ROMNEY, W.Va. – Marketing.
It’s not a word that makes most farmers jump up and down or rush to get out of bed in the morning.
Instead, it often induces dread and panic, according to Bob Cheves, an extension educator in Hampshire County, W.Va.
No surprises. It’s no surprise that some farmers are beginning to wake up and watch the rest of the world make money, Cheves says.
Now they’re wondering how they can get on the bandwagon, too.
Cheves says research has shown 95 percent of farmers are introverts who would rather drive a tractor and smell diesel fumes than market their products.
However, 55 percent of farm women are extroverts, the types who excel at marketing with people skills and creativity.
The skills are there if we can change attitudes, Cheves says.
Run like a business. “Eighty-five percent of the cost of farm products is made after it leaves the farm. For gosh sakes, truckers make more than farmers. What’s wrong with that picture?” Cheves asks.
“The mentality is you can’t make money if you’re a farmer, and that’s wrong. We just don’t put ourselves in the position where we can take control of our marketing,” he says.
“Most of us just hope to make enough to pay the bills and keep farming. That’s not a business, people,” he says.
From the farm. As an Extension educator, Cheves has been instrumental in starting value-added and profit-making agricultural enterprises.
In eastern West Virginia, for example, beef producers pool their beef in a Petite Beef project. Small herds take advantage of marketing feeder calves by the tractor-trailer load and sell via tele-auction. If bids came in too low, the Petite Beef spokesperson can say “no sale.”
“Instead of being price takers, they are price makers,” Cheves says. “These guys believe in their product and aren’t afraid to say so.”
Producers realized bids like $1,444 for an 800-pound feeder calf that was handled humanely and fed in a way that kept the meat tender.
Closer to home. In Hancock County, W.Va., extension educator Leanne Moorman has applied for a SARE grant for $303,000 to help promote farmers markets.
SARE is the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, part of USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
Moorman hopes to use the grant to increase marketing opportunities for farmers in southwestern Pennsylvania and the northern panhandle of West Virginia, particularly those with interest in the seven farm markets that stretch from Chester to Morgantown.
One idea is the use of wireless credit card machines at the farm markets.
“Farmers have to be involved for this to work. Our marketing work eventually makes you more money,” she said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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