Category Archives: marketing

The Image Of Agriculture – Dress for Success

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!


Celebrating AgDay 2011

The folks here at Barrows Farm have very good reason to celebrate AgDay 2011. We are located in a state that uses 23% of the state’s land, approximately 7 million acres for farming production! Agriculture is important to New York State as its production returned almost $4.7 billion to the farm economy in 2009.

Milk is New York’s leading agricultural product and is produced all across the state. Milk sales account for one-half of total agricultural receipts. Production in 2009 was 12.4 billion pounds with a preliminary value of $1.7 billion. New York is the nation’s third leading producer and Wyoming County leads the state. New York ranks first in the nation in the production of creamed cottage cheese, low fat cottage cheese and sour cream.

New York livestock producers marketed 228 million pounds of meat animals (cattle, pigs, and sheep) during 2009. Ducks, broilers (chickens) and turkeys are also raised. New York ranks 20th in egg production.

Nationally New York ranked second in apple production, fourth for both tart cherries and pears and ninth for strawberries. We placed third for wine and juice grape production behind California and Washington. Sixty-six percent of the grape production was for juice and 34 percent went into wines in 2009. New Yorkers can also get locally grown peaches, sweet cherries, blueberries and raspberries in season.

The value of all vegetables produced in NY totaled $408.9 million in 2010. NY ranks fifth nationally in fresh market vegetable production. Cabbage, sweet corn and onions lead the way. NY ranks second in the production of pumpkins, third in cauliflower, fourth for snap beans, cucumbers, and squash, and ninth in tomatoes. We also produce many vegetables used for processing such as beets for canning, cabbage for sauerkraut and peas for freezing. Don’t forget about all the great road side stands and farm markets that will be opening soon.

New York produces a variety of field crops largely in support of its dairy industry. Corn, soybeans and wheat are most widely grown. New York ranks third in corn silage, seventh in oat production, 21st for grain corn, 25th for soybeans 27th for hay and 31st in wheat production.

Maple syrup production in New York for 2010 was 312,000 gallons (valued at $17.8 million) ranking us second behind Vermont. In 2009, New York floriculture products were valued at $171 million. Bedding and garden plants top the list of commodities. The wholesale value of New York’s floriculture output ranks seventh nationally at $171 million.

Many people may forget where their food, clothes and alternative fuels come from…but farmers keep doing the thankless job of putting food on your plate and clothes on your back. I know there are others within the change for production but without someone out there tending to the harvest and shipment of your meats, vegetables, cotton for clothing, grains for breads and such…we would be a completely different society. Everyone should be very thankful for each small thing a farmer does to make OUR lives better!

Maniac Monday

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Monday’s could be the easy day of the week…The day when you slowly transition back into the work week! It never works that way though, does it?
Uggg. Today has just been one of those days. We woke up this morning to more snow! I am starting to wonder just when it is going to stop…June maybe?!?! 🙂
All kidding aside, it has been one hell of a morning. The phone has been ringing off the hook and with each phone call, it breeds two or three more! I am tired and ready for a break!
This morning has been crammed with phone calls, one after another all morning long. I sit here now, taking my lunch break, typing on the computer to relax my brain for just a few minutes. I work on several different levels when it comes to work. Right now the top one is project manager for Broome Biomass. I have devoted my life over the past few years to developing the marketing strategy and the business model for the company. In the course of doing so, I have become a marketing agent for other companies that are looking to sell biomass products. It keeps me very busy and at times can become extremely frustrating.
I think the thing that makes it very difficult is trying to play the balancing act and do so many things at once…It is very much like farming! Very rewarding but it doesn’t pay very well! 🙂 I do love everything that I have done and look forward to everything that I will be able to do in the future to promote agriculture into the renewable energy world in a real world working environment.
I am off again to work on the farm. Time to mix up my own special blend of chicken feed and to muck the barns out. The fun never stops! Have a blessed day!

Safety Sunday – Farmers and Cell Phones

Since I want to right posts on Sundays but I don’t want them to be tremedously long, I decided to write a bit about farm safety. I will be choosing different topics every week.

Since I have a funny story about me and my cell phone…I thought I might blog a little blog this morning about farmers and cell phones.

