Farm Succession, Changing Demographics & Younger Farmers- Is Your Communications Ready?

There’s a change coming. A change across one of the oldest and most noble, and necessary, of industries- farming. And it might require you to shift your thinking of communication and marketing strategies.

It has been estimated by the National Agricultural Statistics Service that we can expect nearly 100 million acres of U.S. farmland to transition or change hands of ownership in the next 5 years. And based on the 2012 USDA Ag Census, a total of 70 percent of U.S. farmland will change hands in the next 20 years.

It’s 2018.

So that 20-year mark is decreasing. We knew this was coming. We’ve been hearing for some time how the average age of US farmers is 58 years and has been continued to increase for the past 30 years. But now that is really taking some meaning as we see the state of farm and land ownership change. This also means as a business, your sales, marketing and communication strategies may need to shift as well to hit the mark.

First, we have to answer the question- who is going to farm next? We can expect a lot of generational transitioning. The next youngest, and maybe even the youngest generation, is going to play a part in taking over the farming business.

In fact, it should probably be noted that Pew Research recently released a study stating that the millennial generation is soon to be the largest generation demographic, beating out the Baby Boomers. So yes, we need to start thinking how a younger generation of farmers is going to want to communicate.

What are their purchasing preferences? What messages resonate with them? It’s going to need to be quick information. They are going to want information and resources to help them be more successful, and they are definitely going to want access to the best of the best. These younger and beginning farmers are more likely to have a college education and they know they have to constantly seek new information to stay on top of the progressive technology required in farming. Yes, price is going to be important. These next generations are carrying a hefty burden when it comes to getting started. The cost to start, buy-in and grow in farming is plain tough.

So what else can you offer them? They are still going to seek some type of additional value in purchasing with you. To be frank- they are going to want to feel important as a customer. And at the same time, that is going to create a relationship. They are going to want to turn to you. And in turn, this creates brand advocates. You can easily start encouraging this by sharing this information digitally. It’s quick, it’s easily accessed, and most of all, it’s easily shared. So these brand advocates can have an impact. In a study by Rabobank of farmers across the globe, 76% of U.S. farmers between ages 18 and 35 have social media activity.

Use them. Change IS happening.

But your internal shifting doesn’t have to be an overnight occurrence. There is some time to take planning steps. Just as you do in other areas of your business and planning for the future, let this be worked into that plan as well. The first changes you need to think about are actually easier to tackle than you think.

Websites – Don’t have one? Get one. It’s going to be a minimal investment and without it, you have no hub in the digital world. Keep the print, add in digital. What you are doing in print is great. Keep it up. Mailers, magazines, catalogs, and the rest. Now just add in digital. The amount of interactiveness and measurement that can be added to any of these is phenomenal.

Social Media – Farmers use it. We’ve already established that. But use it to communicate messages that inform, educate and create proud brand advocates.

Forums or Roundtables – Invite some younger patrons, even if they are not yet on the main business account but are actively engaged in the farming business. Get their insight on what they need to succeed, what their worries are, and what will help them. These are just a few, top-level means of adjusting your communication to this new transition of farmer-customers.

It is a constant evaluation of what tools and messages to have in the mix. Just because we know farm assets are transitioning, does not make it easy. Consider the cost of entry, cost of initial business years, increasing regulations, competition forces and even rural development. Nobody wants it to be difficult for generations to continue farming or new beginning farmers to not have a shot at this passionate occupation.

So what can you and your talented business, do to help them?

That’s really the good stuff.

the good stuff

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