With Caswell County composed of so many farms that require various approaches getting items to market, implementing cost effective ways to do this is critical. In the world we live in today there are some relatively inexpensive and simple ways to begin. If you have read articles or blogs of late about homesteading, sustainable farming or small family farming you are likely discovering that there is a movement gaining traction especially in the south east where young families are moving to rural areas looking to raise their families in close knit communities on small farms. In the US, small farms are the backbone of the agriculture industry with 97% of all US farms being family owned. The USDA Economic Research Service says that you need to gross less than $350,000 per year to be classified as a small farm. Currently, there are nearly two million small farms in the US that includes retirement farms, off-farm occupation farms, and farm-occupation farms.
In order to differentiate your farm from the nearly two million others, leveraging technology is a must. In the current world of technology that we live, it is important to think about how you might begin to market your farm. Whether it is produce or livestock, value added offerings like jellies, jams or butters, eggs or milk or an event venue, the opportunity to make a living doing what you love is possible if you are able to strategically market your offerings. This article is first in a series of three on how to market your family farm. The first step is: Develop a Farm Story.
What is your farm story? Every farm has one; every small business has one. If you are looking to make a living or supplement your current situation with farm related offerings, it is important to have a succinct version of your farm’s unique story ready to share with others. Although most of the folks around Caswell may know your story, those you may be marketing to in surrounding counties, online, or at farmers markets or wholesalers, do not and having a story helps set you apart. In the world of social media, blogging and instant streaming media, part of how your farm business is perceived there is based on your individual story. There are many questions that can help you begin to think about this. Here are a few:
Why is your farm/product/offering different?
Are your blueberries organic; an unusual variety for the area; do you provide pick your own; do you offer jam, jellies or other value-added products? Do your hens produce larger eggs than most? Are your cattle grass fed? What is it that your farm provides? Determine some unique qualities…it can be the service, care and attention you provide in the farming and your customers.
What is your farm’s name?
You must have a name. Think about where you are in the area. Are there specific geographic features you might use (for example Berry Hill Farm …if your blueberry patch is on a hill - Flowing Creek Orchards...if you are near a creek or perhaps you enjoy the sound of birds chirping while you work with your flower farm - Chirping Bird Flowers). Be creative but be authentic. People like to do business with people who are sincere, genuine and down to earth.
Tying the name into something unique about you, your farm or the land, positions you in a unique way that can help to market your offerings better. And a farm name provides a way to brand your business in an appealing and professional way.
Take the farm name a step further and create a logo. This is one of the best ways to immediately brand your farm business. With open source software available online and inexpensive services (Fiver.com…get designs for $5) it has become rather simple to develop a unique logo that sets you apart from the many others that may also farm the same crops or provide similar offerings.
How long has the farm existed?
Other elements to include in your farm story could include the years the farm has existed. Was it in the family a long time? Or is it new to you and you are beginning the next chapter of the story. Perhaps it was once a soybean farm that you are transitioning to flowers, or tobacco that is now a cow/calf operation. Your customers want to build a relationship with you, their famer, and knowing more about your farm helps that to happen easily. It is all part of your farm story.
Who is involved in the farming? Who is the famer/s?
Is it a one man/woman show? Maybe it is the whole family or maybe it is you and your dog. Let people know. It allows them to get a glimpse of how the food/offering is brought to them with care.
What has been successful?
Is there a secret to your success? The whole family being involved, the guidance from your grandparents, a secret jam recipe? Maybe it is working with Cooperative Extension or other neighboring farmers.
Chances are there are farmers here in the area or those that grew up on farms reading this and thinking some of this sounds a bit like ‘fluff’. That is understandable, however with the inexpensive (often free) tools available and the proximity of millions of people within 70 miles of us that are truly appreciative of our offerings and willing to pay top dollar for it, it is probably worth it to give this serious consideration. Stay tuned for next time when we address websites for your farm.
The Caswell Ag Chat is a weekly snap-shot regarding various aspects of agriculture in Caswell County. We’d like to have different perspectives, highlight different farmers in Caswell as well as fold in those farm owners involved in agritourism in order to highlight ‘all things agriculture’ in our beautiful county. Our number one economic driver here is agriculture and as we transition from the larger row crops of tobacco, that are still critical to our county, we would like to keep the citizens of the county aware of how much we have to offer to those who make all types of farming their career choice.
As published in The Caswell Messenger - Ag Chat September 11, 2019
Written by AC Hodges