From elsewhere to ag marketing

by Jeff Walter
July 22, 2019

The value of bringing objectivity and perspective from another industry to ag.

As with any industry, there is a certain knowledge base that is necessary to be successful in ag. A lucrative yield requires an understanding of the science of soil, seed, weather, pests, planting and harvest, and that’s just the baseline. It doesn’t account for livestock, storage, and the business of bringing product to market or ag tech such as autosteer, remote sensors and probes, aerial imagery and smart machines.

But does all of that also require a background in ag? Isn’t there room for others in science, biology and business, as well as manufacturing, engineering and technology to bring their knowledge base to ag?

Those in the know

It helps to define what it means to have a background in ag. Those who were raised on farms, ranches, and are perhaps among the generations to carry a family farm are considered having an ag background. Similarly, those who come from a family agribusiness are also likely to have a solid knowledge base of ag, even if they maintain their own separate personal career.

Educationally, ag has many foundations. Traditionally, it has roots in land grant institutions and has maintained a foothold in those institutions, even as they have evolved to account for the technology that has altered the manner in which farming is done. Similarly, many individuals who may not have earned an agricultural degree in the past, still learned the mechanics and traditions of farming as it was passed down through generations. And it was many of these practices that can’t be taught in a textbook, which are considered cultural practices, are still done today and are the tried and true methods of farming.

The value that these individuals have in the presence of agribusiness and in the context of ag marketing is the vast understanding of how ag functions. And it is second nature, ingrained in them and likely a benefit to the farmers and growers as they conduct business and in their interaction with the media.

The newcomer view

So what of the uninitiated, the individual whose exposure to ag might be more commercial and consumer than actual connection? It’s a surprisingly fresh perspective that marketers should take note.

The transition to ag from another industry brings with it an insight into how other industries function, problem solve, and what does and doesn’t work. Whether an individual finds themselves in ag intentionally or through circumstance, their experience carries along a business acumen which might not follow the traditional business model, but with new opportunities and ideas would still be suitable to ag. Finally, coming from a field outside of ag removes the biases that come from working in any one industry, regardless of that industry.

More than that, ag needs individuals from other trades to continue learning, generating, and bringing new information to the table. This expands to all areas, from scientists, researchers, engineers, business skills and marketers, as well as to the human resources side of recognizing the needs of a workforce that is more inclusive and diverse.

The traditions of ag also weigh heavily on its reputation, often associated with the folklore of Americana. It takes an external eye to recognize where we, as ag marketers, need to put our best feet forward and shine a light on our strengths. In educating newcomers to the field, we must ensure that ag is accurately and authentically represented as sophisticated and innovative. Today’s farmer is tech-savvy, with smart machines and a keen eye for the future, while maintaining a respect for the customs and practices of the past.

In all of business, we benefit and bond over our commonalities and we learn and gain from our differences. And it’s in those differences that we find ourselves working more efficiently and applying strengths throughout the organization. We welcome the uninitiated to Marketing to Farmers, we look forward to working with them and learning from them, and we encourage other marketers to do the same.


Jeff Walter
About the Author – Jeff Walter

President/Chief Integration Officer. Jeff combines 20 years of client service experience with his deep knowledge and passion for agriculture, which stems from growing up on a corn and soybean farm in northern Illinois. He is a quick study of the brand, the customers and competitors, knows the right questions to ask, and with his oversight on planning and analytics, pushes the team to category-defining strategies and results-driven plans.

1 Comment

  1. Very good Jeff. Thanks!


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