Want to sell more of your farm’s meat and dairy? Try telling your farm’s authentic, fascinating story.
If you think your background is ho-hum, Nancy Clark, owner of Drive Brand Studio in North Conway, New Hampshire, has heard that comeback before.
“I love working with farmers. You’re humble to a fault,” she said Feb. 3 during the New England Women in Livestock Business winter conference.
Clark wants more farmers to tell their stories because consumers are hungry to listen.
“Look at current trends for a baseline in your story,” Clark said. “Look at what your customers want to hear, not what you want them to hear.”
She said that the pandemic has changed how 85% of consumers eat, buy and cook, including eating more healthful and local foods; purchasing from online, local and direct sources; and cooking food at home, including “forgotten” comfort foods like pot roast and meatloaf.
“We are definitely looking at more demand for healthful, free-range, grass-fed and organic,” Clark said.
The categories of meat, eggs and dairy have seen “a sharp, upward and sustained spike,” she added. “We are buying in bulk. This wasn’t just toilet paper, paper towels and flour. We still have that mindset. Is that because we’re afraid there will be a shortage or the way we’re buying now? Many of us are home more and not eating out.”
Many consumers want to know the source of their food and its ingredients.
“Fifty-four percent of all consumers and 63% of those 50-plus really care about the healthfulness of their food,” Clark said.
Although the plunge in dining out has presented a hardship to farms supplying the restaurant industry, it’s a boon to those selling directly to customers because more people are cooking at home and many are using cooking as a coping mechanism for COVID-19 stress.
In addition to returning to foods of the past, many home cooks want to expand their repertoire in their down time at home with more adventurous flavors.
“We are experimenting more, trying new things,” Clark said.
She views these changes as opportunities for farmers able to ramp up their marketing.
“You need to talk about you. Who are you?” Clark said. “What’s the history of your farm? We really want to know this. We want to know you because you now are providing us with our food. Where are our ingredients coming from? What is your passion? Why do you do what you do every single day?
“This is hard work. This gets to the essence of who you are and why we as a consumer want to buy from you. We want to know is there some history to your farm. Most have a rich history or something generational. This should come out in your story. You have some of the best names.”
She referred to one of the attendees who called her pig operation Fork to Pork because the farm uses food waste to feed the herd. The name reflects the farm’s ecological values and provides a fun rhyme.
By telling consumers what makes the farm unique, the farmer is creating a brand.
“Look at what you’re really selling,” Clark said. “It’s not livestock, not vegetables, not poultry. You’re selling health, pureness and sustainability. You’re making a promise to us.”
Phrases such as “lovingly raised,” “raised with kindness,” “local flavor,” “hand-picked,” “healthy food starts with healthy land,” “reconnect you to your food,” or “simply good food” ring true to today’s consumers.
Photos are also vital to conveying a farm’s message.
“You’re really fortunate to be in an industry that’s so photogenic,” Clark said. “You’re family, animals, vegetables.”
Even photos shot with a smartphone are good enough.
“There’s no reason to spend a great deal of money on marketing, especially this year,” Clark said.
Photograph what looks nice to you.
“You are consumers,” Clark said. “You know what you like and what words make sense.”
She recommends that every farm claim its Google business listing, which is free, and populate it with the hours and basic information. Farms also need to build a Facebook page, which is also free.
“Look at your reviews,” she said. “The most important thing with reviews is to respond to them because it’s a conversation with your customers. This gives you a great snapshot on why people love you and your farm. This will give you some of those words. Use the words right from the horse’s mouth in the Google reviews.”
A simple website can offer more information than the Google listing and Facebook page. Make sure the Facebook page directs people to the website.
Clark recommends posting a photo and caption to Facebook at least a few times per week.
“It can be just a photo of something interesting,” she said. “We do want to know this. We care as consumers.”
Video clips of morning chores or how you make hay or other “mundane” farm activities can be fascinating to others.
Ask for visitors’ email addresses so you can send them occasional emails to keep the farm name in front of them and to update them on farm news and seasonal offerings. Give them information they want.
“Think about the trends,” Clark said. “We are cooking at home. We want to be more adventurous. Many of us suffer from a lack of inspiration.”
Emailed recipes can pique recipients’ interest. Clark said that a farm emailed her a newsletter that mentioned it now sells hot chocolate bombs. She drove over to buy them based on the email.
“You guys really are amazing, and you have a story to tell,” Clark said. “Let us know and we will support you as consumers.”