Why did Google rank me as America’s sexiest farmer?

Why did Google rank me as America’s sexiest farmer?

COMPUTER GENERATED TRANSCRIPT

So why did Google rank me this as America’s sexiest farmer? Welcome to Small Farm Nation Academy where you’re gonna learn everything you need to know about how to market your farm or craft food business.

So let’s go over to Google and let’s type in a search. America’s sexiest farmer. And let’s see what comes up low and behold, according to Google without question. The sexist farmer in the United States is Tim Young. Check this out.

So let’s take a look at this and what is is obviously this is a page that I created it, created it, last year, and if you read the text, I’m tons. Go do your own Google search, and you’ll see that hunk of a farming machine right there.

You’ll see a… That what I was trying to do here is to prove how simple it can be to achieve a number one ranking on Google. Now, I happen to have about 70 number one ranking on Google, that relate to number any number of farming things. But what I was trying to show people here is in the farming world how to write a particular page to get you to rank number one, you can see here, this is all the page is right there.

I do on there who thinks he’s the sexiest farming dog? So I want you to actually head over to Google and take a look at that for yourself, and see what you can learn from that achieving a number one ranking on Google in many industries is incredibly hard. You’ll pay a lot of money for the…

Most of us in the farming world are in almost by definition, geographically local businesses. So, really what you really after is not to be rank number one for grass-fed beef. Maybe you wanna rank #1 for grass-fed beef in Macon, Georgia which is where I was born. Or maybe you wanna rank number one for fresh flowers in Sacramento or farm fresh flowers or whatever it may be.

So if you combine those approaches and take a look at this post, that I wrote, you’ll find that you can create a post that that will help you to rank really highly when someone is searching for you.

Ideally, you wanna know what your target customer is searching for. This is where Keyword research comes into play you wanna head over to Google do some keyword research, find out what people are searching for.

Sometimes that’s as simple as starting to type into the box the search phrase that you think is appropriate, but don’t assume that you know what they’re searching for.

They may be surgery for something a little bit different, but come up with a phrase.  Let’s take raw milk. Maybe it’s raw milk searching for in your location, maybe it’s un-pasteurized milk for your location, maybe it’s A2 milk searching for in your location, maybe it’s real milk, they’re searching for on your location, right?

You can create pages like this for each of those different images use different alt tags but optimize each of those pages for the search phrase and you’ll show up number one  that’s gonna drive traffic to your farm when people are looking.

Hey, if you want more farm tips like this head over to Small Farm Nation Academy where we have complete courses, well over 100 videos on SEO, how to build your brand, how to grow your email list, how to do blogging, how to get public relations and media exposure, everything you need to know to go your farm business.

How to Create an Email List for your Farm

How to Create an Email List for your Farm


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And one of the challenges I hear most often expressed from small farmers (really any small business, actually), is how difficult it is to create an email list of potential customers. In fact, when I surveyed farmers they rated “building a customer list” as the number one challenge.

It’s frustrating to them, I know, for not only is farming and owning a small business challenging enough, now they’re thinking that they must become experts in marketing as well. They’re right. But I’d like to offer some encouragement and perhaps a few helpful tips to help them, and you, to automate the process of building your email list. In my experience, there are three components…layers, if you will, to ensure that your list automatically grows over time and becomes populated with people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, and what you have to offer.

1) What’s Your Story

Effective marketing, particularly in the niche of sustainable farming, farm to table restaurants and homestead based businesses, starts with a story.

  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who cares and why should they care?

The last question is important because it relates to the market you’re targeting, and your words need to resonate with what the customer values.

Where do you tell your story? You tell it on your “about” page, for sure, but your story needs to be conveyed in other ways throughout your website. Your use of images will tell the story as well as the words you choose on each page, in every email and in all social media posts.

WARNING: Don’t fall into the trap that I see so many do of copy-catting language. In the world of sustainable farming, it seems that everyone’s about page draws from a limited supply of words that run the risk of being overused. I’m thinking:

  1. sustainable
  2. organic and/or non-gmo (or beyond organic)
  3. grassfed or pastured
  4. humane
  5. back to the land
  6. and so on

These may be true statements behind why you began and how you operate, but, if you’re not careful you’ll look and sound like everyone else. You don’t want that because customers won’t perceive you as special as you really are. So choose your words carefully, but make sure they’re YOUR words, even if you pay someone to write them for you.

