Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Keeping Up Appearances

In each issue of "The Stockman Grassfarmer" there is a column called, "Women's Work". I always take time to read it, and it is always full of good information (not just for women). But, I have never taken time to comment on the column on the blog. Today that is going to change because I just read the article from the May, 2008 issue by Carolyn Nation (Allan's wife). The article is simply titled "Appearance" (this could possibly be the shortest title ever in "The Stockman Grassfarmer") and was a pretty good read.

In this article Mrs. Nation was specifically talking about clothing appearances. Not when you are out doing the chores, but rather when you are marketing, working at a farmer's market, hosting farm tours, doing interviews, or any other public event. She relates many tips that she has picked up from other farmers and her own experience. Some of the things mentioned are ... dressing like your customers, making sure your clothes are clean and spotless (who wants to buy food for a dirty person is the idea I guess), if you have employees having them dress alike (even simply) is a good thing, and of course having simple clothes with your farm logo.

I am all about dressing for success. When I worked at the boarding school I was hugely in favor of the transition to uniforms for many reasons, one being that it seems that many people just plain take themselves more seriously when they are dressed neatly. So, I do think it pays to look professional (but still farmerish) when you are out promoting your farm.

But, as I read the article my mind also wandered over to the idea of keeping appearances on the farm in general. How important is it that your farm fits the mental image of our customers? I think it is very important, but that doesn't mean you need the white picket fence and big red barn. I believe the biggest thing is that things look neat, not that things look perfect.

I do not believe we need to have the perfect painted buildings and weed-free yard, but I don think that when a customer drives up to the farm they need to see something that makes the feel comfortable, that makes them feel safe. Remember, many of the things direct marketing farmers are using to market themselves relate to the relationships they can build with their customers. So, appearance does matter ... to an extent ...


Steven said...

I've talked about similar things with a local direct marketing farmer. We were specifically talking about what can make your farm/store more inviting to potential customers. It's hard to walk up to a person's house to buy raw milk, eggs, and pork if you've never been there, there's not a sign saying "welcome, the store is this way", or any other sign that you're on the right track. My wife and I recently wanted to check out a local farm that we had never been to. We followed the signs until the little gravel road got smaller and smaller and we hadn't seen a sign in a while. It felt more like we were trespassing than going shopping so we turned around and left. So, there is an advantage to having some highway frontage on your farm and investing in some signs. Also, having open hours listed or a contact phone number would be helpful on a sign.

Mellifera said...

Not to mention, one of my big goals when we have a place is that it's at least decent to look at for our own sakes. Some improvisation is necessary- but if everywhere you look all you see is baling twine, warped pieces of plywood, and mud, it's pretty demoralizing. It kind of makes you think "Farming sucks."

And ditto, we too have had times when we were trying to get to someone's place to buy something but it was impossible to find. Let's not let this happen to us. : )

Rich said...

I've always thought that a farm/ranch that's direct marketing their products should have a "standard set of specifications" that everything is built to follow.

Simple things like the fence corner posts and gate posts should all be constructed the same way. (i.e. green painted metal pipe H-posts, etc.), all gates should match (i.e. dark green tubular metal gates), outbuildings should have a common theme (for example green metal roofing), fenceposts should match (green T-posts), eventually the "uniform" you wear at farmer's markets would also follow the standard (dark green shirts in this example).

Then when you advertise your farm and include the same type of theme, your customers will recognize the fenceposts, the gates, the outbuildings, and they will know they are going in the right direction as they look for your farm.

A customer's conservation might go something like, "This has to be the right way, there is a green barn and some green gates just like in the advertisement."

Plus I think it just makes the farmstead look better if everything kind of "goes together".

Ethan Book said...

Good thoughts everyone. I do like the idea of a uniform farm ... hopefully I find a uniform farm selling out so I can get stuff :) For now I just may have to go for neat and tidy and add paint over time.

Dave_Flora said...

Wonderful thoughts! I think this aspect of farming is often overlooked by people starting out. A uniform color scheme is a great way of getting an image solidly in people's mind, as is a logo, etc. One of the things that Ethan comment on about the uniform struck me as right on the money. I'm sure those of us with military experience know that when you put on the uniform, suddenly you just walk differently and act differently. The same goes with a "farmer's market" uniform. Nothing stiff, but enough to let people know that you're professional, and the little parts matter to you.

Jena said...

Funny that you should mention this because I just thought about this last night. We took a little "crop tour" to look at one of our hay fields and on the way back we stopped to talk to a guy that was looking for some hay. I waited in the truck and Brian went up to the door. He had dirty jeans on a holey t-shirt from working all day. The man was very friendly and is going to buy hay from us but I couldn't help but thinking "At least our truck's not rusty too!" as I was watching them talk. We're planning to purchase jackets with our farm design on them and t-shirts or polos when we do reach the farmer's market level, but I think it is important to remember to keep yourself neat looking every day because you never know who is watching. I agree too that a farm should be nicely organized and somewhat uniform looking. I drive a lot and take mental notes when I see a particularly nice place. It is usually the little things (nice mailbox for example) that give an overall good impression.

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