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Editor’s Note: The way we think about markets

As new crops of young farmers help fill their families’ bins this year, will it be agronomic skill that decides if they succeed, or the farm’s asset strength? Or will it be marketing?

All of us complain about our memories, I’m told. None of us complain about our common sense.

At least, I think that’s how it goes.

We aren’t always as humble as experience tells us we should be about our mental judgments or our mental aptitudes, and for good reason. We can sound awfully good when arguing the wrong side.

At least, that’s my observation from a career listening to market discussions. I’ve heard no end of fine speeches, and inspiring ones too.

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Tom Button
Tom Button
Tom Button

We devote considerable space in every September issue of Country Guide to marketing, and this year I had two specific questions in the back of my mind.

First, are farmers as a group getting measurably more effective at marketing?

Second, what is the role of marketing in determining which farms will make it to the next generation?

In a way, my hopes were pretty minimal. This is Canada, after all, and we don’t believe in funding serious economic or business-based research into our farm sector. (I know I’m exaggerating, but exasperation drives me to it.)

Even so, the farmers I talk to across the country are much more sophisticated in so many ways than farmers could be 20 years ago. They see the secrets in a balance sheet, they can debate corporate structures, they have upgraded their technology time and again.

But have they made similar strides in their marketing strategies?

The evidence is split. More farmers are getting a stream of market updates on their phones, so they’re arguably better informed. But are they making sophisticated use of that information?

For our latest September issue, we talked to a range of market analysts, thinking they would be on top of such questions, but again we found their opinions are as varied as anyone else’s.

We asked, are farmers still selling two-thirds of their crops in the bottom third of the market, as we used to hear so many speakers claim? Read what Richard Kamchen discovered for their responses.

As always, it was by turning to individual farmers that we began to feel we were seeing some daylight. Do check out “Taking on the Market” for some amazing insights. (“Strategically Grass-Fed” has similarly impressive insights on value-add marketing.)

Every farmer I’ve ever known has thought shrewdly about the market. That continues to be true and it always fills me with admiration.

The difference, I think, is that there is a new cohort of farmers — typically made up of farmers who have made a point of getting significant market training through their careers — who are shrewdly thinking about how they think about the market.

You’ll find evidence of this throughout the pages of our September issue. Fortunately, a growing number of young farmers are in that camp.

I do hope their parents are listening.

Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].

About the author


Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.



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