How does the gut instinct factor into farming

by Jeff Walter
April 5, 2018

Gut instinct decision making data analysis

When marketing to farmers, what does your gut tell you?

Some call it intuition, others call it the pit of your stomach, and everyone can feel the effects of it. What we’re referring to is your gut instinct. As Today’s Farm reports, farmers have traditionally relied on their gut instinct to make important decisions, based on years of experience and generations of information and practice handed down. However, as technology and data tracking have allowed for an increase in record-keeping, the confidence in research is sound. The questions are, do farmers continue to rely on that instinct and gut-check decisions, and how do these factor into reliable data analysis?

Let’s address the gut instinct first. There are times when everyone leans on their gut. It’s loosely defined as the processes of the brain that guide us, without the analytical functioning. There is still cognition taking place, which means there is comprehension of information with intentional thought, feeling and compassion. Your gut or natural instinct takes over for the analytical functioning, steering you to the best decision. Think of your conscience; you know right from wrong and your gut can feel when decisions feel inherently positive or negative.

But how does this fit into the schematic of research and, as we work with farmers, veterinarians and ag professionals, how does it reflect on their purchasing decisions?

The Economic Intelligence Unit – APT Study demonstrated some of the most important points in question about the role the gut check plays in data analysis. Among them, it’s noteworthy that data analysis and intuition are not mutually exclusive. One feeds into another, and your understanding of your experiences and your gut instinct are what can help you make sense of the information produced through objective research. Likewise, data that is only produced through gut-based decisions would likely be lacking in substantive quantitative facts. And finally, any data that truly contradicts an individual’s intuition would likely get reanalyzed. This means that data produced is usually in some way, shape or form aligned with expectations, or the gut knows that a problem is on the horizon.

What this also means is that farmers and veterinarians now use the available data to inform their purchasing decisions. The best examples of this are the advanced technology on farms, which have transcended modern farming life. Robotic milking machines, animal scales and many of the apps used to navigate various equipment usage and mechanics are all recording and organizing data like never before. The information this puts forth is making farming more data-driven and less reliant on gut checks. However, it’s necessary to note that an over-reliance on data can pose as much of a threat as ignoring it.

It’s a slippery slope, because it means that we should not underestimate the value of experience and what might be decades, if not centuries, of cultured farming. Tradition and heritage play a vastly important role in ag, and these will continue to guide the gut-based decisions of farmers. However, as more data is available, so too is a greater amount of business intelligence. Yet this sense of industry trending, what needs are being met and what deficits exist, is only as valuable as the individual who can integrate them into the traditions and cultural practices of his or her daily farming.

As we communicate to farmers, we must maintain the effort to strike the balance between art and science. Can we scientifically validate the gut check? Maybe not in quantifiable research terms, but we’re learning that there is value to the gut leading the way, and when compared to data, it seems like there is significant common ground.

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.


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Since 1978, the ag-marketing experts at Rhea + Kaiser have been helping brands connect with the farmer customer.

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