When talking to a farmer, you want the most impactful conversation possible. Having details about their operation available makes all the difference when selling to farmers.
Both you and the farmer are busy people, and every minute is precious. Spending time asking the farmer for information you could’ve gained beforehand is a waste of both your time and theirs.
Instead of saying “tell me about your farm,” do your homework ahead of time to understand what’s going on. There are plenty of advantages to this approach:
- The burden isn’t on the farmer to carry the weight of the conversation
- The conversation begins immediately with you offering helpful and insightful tips to them
- The sales process moves along more quickly, allowing you to increase your own sales velocity
Here are seven pieces of detailed information that can help you better understand the operation before you start selling to farmers.
1. Acreage & Farm Size
Small farmers and large farmers have completely different needs. One of those groups may not even be in a position to do business with you, especially if you specialize in high-dollar items that only large farmers can take advantage of.
But it’s more than that. Understanding how many acres the farmer grows is one thing. Being able to view those acres on a map to understand how the whole operation is spread out is also important. The image below shows farm fields that a sample grower owns and operates:
A selection of farm fields of a sample grower.
With access to the right data, you can examine not only where the fields are located geographically, but also where they intersect with the Cropland Data Layer to see which crops are planted where:
A sample grower’s fields intersected with the 2018 Cropland Data Layer.
Knowing how much land a grower farms, where those fields are and the specific crops they grow on certain fields helps you understand what kind of operation they’re running. This gives you a better idea of the products and services they’re interested in, or if they’re even a good fit.
2. Planting History & Crop Rotation Pattern
Farmers are intimately tied to the land they own and manage and the crops they grow. Understanding the planting history and patterns over time helps you contextualize the current state of the operation, allowing you to provide more helpful insights in your conversations. Below are three images, showing the CDLs from 2016, 2017, and 2018:
A sample grower’s fields intersected with the 2016 Cropland Data Layer.
A sample grower’s fields intersected with the 2017 Cropland Data Layer.
A sample grower’s fields intersecting with the 2018 Cropland Data Layer.
The rotation pattern is going to impact what you sell and how much. Understanding the history of the planting operation gives you a full perspective into what the farmer is doing. You can view these trends over time to see what’s changing:
Trends in the grower’s overall operation over time, focusing on Field Corn and Soybean trends.
3. Gross Farm Income
Farming is a business, and successful business demands financial stability. That means that not only is the acreage and crop rotation pattern important, but also the fiscal picture.
If an operation like the one we saw above is increasing year-over-year, how can you help ensure that trend continues? Notice that GFI correlates to a rise in planted acres (2016 and 2018 being the exception). How were they able to increase GFI while also reducing the planted acres both of those years? Will the grower be reducing their operation size in coming years? How can you help them avoid a financial drop in response?
What was it that made previous years more successful than the current year? And how you can you make sure what you’re offering to the farmer is going to put them in a position to see growth this coming year?
4. Specific Fields the Grower Operates
Understanding the full scope of what a farmer owns and operates is good. But understanding specifically what they operate is better. After all, that’s where they’re going to be interested in the on-the-ground solutions that you have to offer.
In the images above, we showed you the fields for a sample grower and said that’s what they both own and operate. Here’s an image that highlights the specific fields that they operate:
Distinguishing between the fields the grower owns (dark blue) vs. operates (light blue).
Use this data to differentiate your conversation around the various fields. For the darker blue fields, you’ll be speaking to the grower as the owner. For the highlighted fields, you’ll be speaking to them as the operator.
Having access to this data allows you to be agile while in the field and be able to speak specifically to that farmer’s needs as it pertains to particular fields and crops.
5. Related Growers
No farmers work in a vacuum. They’re part of a community that communicates and interacts with each other. In some cases, some farmers not only manage the farms they own, but some that have different owners as well. Some farms are all owned by different family members, making them more inter-connected than you would imagine at first glance.
There are many different types of relationships among growers, most of which we can track through data analysis:
- Business. The growers have formed some type of business entity. This could either be a wholly-owned subsidiary or in conjunction with other co-owners.
- Household. These growers have the same mailing address.
- Land. These growers have a land agreement where one grower owns the land and the other farms the land.
- Phone. These growers have a common phone number.
- Subsidy Payment. These growers have split FSA Subsidy payments.
Using data to understand how growers relate to each other will help you see the big picture, put all your growers in their appropriate contexts, and help you see the network so you know who to talk to next.
6. Grain Bin Count & Capacity
Not all farmers have on-farm grain storage. But for the ones that do, it’s important to know so you can offer a customized product in response.
The image below shows an image of one of the fields from the same sample grower, looking specifically a grouping of grain bins:
On-farm grain storage identified for a sample grower.
7. Accurate, up-to-date contact information
After you know who to talk to and what kinds of offers are going to resonate with them most, you need to know how to get in touch with them. Fortunately, that’s exactly what data can offer you.
Email addresses change. People move locations or change P.O. boxes. Phone numbers are disconnected and reconnected all the time. Having up-to-date contact information will make sure that you’re only reaching out to people who are actually going to hear from you, and not dead space.
The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you’ll be for the conversation.