2) Create Rich Content

Even today, there are still far too many businesses that create websites to serve as online brochures. The problem with that is, once the visitor reads your about page and your offering, they “get it” and have no reason to come back.

It’s your job to give them a reason to come back frequently! Why? It’s one way they stay connected with you and that you stay top of mind when they think of who their favorite farmer (chef, etc.) is.

So how do you get them to come back? For over a decade now, the answer for many has been via blog posts. That’s still a viable strategy for many reasons, but the truth is that many people read those blog posts through RSS readers, which delivers a feed of your post to them without them actually visiting your site. And if you’re opt-in forms are in the sidebars, RSS readers won’t display them. True, you’re still in their thoughts, but it’s a pretty passive relationship. Not nearly as active as them typing in your URL to visit you.

Think about it from your perspective. What would cause you to go back to a website, other than one like Amazon where you make frequent purchases (we both know you do)?

A great method of driving traffic is through email marketing. Sending an email with links to rich content on your site that they can’t get another way.  Of course, this requires an email list, which is the subject of this post, but you’ll understand how to do that once you digest all of these tactics. For now, your goal is to create keyword-rich content that is true to your story and resonates with what your target audience cares about. What kinds of content?

  • how-to blog posts
  • inspirational images
  • how-to static pages (doesn’t have to be blog posts)
  • recipes
  • stories (case studies, customer stories, etc.)
  • press releases and announcements
  • etc.

The content needs to be “rich” from two perspectives;

  • rich in terms of value to your reader and
  • rich in terms of keywords that will enable web searches to find you. Those keywords should be the things your target customer thinks about and searches on.

For instance, if you’re targeting folks interested in “organic farmers near Lexington, KY” or “raw milk near Woburn, MA”, your blog posts or static pages are a great way to create copy that’s both rich in keywords and content for your target customers. That way, you can craft language on your “about” page that’s less boilerplate and more unique to your story, mission, and values. When you’re a relatively new enterprise, showing up in search results is an important way to “get found,” and one of the best ways to show up is to create a steady stream of content. But when visitors do show up, your job is to get them to convert from visitors to subscribers. Often, you accomplish that with lead magnets.

3) Use Lead Magnets the Right Way

A lead magnet is simply something you offer in exchange for your visitor to sign-up for your list. It needs to be valuable since they’re giving you something valuable in exchange. An example of a lead magnet is the image on the left, which goes to this page. I use it throughout this site where I offer an enticing guide in exchange for opting into my list. This simple lead magnet added 120 subscribers to my email list in the first 3 days. All I did was share it on Facebook, that’s it.

Now, here’s what’s critical about this lead magnet. It directly connects my target audience (owners of farm businesses) to what I want to offer them (membership in the Small Farm Nation Academy). Therefore, the lead magnet works because it’s completely in alignment with my membership site offering.

In your case, it will be whatever you have that’s unique to you and, most important, valuable to your audience. For instance, if you sell raw goat’s milk, perhaps it’ll be a guide on how to make soap or cheese from the milk. If you sell pastured poultry or pork you may create a special subscriber’s section of your website that includes videos for cutting up a whole chicken, making bacon and charcuterie and so on. The point is to think about content that your market values and will be willing to join your list in exchange for receiving the content.

But–here’s where many people go wrong. It needs to be something that, if the person doesn’t download, they will either experience pain of some sort, or they’ll realize a great reward.

In my lead magnet example, if the farmer doesn’t download, they could miss out on knowing the secret sauce…the expert tips that bridge the gap between how their farm is currently performing and how the best farms perform, from a marketing perspective.

At the same time, they get a great reward if they insight that can help propel their farm business. So you’ll have to ask yourself, “will my customer feel pain if they don’t download the bone broth lead magnet, or will they experience a great reward if they do?” I’m thinking not. So, lead magnets can be a great tool in building an email list, but, to get great results, they need to be the right kind of lead magnet. FYI, for you members of the Small Farm Nation Academy, just post your lead magnet question/struggles in the forum and get some expert advice.

