Interesting and informative blog posts on farmers and ranchers from US Farm Data.

Marketing to farmers and ranchers takes more than just securing mailing lists or agriculture leads. Those who really want to engage farmers need to use both online and offline marketing techniques to do so. However, depending on what you are trying to sell or to market it’s important you understand how farmers live, work, and use their purchase power.

As with any marketing segment, it is important to really get to know your customers before you can try to sell them something. And the worst thing you can ever do is to make assumptions about what a customer needs or wants. So if you are newbie to marketing to farmers and ranchers, or even a seasoned professional, it pays to brush up on your facts about farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers. Here is some information you should know before you make that first contact:

  • In 2010, there were a little more than one million farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers. Almost 80 percent of these were self-employed.
  • American farmers and ranchers produce food to feed the nation and they also export to other countries. They must do this while contending with a variety of unknowns, from weather to price fluctuations.
  • Crops are mostly sold to food processing companies but more and more farmers are selling their goods directly to consumers.
  • Farmers also are business managers. They must oversee crop production, purchasing supplies, and maintain buildings and equipment. They also are in charge of keeping financial records.
  • Farmers and ranchers must be part salesman in order to effectively market their livestock and crops.
  • While in the past most farmers had only a high school education, bachelor’s degrees in agriculture or related fields such as agricultural economics are becoming more and more common as farming becomes increasingly complex.
  • The median annual salary of farmers and ranchers is just over $60,000. Incomes can vary widely from year to year because of the many outside factors that affect farm production. Small farm operations are often run by a farmer who also holds an additional full-time job away from the farm.

Farming is like every other industry in that it is ever-evolving and its dependence on technology continues to grow. If marketers expect to effectively market to farmers and ranchers, it will mean keeping up on the many challenges that farmers and ranchers continue to face.

In order to successfully market to farmers, you need solid agriculture leads, mailing lists, and a variety of other marketing tools. Once you have these tools in hand, however, your job has just begun. One of the most common reason marketing to farmers is a challenge is because of the many common misconceptions people have about farmers.

In order to speak to your target audience – in this case, farmers – it is important that you leave all stereotypes at the door. What follows is a list of the some of the most common ones that can be a real impediment to successfully marketing to farmers.

  • All farmers are old. While it is true that the average age of farmers in on the rise (this is true in the general population, as well), there also is a growing number of young, beginning farmers. This is due in part to a variety of programs introduced by Congress and the USDA to support young people interested in farming. These programs include the Agricultural Credit Improvement Act, the Farm Security and Rural Infrastructure Act of 2002, and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act.
  • All farmers are white. While many farm owners are white there is an increasing number of people – of all races and ethnicities – who are interested in breaking into the farming industry.
  • Farmers are not well-educated. While they may not have degrees in philosophy, farmers are far from uneducated. In order to be a successful farmer, one needs to have an in-depth knowledge of microbiology, ecology, chemistry, economics, carpentry, forestry, and more. Further, many young farmers are starting out after graduating with majors in things like agriculture, land management, and similar fields of study.

While common sense should always dictate marketing decisions when it comes to a particular market segment, it is better to be safe than sorry. That means you need to know who you are talking to before you start a conversation. Here are some facts about farmers you can count on:

  • Farmers generally produce a crop or livestock. In some cases, both. These crops and livestock are in most cases are sold to food processing companies.
  • Farmers receive most of their training on the job – even if they have earned a degree in agriculture or a similar field.
  • Most farmers are self-employed and their duties will vary with the size of their farming operation. Small farmers will typically take care of all day-to-day operations while large farms will have employees that manage particular tasks.
  • Farming can be a challenge financially. So much to do with farming has to do with market fluctuations so a farmer’s financial return can vary greatly from year to year.
  • It is hard to find anyone who works longer or harder than a farmer. Time is always of the essence as farmers fight weather conditions, market fluctuations, and other factors.

Marketing to farmers is a challenge because of the particular nature of the industry. Having a good grasp of farmers and what makes them tick will help your efforts be successful.

Agricultural marketing brings with it unique challenges that you might not encounter when marketing to other industries. These challenges arise from the fact that farming is neither exclusively a lifestyle nor a business. Instead, it’s an ever-evolving combination of both. A true ag marketer understands these challenges and rises to meet them.

The agriculture industry deals with significantly more “unknowns” than other industries. These include a volatile marketplace that can change rapidly and without notice, burgeoning state and federal regulations, and the weather. Therefore, unlike other business owners the only certainty when it comes to marketing specifically to farmers is that what works this month or this year might not work next month or next year.

When it comes to making a sale, approval by committee takes on a whole new meaning when you are selling to farmers. Since most farms today are family-owned and multi-generational, there is seldom one decision maker. Instead there are several people that must approve a purchase or any other decision.

Farmers today are exceptionally savvy when it comes to technology. Overlook this fact and your marketing strategy is already dead in the water. Ag industry research repeatedly shows that high-acre farmers – and most other farmers as well – adopt mobile technology at a greater rate than the general population. This can be directly related to the fact that for years farmers have had to adapt to things like precision planting, fertilizer application, and grain yield monitoring. This has made them extremely comfortable with hardware and software, contrary to some stereotypes of farmers as “out-of-date.”

Farmers know full well how technology can aid in split-second decisions and that it is essential to managing long-term risks. Technology, including mobile apps, also provide farmers with an important edge when it comes to assessing profit margins and successfully managing risks. And since farms are often multi-generational, tech support is built in thanks to a younger generation that has been raised on technology.

If your ag marketing strategy does not include email campaigns, mobile apps, and social media, chances are farmers will write you off as “behind the times.” Remember, globalization and market volatility have forever changed the ag industry, and today’s farmers are skilled at using technology to deal with things like market fluctuations, futures, hedging, and trading.