digital Experiences That Support Our Nation’s Farmers and Ranchers

For centuries farmers have adapted to change. From the industrial revolution to agriculture drones flying in the fields, technology has helped farmers find sustainable solutions and find ways to continue to feed America throughout the decades.

Improving agriculture technology across local, regional, and national farms is an evergreen process. Ensuring farmers have reliable access to the digital tools and resources they need to succeed is a vital component of moving the industry forward.

Serving as the single source of truth for our nation’s farmers, the farmers.gov platform provides targeted, informative, and critical resources from multiple federal agencies. The website, a major initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Secretaries of Agriculture past and present, transforms communication between USDA and their customers. It’s a communication lifeline that helps each piece of the agriculture industry come together to feed the nation.

challenge

The MetroStar Approach –
Digital Transformations That Impact Farmers, Ranchers, and Americans 

It’s not an uncommon story to hear a farmer took a long-distance drive to visit an in-person service center to apply for a loan (or another service) only to return home with additional documents to complete because the process was not fully known by the farmer ahead of time – farmers.gov tackles these setbacks.

MetroStar accelerates the mission of the USDA through the farmers.gov website which connects American farmers with access to programs, resources, and content to help them improve, manage, and grow their operations.

For farmers, by farmers—transforming the way digital services are delivered. MetroStar’s tools transform how USDA provides digital services to its customers. Through MetroStar’s human-centered approach, a shared vision of success was established and championed at all levels of the organization. Visioning and road-mapping workshops were conducted with USDA leadership to identify the north star – the guiding purpose of the platform.

measurable mission success

Data That Drives Further Insights & Inspirations

0K+
Farmers Connected
0M+
Website Visitors
0M+
Page Views
illustration of woman farming and checking data on a tablet

solutions + approach

Human-Centered Design Is Farmer-Centered Design

Since 2018, MetroStar has led the design and development of the public-facing farmers.gov website and resources found within. A farmer-centered approach was used during this process to unify and streamline the information and tools the agency’s customers need most. Through designing for farmers’ needs and representing the full breadth of USDA customers, with an emphasis on providing local services for farmers across the country, the people aspect of the digital transformation has consistently been put first by:

  • Providing clear and actionable information across the farmers.gov platform to help farmers reach their operation goals
  • Creating a mobile-first platform to reach customers where they farm
  • Engaging farmers in the design and development processes
  • Conducting ongoing research, analysis, and improvement through usability testing, feedback loops, and analytics

User research helped align and prioritize farmer needs and any opportunities for the product backlog. Design workshops with stakeholders and end-users helped ideate and co-create many of the solutions seen today on the website. The emphasis put on team collaboration meant improved delivery and end-user satisfaction. Through the creation of the farmers.gov design system, blueprints, and information architecture, MetroStar leveraged DesignOps principles to scale and improve the maturity of the human-centered design (HCD) across the agency.

Creating Connections Anywhere From Any Device 

Fully Mobile Responsive Site

MetroStar understands many farmers live in low-bandwidth areas, meaning access to quality mobile service and Wi-Fi is difficult to find. To remedy this, optimizations were made to decrease the load time for key pages and tools on farmers.gov.

Quality optimizations were successfully completed through implementations such as an elastic search for SCL, increased speed optimization to load critical pieces of content first (lazy loading), file size limitations for content editors, and image optimizations.

optimize your mobile environment

Preparing Farmers Through Rapid Access to Resources

Design System

The creation of farmers.gov has led to the development of multiple digital services that provide farmers with tools and resources in a consistent and concise manner. This gives farmers rapid access to the resources they need.

MetroStar’s custom-developed design system incorporates principles from the United States Web Design System (USWDS) for a consistent and recognizable style and functionality across the site. Our design system is referenced directly in USDA’s Digital Strategy and has influenced websites across the agency.

