SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — It isn’t enough to put fresh greens, radishes and eggs on a table and expect consumers to buy them.

Growers also have to sell their farm’s story, explain what makes their products unique.

“It’s not just your kale. Why do you farm? What is the meaning behind your operation?” said Daniel Prial, community food and outreach specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

No business can survive without good marketing, Prial said during a session at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York winter conference, which was held Jan. 18 to 20.

Prial, a former Peace Corps worker in Africa, now provides technical assistance to farmers.

That includes help with marketing.

Prial suggested playing to values that may resonate with consumers, such as eco-consciousness or social justice.

“The idea is to hit the head and heart of your consumer,” Prial said.

Marketing can also give consumers a new perspective on a product.

“You aren’t just selling kale. You’re selling health food,” he said.

Prial showed examples of some well-known advertising campaigns.

In 1971, for example, Coca-Cola launched what is sometimes called the world’s most famous ad.

Based on the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” the commercial features people of many ethnicities and includes the line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.”

“They connected a bottle of Coke with world peace,” Prial said. “That’s what gave it meaning. That’s what we’re going for too, connecting the tangible to the intangible. It’s all about feeling, emotion, values, perception and mindset.”

Similarly, car manufacturers don’t just sell vehicles. Ads often present a particular car as a symbol of achievement, or as a path to happiness and freedom.

A logo can also communicate valuable information about a farm.

Prial showed one logo that says the farm has been in business since the late 1800s.

That logo lets people know that it has a history and that its owners know what they’re doing.

But an appealing logo also needs the right color scheme and typography. Style matters as much as content.

“There is an art to it,” Prial said. “That’s why I highly recommend hiring someone to do it for you.”

Production skill will always be important, but if a farmer is doing a poor job marketing, the quality of his or her kale doesn’t matter.

“I don’t mean to scare you,” Prial said, “but without marketing, you have no business.”

Paul Post is a freelance writer in eastern New York. He can be reached at paulpost@nycap.rr.com.


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