After attending the Saskatchewan Soils Conservation Association Soil Health Conference (SSCA) a few weeks ago, I was blown away by what appears to be a marketing success story.
Regenerative agriculture and soil health in general are grasping interest not only from consumers. This so called ‘alternative agriculture’ crowd is also drawing interest from producers who are becoming increasingly flexible in the way they approach food production.
There seems to be a growing momentum of conventional farmers dabbling in cover cropping and various carbon initiatives while chanting Gabe Brown from the rooftops.
So what is it that is drawing people towards regenerative ag?
My observations have led me to this explanation: This grassroots movement is using grassroots marketing techniques to market all sorts of ideas to all sorts of people. And more specifically, people are marketing themselves through story.
Storytelling is an activity that has connected humans since the beginning of our existence. In this way, marketing through story is not novel or unique.
So while to some people food is food, there is a growing demographic of consumers who have the time, energy, and resources to carefully evaluate their food choices. To them, the general environment that their food is produced in far more interesting than the outcome; the product.
A farmer panel at a conference is the perfect place to test this theory, and the farmers at the SSCA event were up for the task.
I observed that with each participant, there was a very clear separation between the individual, the farmer, and the farm itself. The panelists shared hobbies, aspirations, spiritual beliefs, and personal challenges. They shared a few tough lessons learned along the way.
And throughout all of this they shared vulnerability, a quality that is proven to be quite effective with a very specific group of food producers.
Women happen to be the purchasers of food in most households. And to further understand the factors that lead to choices we can explore aspects of the human psyche articulated by the well-known psychologist Carl Jung.
Jung is responsible for the concept of archetypes, which are the people, behaviors, and personalities that influence human behavior. Jung’s literature argues that the feminine is typically far less interested in the goal itself, than in the process.
In this way storytelling is far more intuitive and appealing to the feminine archetype, which also happens to be a pretty influential quality not only in households but also with policymakers.
Storytelling is a means of sharing experiences, which can even be a means of sharing insights about the process of scientific discovery on a farm. Especially because science in itself, isn’t necessarily interesting or exciting to a large group of people. But the process of scientific discovery most definitely is.
The SSCA conference included a bit of both, storytelling with a biology class spin. The presentations included links to the Krebs Cycle, ATP, and Occam’s Razor. Various ongoing research projects were referenced with no influence from large life sciences companies. Most of the speakers and attendees were consultants, researchers, and farmers.
But with all of this said, it seems important to mention that regenerative producers currently do not receive a price premium for their product, other than those that are selling directly to consumers. Most regenerative products go into the same lot that ends up at Walmart or Costco.
So if there is any lessons to be drawn from all of this, perhaps it’s this: People want to connect with people. Stories are the antidote.
And with Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month approaching in March, it seems timely to address marketing and advocacy.
The next time you are invited to speak about your farm, try taking a page from the regenerative ag playbook.
“My name is Katelyn. I really enjoy learning about other’s interests and personal values as a means of shaping my own values. My contribution to the world is an evolving process of discovery. I find meaning in a sense of community. The hypothesis I’m testing right now is whether I want to have a morning routine or not. An interesting, wicked policy problem I would love to talk about more at coffee time is the topic of food systems and human health, and how they intersect. When the stress gets high, I like to engage in breath work and creativity. Something that I really enjoy is storytelling.
Can you market your farm without talking solely about your farm?
If you would like to speak to one of our consultants about this topic contact us.