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Stand Out in Your Field: Marketing for Farmers

by Alice Varon

Farmers often feel that they are too busy running the farm to invest time developing a marketing plan. But with all the compelling images and stories that come with life on a farm, they have enormous marketing assets right at their fingertips! In our culture of information overload and short attention spans, effective marketing deploys visual content and stories with emotional resonance.

Last fall Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) initiated a new project to enhance farmers’ marketing by helping them tap this potential and use the images from their farm to tell stories and and establish a brand for their farm. While we continue to recommend our certification programs for direct-market farmers and beekeepers using ecological practices, we also recognize that certification alone isn’t a marketing plan. And we want to see farmers’ businesses thrive.

The project’s website is Stand Out In Your Field – Marketing for Farmers. As part of this project Certified Naturally Grown is offering free marketing services: logo design for qualified applicants, and the development of a promotional video for selected producers. The first batch of logos and videos have been completed, and will be featured at StandOutinYourField.org. CNG will be accepting a second round of applications for these services through mid- to late January 2016. Applicants can get started at StandOutInYourField.org and must be primarily direct-market producers using ecological methods in order to qualify for these services.

The project’s website also includes a section for Marketing Lessons designed to help farmers tell their stories. These lessons include using Instagram, writing a Press Release, Branding, and using Video. Lessons are available for free on the website, with more detailed lessons available for download. A series of short blog posts features “Shining Examples” featuring farmers who excel at these techniques, like how Instagram is used by CNG member Origins Farm.

To support improved branding, Certified Naturally Grown is also offering affordable design services, including several design options for banners and business cards based on a farm’s logo or the themes created for CNG producers. There are also options for farms without logos and without certification.

The media landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Add to this the increasing sophistication – and confusion – of customers about their food choices, and direct-market farmers today face a pressing need to develop a marketing approach that resonates with customers and strengthens their affiliation. Savvy farmers stand out with a story and a brand that is consistent across venues, and extends beyond the market to include an online presence with visual stories about the farm and the people who work there.

Effective farm marketing requires ongoing efforts to reach new customers through branding and storytelling. Farmers are fortunate to have a particularly interesting workplace that customers want to hear about. To get the latest from this project, register for updates at www.StandOutInYourField.org. The work of this project is funded through a grant from the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program of the United States Department of Agriculture, AMS division.

Alice Varon is Executive Director of Certified Naturally Grown. She’s currently working with experts to develop new certification programs for mushroom producers and aquaponic operations. Register for updates about these projects on the CNG website, www.CNGfarming.org​, 845 687 2058, alicevaron@naturallygrown.org.

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