When I was younger and my gramps was still around, no one had cell phones. The closest thing out there to a cell phone in the world was a CB radio. Today, many farmers still don’t carry them for many different reasons. I have a different view, due to personal experience, on have one to carry with you…just in case. On small farms they are good to have just in case you get your tractor stuck in the mud or snow. Or even if you slip and fall, needing someone’s assistance. My personal favorite is so that you can call for a rescue when you get locked inside your chicken barn!!! (Yes, that really did happen to me)

Communication is crucial when it comes to being a small farm. Our neighboors are close but not close enough to hear me yell if I were ever really in trouble. So, I carry a cell phone with me all the time when I complete chores, clean barns, run tractors and move firewood. It isn’t for me to talk while working, it is for personal safety. Let me explain one step further. One day last summer, while cleaning barns and filling all of the poultry feeders my bloodhound decided to “knock” on the poultry barn door. When she did…It locked me inside. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my animals. Mr. farmer wasn’t due home for another THREE hours and I still needed to get a list about as long as my arm finished. Instead of being locked inside, I called my sister-in-law who lives nearby to come let me out. Within fifteen minutes, I was out and back to my list of chores.

Four years ago, when we had a hired man running the saw mill, we had a tractor roll over. He pulled a stupid stunt trying to get a log down off the pile with a chain, not paying attention to the angle at which he was pulling and boom, over the tractor when. Laying on its side, operator not in sight…I raced out the door, soon discovering the help was alright. The convience of a cell phone, well alright two, allowed me to get the commercial dairyman from up road. By that time, Mr. Farmer was home and we all managed to get the tractor back on all four wheels. Thank the Lord above with very little damage done to the operator or the equipment.

Cell phones do provide a safety net. Just because you carry them doesn’t mean you have them attached to your ear. I can also tell you that this is how the commercial dairyman I talked about earlier does all of his business. Whether a truck, a tractor or in his office…he communicates with his employees, parts store personnel, his marketing manager and even his family this way. It allows him flexibility enough so that he can multitask and get his work finished no matter where he is.

Modern technology and farming do have a place to coexist together.

Budget Cuts

As a whole, I think that right now, farming is the only industry that is starting to see an upswing in payments. Grain prices are steadily raising, which is good. Some of that has to do with high demands and short supplies in reserves but for the most part, grain prices are staying bullish and looking good. Not so good if you are a beef, dairy or poultry producer and you have to buy them, but better in general.

Milk prices have been higher lately than I have seen them in a long time. Class III closed the other day over $19.00, much better than in 2008 when the milk prices bottomed out around $10.

Fuel prices are insane for all of us right now. Gas and diesel prices are hurting all of our pockets, especially farmers. Hopefully those prices will drop soon but, unfortunately, most of the farms in the corn belt are already preparing to plant their acres. These prices cut into their bottom dollar.

I just read a release from the USDA about the speech Mr. Vilsack gave before the senate about budget cuts. It sounds like they are going to be dropping a few programs that are co-covered with other agencies and slimming down on other ones.

“In total, the 2012 budget we are proposing before this subcommittee is $130 billion, a reduction of $3 billion below the 2011 annualized continuing resolution. For discretionary programs, our budget proposes $18.8 billion, a reduction of $1.3 billion below the 2011 level.”

Sounds to me like the USDA is in for some revisions, maybe not we can all be able to deal with the USDA and the paperwork involved for some of these programs a bit easier. I doubt it, but maybe….It’s like those lottery commercials where they say “Hey, you never know.” I think that if the USDA and the government would back off on a couple of regulations, it would be easier for us to make a little money and not have to spend extra time on paperwork or assessments.

I sincerely hope that we can turn this country around, without breaking everyone’s bank!

Marketing for the Farm

I work with a group here in NY called New York FarmNet. The assist with business planning, financial planning, estate planning and are there if you just get extremely frustrated and need someone to talk to. They are always searching for new papers, innovate marketing and more.

Today, they released a link to a Penn State paper that discussing farm marketing. For those of you that go to farmers markets and street fairs. This is a great and interesting read.

Marketing Presentation