How to talk about farming with non-farmers

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Dickie Bird Farm collage
(Ivory Harlow photo)

It’s easy to talk farming with fellow farmers. Although farm enterprises vary widely, from crops to cattle, farmers share a basic understanding of the industry and what it takes to do the daily work.

It’s not as easy to talk farming with non-farmers. Non-farmers may not follow Ag industry news and trends. They may have misconceptions about modern farming techniques, or stereotype who a farmer is and what he or she does.

The importance of effective communication

Effective communication between farmers and non-farmers is important for 3 reasons:

First, non-farmers are our customers, suppliers, distributors, lenders, lawmakers, agents, contractors and other people on which our success depends.

Second, informative and meaningful conversations between non-farmers and farmers put a positive face with farming and farm products.

Third, talking about farming with non-farmers gives us an opportunity to have our voices heard, and advocate the agricultural issues we care about.

Start a conversation

Whether you are selling farm products to customers at market, sharing agricultural concerns with lawmakers or pitching your farm business to a lender, a description of what, why, how and where you farm gets the conversation off to a great start.

State the farm products or services you produce.

  • Examples of products: row crops, specialty crops and commodity crops. Raw agricultural and value-added products. Livestock for meat, dairy or exhibiting.
  • Examples of services: custom baling, meat processing, inspection services, farm management and accounting, artificial insemination and breeding services.

Explain why the products or services are relevant to the non-farmer.

  • Farm products feed and clothe families. They fuel cars and homes.
  • Share sustainable farming methods and conservation practices you use on the farm.
  • Animal welfare is important to farmers and non-farmers alike.
  • Farm service providers work behind the scenes to support the industry.

Share how the products or services get to end users.

  • Does your produce go from farm to table or farm to institution?
  • Can customers find your products at the farmers’ market or retail store?
  • Do you contract with a company to provide poultry, milk or pork?
  • Some service providers travel to farms; others have a storefront.

Tell where your farm is located.

  • As the local foods movement gains momentum, people are very interested in where their food comes from.
  • Share your whereabouts and invite agritourism if applicable.
  • Encourage people to check out your farm’s website and follow your farm on social media.
  • Offer a business card.

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