this was a nice initiative. What I imagine is a ring of farmers where each and everyone produce different products and/or provide certain services. For instance, one farmer could sell milk and eggs, another one could be an expert at mending barns, and yet another one could be raising chickens and selling those.
Let's say it is a group of 20 farmers, and they want to use bitcoin for trading goods and services among them.
First of all there should be 1 or 2 super enthusiasts that could be the 'go to man' for the others in the event of issues.
There are several things that needs to be considered:
A. Determine what level of IT-strategy is advisable. Most farmers probably have some kind of IT-equipment already, be it smartphones, personal computers, tablets etc. As for accepting BTC, startionary equipment is fine, but when visiting another farmer, then a smart phone would be great to be able to pay. Of course there are several ways to go about this. Bitcoin.org lists many options in regards to wallets, and most wallets have their dedicated thread on bitcointalk.org, where you can learn about the wallet that you chose to use. Unless you deal with trivial amounts of BTC, there should be some backup strategies, this could include using cold wallets (educate yourself about this), and also regular backups regarding hot wallets. Remember hot wallets can most often be encrypted and protected by a passphrase. Backups are very important. If the farmer loses his smart phone in the dirt container, it's gone, and so is the bitcoins, but if he has a backup, he'll be safe in regards to retaining his bitcoins. There are so many ways to backup the bitcoins, so I cannot elaborate on that here, but it's a crucial part of dealing with bitcoins. A wallet with cash is lost when somebody steals it, or if you lose it on the field, bitcoins are safe as long as you have a backup. The bitcoin enthusiast in the group should research different options carefully and select what's best suited for the group of farmers.
B. Get bitcoins in the hands of the farmers in the first place.
- Solutions: Use localbitcoins or similar and do face to face cash trades. Alternatively, use an online service (exchanger or exchange), and deposit money through any method the site accepts. This might be a good starting point in that regard: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Trade
C. Get tradin'. Farmer Joe buys a dozen eggs from Farmer Jane with 0.n bitcoins. How to determine the price? Some price finding service could be made by the enthusiast, or some existing web services could be used. Bitcoin prices are a bit volatile, so they need to be dynamically uptated by converting from USD to BTC. So when Jane drives over to Joe to get some eggs, he says, yupp, that's 10 dollars in bitcoins, and he enters 10 USD in his tablet, and out comes the number 0.03. He then points at his QR-code, and says: "Yupp, that's my payment address, just scan it Jane, and you could pay me directly". Jane scans the QR-code with her phone, and sends 0.03 BTC to Joe. Joe checks at his computers and sees the payment going in to his wallet, saying '0 unconfirmed'. As he trusts Jane, and knows Jane is not the double-spend type of farmer, he happily raised his thumbs and smiles. "Yupp, all done Jane - have a good one!"
The challenge as I see it is to keep the bitcoins safe for non-technical people. Perhaps some kind of bitcoin community union for the farmers would be the way to go?
As I see it, the transaction part of the project is the easiest part, while keeping the bitcoins safe demands that at least 1 person (preferably more) in the group has the technical knowhow to setup secure solutions. Perhaps even dedicated devices for such payments would be advisable.
The advantages would be that you would become independent of the traditional cash system, at least in the farmers trading ring. In addition, if done properly, no money could be confiscated by police if stopped in a control (I've heard cash confiscations are rampant in the US these days..). There could be no counterfeit money, not that it would be an issue with cash either, I would think. And you would not enrich the bankers with fees and so on. Now that bitcoin has become more widespread, the farmer could sell eggs and milk for bitcoins, and then use the bitcoins to buy linen, pillows, computers, tea - virtually anything, so he didn't really need to use cash for all things any more. And if someone breaks into a farmers house and steals his laptop, he's already got a backup stored encrypted on a server run by the IT-enthusiast in the group, or stored on an USB-drive hidden somewhere in the barn, so until the thief cracks the passphrase to the wallet, the bitcoins are already swiped to other addresses, and thus the thief will gain nothing.
When using a normal bank, all transactions are tied to your person and reported to the relevant entities. Now, the blockchain is public knowledge, but it's rather hard to track a single bitcoin address to a certain person.
All of this might sound quite complicated, and it kind of is as well, but using bitcoin to pay is not that difficult, just scan a QR-code, then input how much you should pay, and done with it - so what might be best would be to seek out some kind of solution that's already ready made for scenarios like this. I don't know if it exists, but look and you shall find.
In summary, you need a solution that hides all the complicated parts, and makes it really easy in a day to day usage.
I wish you the best of luck!