By Thomas Driscoll, NFU Director of Conservation Policy and Education
Farmers and ranchers need a wide range of abilities and knowledge to succeed. Depending on the operation, a beginning producer may require aptitude in livestock nutrition, tractor repair, meteorology, regulatory permitting, purchase order negotiations, and more… all in the same day! But even the mastery of all these skills will not make a farm or ranch business succeed unless there is an adequate market for the product or service produced.
Markets cannot be taken for granted. Since its founding in 1902, National Farmers Union has been advocating for fair market access for farmers, as well as the cooperative organizing rights that level the playing field for farmers in input and commodity markets. All beginning producers must consider their markets, whether it means acquiring historic relationships from the preceding generation of farmers in the family at the elevator , or being the first producer to offer an artisanal cheese in a new area. There is a lot to consider; markets for agricultural products and services are as varied as the farmers and consumers who comprise them. This column will highlight marketing resources for beginning producers, like Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans for on-farm grain storage and pricing guides for farmers markets. We will explore how to assess market potential for your desired product or service, create and expand new and emerging markets (including innovations like on-farm environmental services and agri-tourism), and discuss marketing opportunities related to federal policy, like food labels and export opportunities. Beginning Farmer Forum will strive to address as many market topics that are relevant to beginning producers as possible, and we hope to hear from producers about their success in accessing markets, obstacles they’ve encountered, and their advice for how farmers and ranchers can work together to improve market access.
Are you a beginning farmer who is considering how to market your products or services, or have you recently decided how to do so? Are there markets you wish you could utilize that are, for some reason, beyond your reach? Please share your thoughts and experience, and stay posted here to learn more from your peers at the Beginning Farmer Forum!