Of course, when you create content that connects to a lead magnet, don’t just post it on your website. Repost it on Facebook and other social media platforms, and be sure to use widgets and tools to encourage readers to share it on their pages. This will ultimately drive visitors to your site so that they can opt-in for the valuable content you’re offering.


This is a detailed topic and I could go on for quite a bit, for we haven’t even discussed the technology you use to create your opt-in forms, email marketing providers and so on. For this post, the point is to think about creating content that:

  • tells your story in a unique, compelling way
  • gets folks to visit your site repeatedly
  • has a clear strategy for converting them from visitors to subscribers

In terms of action items for you, think about these:

  • Set a specific goal for building your email list…say, adding 20 or 100 new subscribers a week, or whatever’s appropriate for you.
  • Review your “About” page as objectively as possible to see how will it resonates with new potential customers. Again, if you’re an Academy member, post in the forum if you’d like an expert review.
  • Look at your website to see what lead magnets you’re using. If you’re not using any, see what content you have that could be developed into a lead magnet.
  • Get into a habit of emailing your list on a predictable schedule (every Thursday, every two weeks, once a month, etc.). This not only sets a clear expectation with them but also forces you into a pattern of developing new content on that schedule.

Now, get busy growing your marketing list. It’s the lifeblood of your farm business!

7 Winter Farm Marketing Tips

7 Winter Farm Marketing Tips


In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • Why you should use winter downtime to further your farm marketing education.
  • Why now is the time to plan on building your email list, and the four steps of list-building.
  • How to plan a blog or content marketing calendar for the coming year.
  • Why and how to set-up your email marketing for the next year (and learn how to leet sequences and auto-responders do your farm marketing for you).
  • Why it’s critical that you take a fresh look at the copywriting on your farm website.
  • How to schedule farm events now for the entire year.
  • Why now’s the best time to get customer testimonials and how to promote them.
  • Of course, you can get a head start on all this by joining the Small Farm Nation Academy whenever you’re ready.
CLICK HERE TO READ FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And it’s also December so we’re winding down the farm season and, for most of us, beginning our winter recess. While that means we have fewer chores to do, we still have farm chores, right? Frozen water troughs, hay that’s frozen farm wintergotta be dished out, pigs still need to be fed and so on.

But the chore load is definitely reduced this time of year, and that’s a good thing. Because we need to rejuvenate, celebrate the season and recharge our batteries. No doubt about it. So what can we do on these frigid winter days to drive our farm businesses forward? I suspect many of you are looking at seed and hatchery catalogs, or even working on planting calendars.

jp2mjrdp But we also need to take advantage of this time to focus on one of the most strategically important areas of our business—of any business. And that is marketing.

Now marketing, of course, is not a seasonal or one-time thing. It’s a continual process…a thousand little things. Sure, marketing campaigns can be one-time or seasonal things. But marketing itself is ongoing.

Now, I’d like to think that you’re focused on marketing every week of the year. But I know better. I know that once spring gets here you’re overrun with baby chicks, baby pigs, baby sheep—baby everything.  And the grass starts growing, you’re running fence lines, cutting hay, processing animals, making pickups and deliveries. There just ain’t enough hours in the day.

For most of you, marketing is what suffers. It’s what gets put aside until later—and later often doesn’t come.

But now that winter’s here you have an opportunity to focus on marketing and plan your marketing for the coming year. Having said that, let me give you seven action items you can do right now to help you grow your customer base this coming year.

Winter task number one is to take an online marketing course. Now, full disclosure, this is obviously a biased suggestion because I operate the Small Farm Nation Academy. But, c’mon, you should absolutely join the Academy right now.

The Academy has hundreds of videos and audio lessons on everything you need to know to market your farm business. How to build your brand, how to grow your email list, how to set-up and manage your website, how to write more engaging copy for your site and emails, how to master search engine optimization and so much more.

And there are tons of other resources that will help you. Downloadable templates, images, worksheets, and let’s not forget a community forum of other farmers trying to grow their businesses as well.

And you get one-on-one coaching from me, free, anytime you’d like it.

So tip number one is to invest in your education and become a marketing ninja. You’ve read all the books on farming, probably taken tours and courses. Now it’s time to do the same thing with farm marketing.

And the place to do that is Small Farm Nation Academy
farm marketing course

Winter task number two is to is to optimize your list building efforts.

