Blue Mound farmer Grant Noland says his father remembers a time when the guy who planted the straightest rows had a competitive advantage in securing more rented ground.
With autosteer, everyone has the ability to plant straight rows. However, Noland says there are still ways a farmer can differentiate himself/herself in the marketplace.
As treasurer of his family's multi-generation farm business, Noland handles landlord relations. He focuses much of his efforts on an area that has a tendency to slip through the cracks: communication.
Along with the typical communication avenues, Noland produces a quarterly newsletter. It can be a challenge during planting and harvest, but Noland says it's a top priority to inform landlords of the work going on at the farm.
"It's important to put out a newsletter throughout the entire year," Noland explains. "You want them to see photos of you working all year."
Each of Noland's newsletters is a minimum of four pages. A focus group of landlords made it clear they enjoy seeing numerous photos in each issue. As far as topics for articles, Noland writes on a variety of topics, including farm economics, input buying, conservation efforts, technology advances and family news.
"Rather than keeping our landlords in the dark, we want them to know what the economics are for our business," Noland adds. "It helps us when it comes time to share information on rising input costs."
Putting out a regular newsletter can seem like a lot of extra work for indirect results. Noland gets more mileage out of the project by mailing them to farm managers, landowners (who are not clients) and investors who may be looking to invest in farm land. He estimates 75% of the letters he prints go to potential clients. The remaining portion goes to folks the Nolands are already doing business with: landlords, input suppliers and lenders.
"Adequate or additional communication is a place where most young farmers can easily add value," Noland says.
Of course, printing and mailing a newsletter costs money. Noland budgets approximately $2,500 a year for marketing their business. While the corporate world has no problems pouring money into marketing, many farmers are hesitant to do so.
"It takes time and a little bit of money, but the results are there," Noland adds.
- Josh Flint is editor of Farm Futures' sister publication Prairie Farmer.