Farmers are facing low prices in just about every farm commodity these days. In fact, “53% of agricultural producers said they expect widespread bad times for U.S. agriculture over the next five years, according to the Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer survey in October,” Will Secor, clinical assistant professor of agricultural economics for Purdue, said in a November/December issue of Purdue’s Agri Marketing Magazine.
Whether you are new to the farming business or just looking to revamp your marketing plans this year, here are some tips to point you in the right direction.
1Consider the consumer
One of the hardest things for farmers to adapt to is the ever-changing needs and wants of consumers. Virtually all consumers are interested in the value of the food they consume. On top of that, they are interested in how their food is produced:
- What are the labor conditions surrounding the processing and handling of my food? Are workers treated fairly?
- Does the food meet my nutritional needs?
- Do farms supplying the food take animal welfare into consideration?
- Is my food purchase supporting small, family-owned or local farms?
- Are the producers of my food good stewards of the land and manage available resources efficiently? Do they have practices in place to help the wildlife?
- Do the producers of my food limit the amount of pesticides, antibiotics, etc, when raising my food?
- Are they using technologies that are safe for the environment? And are the conscious of their carbon footprint?
2Share your message
You don’t have to sacrifice your farm beliefs or completely restructure your farm’s business model to meet consumer demands. Talk with your regular customers, visit farm markets or groceries where people shop for food and get a feel for what they are buying. Maybe you can incorporate a few new practices into your current operation or just use the opportunity to share your own farm story.
If you have a business mission and vision statement, use these to define who you are and how you want to be known amongst consumers.
3Get your name out there
Attend farm markets and events simply to spread the word about your products. Consider developing a website that tells your story and the products you provide. With everyone doing their research online, why not throw your own information out there too.
Design a logo and tagline that people can easily associate with your product.
Join farm associations to network with other farmers, share advice and help you gain a better understanding of the market around you. Farm associations often offer marketing packages just for being a member.
4Draft a budget
Once you have a clear understanding of what it is you want to market and who you want to market to, create a marketing budget. You may have to spend a few dollars on advertising, joining associations, farm markets, etc., so have a clear idea of what those expenses are and what you can afford.
5Track your success
Knowing what marketing strategies worked well and what didn’t can help you move forward. If you received only an inquiry or two from the magazine advertisement, but gained a handful of new customers from the local farmers market, you can use that information to decide where to spend your marketing dollars in the future.
Sources: Purdue University, Determining Value For Your Customer and Communicating It; Purdue University, Fulfilling Changing Consumer Expectations of the Food Supply (case study); hobbyfarms.com, 11 Steps to Successful Farm Marketing.
(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)
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