It’s no secret that farming is one of the oldest professions out there – around 12,000 years old.
But farming is far from antiquated.
It’s one of the biggest, most diverse and technologically advanced industries out there. Canada’s agricultural sector alone contributes $110 billion annually to our nation’s GDP. That might seem like an eye-watering amount but when you consider that globally the industry is worth $8.7 trillion dollars, it’s a small slice of the pie.
If the word “farm” conjures up rustic images of old red barns, a slower paced way of life and simple pleasures, you need to think again. Replace that charming old barn with million dollar equipment and technology. Reconsider that the “slow paced simple life” is a complex web of global & local economics and commodities impacted by (and often completely at the mercy of) forces outside of your control.
If you are in agriculture, let me be the first to apologize for this post as it only scratches the surface of this interconnected industry – even a Lord of the Rings length trilogy wouldn’t be long enough.
As the daughter of beef cattle & cropping farmers in Australia, I’m going to stick to what I know. Having made the transition into city and corporate life over a decade ago, I know every business can learn from some of these farm mantra’s.
7. Plan for the harvest, prepare for the drought.
Sounds quite dramatic, but when you consider that one crop could be most of your annual income it certainly builds the suspense.
Take corn for example. It’s Ontario’s number one crop in terms of production and takes on average 4 months from planting to harvest, and is only grown once a year. And there are countless variables that can devastate it. If there’s a frost in 60-100 days after planting, too much moisture causing the roots to rot, not enough moisture to fully grow, fungus, insects, and invasive weeds just to name a few.
So – what can be done? Look at what might change and how you can react – plan and then proactively pivot.
The “new-normal” of Covid has seen countless businesses change how they do business in a more socially distanced manner, or even what they do entirely. While planning is necessary in any good business, be prepared to either dodge those curve balls or hit them straight back.
6. Food is a commodity, how you produce it is an art.
When it comes to farming, there is a commodity complex. It’s the inescapable reality that you are just one farm of hundreds (or millions) making a product, so how do you differentiate yourself? Many successful food businesses focus on how or where, not what, they produce. Take a closer look in your fridge, or at your grocery store, the first two things most food packaging wants to tell you is where it’s grown and what type of farm it’s from.
Even fast food giant McDonald’s focuses on food origins with which to differentiate their food offerings as a patriotic choice.
Source: Twitter (SHANGHOON)
Their recent “Not Without Canadian Farmers” Campaign symbolically representing their Canadian farmers as the real heroes, without ever showing the food or the farmers.
This provenance approach is at its most powerful when combined with storytelling to transform brands into personalities. You want to connect with consumers through shared values, and a sense of community.
To see first-hand what this can look like, watch the video below or even better check out our full Next Stop Taste campaign.
5. Success is not final, and failure isn’t fatal.
Despite this being a Winston Churchill quote, this has been said more times in my family than I could possibly count.
During a decade-long drought, my family had to foreclose on our family farm. This meant our both our family home and our livelihood was gone in one fell swoop. But my family has rebuilt both a new home and new businesses. With Canadian farm debts alone last year totalling over $114 billion dollars, (which is more than five times Canada’s total military budget for the 2019/2020 year), sadly my family’s story isn’t a rare occurrence. One bad harvest, or change in market value, can mean the end of their farm.
To help minimize this risk, over half of all Canadian farms are mixed-farming – this means rather than just one crop of type of livestock, they plan for multiple crops or vary what animals they raise.
While this certainly isn’t rocket science, it’s a strategy that is often forgotten when it comes to marketing. How can you harvest more from your marketing assets?
While some businesses only focus on writing snappy website copy, how does this content benefit the website’s SEO and search ranking? Are you asking for reviews or testimonials? Do you have a social media or content strategy? Have you considered producing video content to increase conversions (or tell your brands story)?
Marketing is something that you don’t just do once and forget about – to succeed you have to keep planting new seeds, water often and harvest when ready.
4. The only thing better than a good harvest is a good neighbour.
Farms may seem like an isolated business, but many wouldn’t survive without collaboration.
Collaborative farming is becoming more common as farms pool resources and work together for mutual benefits. This could be in the form of creating a co-op with greater buying power to secure better prices, or sharing equipment (when your average John Deere Combine used to harvest wheat starts at an average price of $500,000+, it pays to share!).
In marketing, this collaborative approach has seen Nike & Apple coming together from the launch of the first iPod to the Apple Watch. This collaboration increases brand credibility, and gives consumers access to new experiences through exclusive design features and curated playlists.
But you don’t have to be a billion-dollar company to take part in collaborative marketing. One of the most effective ways of building brand awareness & authenticity is through social media collaboration, like Instagram takeovers, where a business will partner with like minded brands to control each other’s social media content for one day. And it goes without saying, one of the most valuable collaborations you can make is with a strategic video solutions partner.
3. It gets late early.
Ever had one of those days where time seems to have just evaporated, and the day is over before you know it?
Time has a velocity we can’t control, but we can choose what to fill it with. Making your days count in farming is critical, particularly with crops like oats and wheat that have specific moisture content they have to reach for the best harvest results, which happens for only a short time.
In marketing, there are limited or optimum time windows that allow you to reap the best rewards.
Be aware of what is happening not only in your industry but in your community. How can you take hold of these opportunities before they’re gone, and be prepared to not only respond to conversations but also start them.
In our industry for example (which is video production), there is a massive surge in interest/traffic after labour day. In order to take advantage of this, we need to make sure our website is both attractive to search engines and engaging to humans. This needs to be done months in advance to ensure we make hay when the sun shines.
2. Measure twice, cut once.
There are some things in life that if not done right the first time, can really come back to bite you. You don’t have to grow up on a farm to know this – for anyone who has ever cut their own bangs, you know what I’m talking about.
Not properly measuring what you need in terms of planning, equipment, and skills can see even the best blueprints create faulty and costly outcomes. When it comes to your business, do you know what you need, and how much?
This becomes even more important if you need to engage external solution providers, as you need to know how to measure them up to be sure they’re the right fit. Looking at testimonials and reviews on certified sites, like Clutch, is a great place to start this process.
The next step is meetings with potential suppliers and collaborators. Be sure to have questions ready about your inventory of needs so you can get clear answers on how they intend to tailor and deliver solutions.
Whether your business needs to lean on external partners, specialized equipment or unique processes, do your homework up-front and make sure you are getting exactly what you need.
1. To some it’s just dirt, to others it’s potential.
It’s astonishing, life-giving stuff. We depend on it for our survival as much as oxygen or water.
And it’s alive.
There are more organisms in a tablespoon of dirt than there are people on earth, and they all make the things we rely on possible like the food we eat and the clothes we wear. But without this knowledge and appreciation it’s either overlooked, undervalued or avoided.
So, what’s the dirt in your business? Is it your service providers, or supply chain? Is it your people? How are you valuing your staff from recruitment to retirement? Or could it be your customers? It’s easy to lose sight of what they might need and how to best connect with them. Emotion drives a lot of consumer decisions, so while robust and detailed explainer content has its place, think about how story-driven content could plant the seed for their next purchase decision.
While we’ve only touched on a handful, there are hectares of lessons we can learn from farmers.
These resilient, adaptive and responsive businesses and individuals keep us the shirts on our back, meals on our table and, perhaps most importantly, give us food for thought on how we can always do better.