Marketing Strategy

By Tarrah Young

In this second post of her series, Tarrah Young of Green Being Farm in Neustadt, Ontario shares an overview of developing a marketing strategy; a crucial tenet to “digging into farming”. To glean more of Tarrah’s knowledge, consider checking out the recordings of the corresponding webinar series found here

As the adage goes, you can grow the best tomatoes in the world, but it won’t matter unless you can sell them and that’s why knowing how to market your farm products can be as important as knowing how to produce them. I know I’ve seen good farmers struggle to sell great food, when at the same time, farmers with mediocre products succeed because they know how to connect with a market.

Starting out is certainly the hardest part when building a market. Word of mouth can be your most powerful marketing tool, but what do you do when you have no mouths to begin with? Here are a couple tricks we found to be helpful:

  1. Piggyback marketing: When we started Green Being Farm, the first products we sold were Thanksgiving turkeys and pastured pork. We partnered with a vegetable CSA that already had a large following of members. These members were already our ‘target market’ – committed to local, organic food and able to afford it. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement to market our turkeys to these CSA members; we benefited by getting our first customers, and the other farm was able to offer an additional product to their members
  2. Marketing off the beaten path: anyone can print a brochure or put an ad in the paper. But one thing that these forms of advertising cannot do for you is create trust between you and your potential customer base. However, if you can land an interview…in the paper, a magazine, the radio….a compelling interview will create a better first impression of you and your operation. When we started our CSA, we tried traditional advertising techniques and we also managed to get an article in the paper about our story. Absolutely no one followed up on the print ads. Everyone who came to us read about us in the paper.

Zakary Miller, of Wild Mountain Farm in Nova Scotia, building a relationship with a prospective customer. Photo courtesy of Franny Rutchinski

Trust is a very big deal when it comes to food. People really want to know where their food comes from and the people who grow it. Direct Marketing, while more labourious than wholesaling, can create strong relationships between eater and producer. And this is where Word of Mouth Marketing comes in. It is a lot of work creating your initial customer base of people who trust you but once you have them, they will do your marketing for you. And if they tell people who trust them about your farm, those people will start out trusting you as well. I call that ‘Trust By Proxy’. The growth rate for customer bases through word of mouth is usually a little over 10%/year. I feel that 10% is also a sustainable expansion rate for a new farm, so you can grow comfortably along with your customer base.

Allan Nation, editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer has these words of advice for new producers/marketers:

  1. Get the knowledge you need to produce and market the product.
  2. Produce it for yourself and your family.
  3. Produce it for your friends who have tried it, like it, and ask you for it.
  4. Do it as a business.

In other words, take it slow, learn how to do your job well, and grow your market, and your business, at a sustainable rate.