U.S. army members on location conducting secure IT solutions

Finding Farmers the Right Funds

Farm Loan Discovery Tool

Simplicity of resources is key, and that mindset has helped almost 80,000 farmers apply for life-changing farm loans. The Farm Loan Discovery tool, developed in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) Center of Excellence, provides loan options for farmers. A simple decision tree questionnaire gathers specific loan need inputs. Farmers interested in the loans cab answer five simple questions about their funding needs and how much money they wish to borrow. Based on their answers, they receive tailored farm loan information. Additional resources address commonly asked questions and application quick guides outline every step of the application process.

U.S. army members on location conducting secure IT solutions

Finding Farmers the Right Funds

Farm Loan Discovery Tool

Simplicity of resources is key, and that mindset has helped almost 80,000 farmers apply for life-changing farm loans. The Farm Loan Discovery tool, developed in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) Center of Excellence, provides loan options for farmers. A simple decision tree questionnaire gathers specific loan need inputs. Farmers interested in the loans answer five simple questions about their funding needs and how much money they wish to borrow. Based on their answers, they receive tailored farm loan information. Additional resources address commonly asked questions and application quick guides outline every step of the application process.

Providing Immediate Crisis Support

Disaster Assistance Tool

Natural disasters are a major threat to the livelihood of farmers across the country. Finding answers after a natural disaster should not be time-consuming or become an additional hardship. Using the Disaster Assistance tool, farmers who have suffered damage or loss due to natural disasters can answer five simple questions resulting in information on USDA disaster assistance programs targeted directly to their needs.

This tool, developed and delivered in one month by MetroStar, is meant to provide immediate online support in times when local USDA Service Centers may be closed. It is not an eligibility tool but provides insights into USDA resources for agency customers during a time when support is critical.

learn more about the disaster assistance tool

Getting Farmers Where They Need To Be

Service Center Locator (SCL)

USDA Service Centers are locations where farmers can connect with the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Rural Development (RD) employees for farm operations support. The SCL tool has connected almost 720,000 farmers with their local service center. The SCL is the most used digital tool on farmers.gov and maintains and enhances the personal relationship between local USDA employees and farmers across the country.

COVID-19 SCL Response

Due to the pandemic, service centers operational statuses changed overnight. In two weeks, from design and development to launch, the MetroStar team made critical updates to the SCL. These updates have helped farmers find multiple USDA offices nearby in case of local office closures. Staff email addresses were also added to service center contact information for fast, direct, and safe communication.

Providing Critical Support During a Pandemic

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2 Eligible Commodities Finder

New digital resources were essential to help farmers during the ongoing pandemic. The tool, built in two weeks, helped farmers quickly determine their eligibility and look up payment rates for commodities covered by the program. It provides condensed and easily accessible information, breaking down typically lengthy content and legalese into easily digestible, commodity-specific information. The tool is meant to be particularly helpful to independent and family-run farms.

Over 121,000 farmers were able to look up 130,000 eligible commodities. This helped farmers apply for the $14 billion of funding available via CFAP 2.

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customized accelerators to help you get to where you’re going

  • Product vision and roadmap definition
  • SAFe Agile PI (Program Increment) & Sprint Planning
  • MVP definition and outcome identification
  • User story generation and backlog prioritization
  • Discovery and ideation workshops
  • User research and usability testing
  • Customer definition and persona creation
  • Content strategy and search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Information architecture and content organization
  • User experience, user interface design, and prototyping
  • Custom Drupal content management system (CMS)
  • Modern front-end responsive frameworks with systems thinking development approach
  • Microservices and API design & implementation
  • Custom digital platform & application design and development
  • Cloud and legacy application modernization
  • Product owner training
  • SAFe Agile adoption
  • Atlassian suite management
  • Human-centered design
  • CMS administration
  • SEO driven content authoring

explore the farmer-centric tools being used today

accelerate your mission with meaningful and targeted digital transformations

Learn more about how MetroStar’s playbooks, accelerators, and industry experts can help move your organization’s mission forward.

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