Last week, a fellow farmer asked a simple question. That question was, “Would you farm differently if a non-farmer followed you around for a day?”
The fellow farmer who asked this question was Ryan Goodman. Ryan, writer of the blog Agriculture Proud, is “just an ordinary kid from Arkansas who grew up on a cattle ranch” who asks agriculturists to tell their stories, because someone is always listening. You can follow him on twitter via the handle AR_ranchhand.
Since I am an Agriculturist who has spent too many years in sales and marketing, I saw his question on how we farm and start asking myself, “Would I farm differently?” And then that follow-up question of, “What perspective would other farmers I know take?”
And then, it hit me…“Doesn’t this question actually ask us what type of image we promote to people depending upon the audience?”
I need to break these down into different posts because I really think there is too much to explore in one blog. Being a marketing specialist and having considered the abilities of the farmers within my own direct area, I am going to complete a more in-depth focus on what I think needs to have a little light shed on the subject and assist any way I can to help all of us involved in agriculture see the image we promote through NOT our own eyes but the eyes of a stranger who doesn’t fully understand what farming really is.
For this part, let’s just take an overview of what the general public thinks of agriculture. These should be seen as barriers and areas on our farms that we should be paying closer attention to detail with/on.
Farms are dirty and smelly!
By keeping our farms neat and clean on the outside, it gives the passer-by a sense of “there’s a farm that cares.” By keeping grassy areas mowed, trash picked up, and equipment (if stored outside) clean in an orderly fashion we are presenting the image of caring for at least our own home environment. Now, I understand that sometimes it is difficult to keep up with everything but this is one area that I think needs extra attention.
Think about it this way, would you pull into a doctor’s office with peeling paint, trash strewn all over the lawn that hasn’t been mowed, and dirty windows that look like they haven’t been cleaned in years? Or how about a restaurants that has broken windows, left over food clinging that clings to your shoes as you first step foot through the door or it has a weird rotten food smell lingering in the parking lot? Now, let’s switch this around to how your farm is viewed.
Do you keep your yard areas mowed? Do you keep around your barns free of junk, weeds and debris? How do your pastures look, are they a muddy mess? Do you stockpile manure? If so where, in plain view of a passer-by? If your equipment is kept outside, do you make sure there are no weeds going up around it? How does your barn look? Any peeling or missing paint? Do you keep your equipment clean?
I know, lots of questions huh? And just think, I have only gotten into outward appearances. Remember, how we look on the outside is similar to how new people view us when we go out to dinner, the movies, give speeches, etc.
So, on that note…I am going to ask:
“Is your farm dressed for success?”
Part two of this barrier is the SMELLS associated with farming.
Is there anything you could do to elimate some of the smells coming from your farm? Maybe it means moving where you store any piles of that are composting to another location. Make sure to check your wind directions. Maybe it would be better to apply manure daily instead of allowing it to pile up (Make sure you check first to ensure you are not breaking the law first. NY has a program for manure management and application that should be read prior to this assessment on NY farms). Or maybe you need to reevaluate your manure management plan. I understand that there isn’t a way to completely elimate all of the odors…hell, most of us in farming consider those smells “heaven scent” … but remember, we are not looking at this from our perspective but from that of an outsider of the industry.
A good comparison would be that smell you get when you walk into a hair salon that comes from little old ladies getting their hair permed. It burns your nose and your eyes if you aren’t used to it. Bad smells on the farm are like horrible under arm odor coming from the guy sitting next to you at a banquet meal. It makes your stomach turn and flip, right? Well, the same thing happens when we have visitors come to call on the farm and in some cases, just driving by.
Now, considering the effects of smells…Do you need to reevaluate your manure management?
In closing, I will ask just one last question……
“How is your farms deodorant today?”
Here’s a hint on a quick and easy way to asses your farm…get in your truck/car, drive down the road until it is out of view and then turn around and drive back slowly. Take note of what you see and/or smell first. These are your problem areas!