You’ve heard it many times, but an email list is your most important communication asset. It’s the best way for you to control getting a message directly to your customers. But most farm websites do an awful job of list building. But it’s not rocket science. List building comes down to four simple steps.

The first step of list building is to have a place to capture emails. Of course, that means being on your website. Do you have one? An opt-in form?

If you don’t, that’s a problem. So create one, right away.

But even if you do, does it stand out? Does it have great contrast with the rest of the page? Is it located above the fold and also at the top of the sidebar, if you have one, and at the bottom of blog posts? That’s important, because the three rules of list building are to ask for the email, ask again and then to ask again. Keep asking. So make sure that opt-in box is visible on your website.

But not just on your website. Make sure there’s a “sign-up” button on your Facebook page so people are driven to the opt-in form that way.

The second step of list building is to drive traffic to that place. You have two choices when it comes to driving traffic. Earn it through search engine optimization and organic traffic. Or buy it with advertising, such as with Facebook ads.

But, if you buy ads, you don’t just want to drive traffic to your site. Instead, you want to drive people to a landing page where you have an offer and nothing else. No other content to distract them. Just your offer.

That takes us to the next step.

The third step of list building is to give people a great reason to sign-up. This could be a coupon for something free or a discount on their first order. Or it could be a lead magnet. If you don’t have a lead magnet, I gave over 30 ideas for lead magnets in the list building course in the Small Farm Nation Academy, and I’m available there one-to-one to help you if you want.

But you have to give the visitor a compelling reason to sign up. Don’t make it easy for people to leave your site without subscribing to your email list!

The fourth and final step of list building is to give people a way and a reason to share.

Of course, successful list building is much more detailed than that and requires tools and know how. I cover all this in an advanced 11-video course on list building in the Small Farm Nation Academy.

But what you can do now, this winter, is to review how you’re doing with those four steps.

winter chicken tractorsWinter task number three is to plan your blog post calendar for the year. You do have a blog, right? If not, plan a content calendar for the year. If you’re not sure what to blog about or why you should be creating content, check out my full-length course on content marketing in the Small Farm Nation Academy. It’ll get you going.

When you do plan out your content calendar be sure to start with the end in mind with your content strategy. In other words don’t just wake up and say, “I gotta write a blog post today” or “I gotta send out an email update.”

Have a clear and measurable objective around each piece of content. If your objective is to grow your email list, start with that and create content to accomplish that goal.

If your goal is to rank for a search phrase organically, start with that and work to achieve that goal.

Just start with a goal and work backward to achieve it.

Winter task number four is to plan an email marketing calendar for the year. And the first thing you should plan is your auto-responders and sequences.

Here’s what I mean. Go to smallfarmnation.com/launchpad. Then, just sign up for the free video series. When you do you’ll immediately receive an email with a link to the first video. Then you’ll receive subsequent emails on later days to the additional videos in the Farm Marketing Launchpad.

After you finish watching you’ll be subscribed to a sequence that will invite you to join me in the Small Farm Nation Academy. There are about 15 emails in all. And all of them were written earlier this year, and now they’re on auto-pilot.

And that’s what you need to do now, while you have time. Do you have an auto-sequence for when people subscribe? If not, get on it! And if you do, are you trying to lead them to a specific action? If not, why not? Because that’s the goal, right? Not to get subscribers, but to get customers!

So now is the time to work out your email calendar for the year. Beyond these auto sequences, go ahead and plan out your frequency and topics for the coming year. Use a tool like Trello or Google Sheets—I use both for this purpose—to plan your email calendar.

Winter task number five is to re-copywrite farm website.

Let me be blunt—most of the copy on farm websites is pretty poor. Yours probably is too. And it’s not that way because people can’t write, that’s not it at all. It’s because they aren’t concentrating on writing with purpose.

For instance, most “About Us” pages just spew off a stream-of-consciousness recap of how the farm came to be. Now, contrast that with someone focusing on optimizing that page for search results. Or strategically building in a call-to-action. If they did that they’d write copy that would lead the visitor to take action.

And it’s like that on all pages.

The copy on your website is probably the most important part. I’m all for beautiful images and great designs—I think that’s important too. But people take action based on the words they read. It’s the words more than the images that connect with people.

So take a close, honest look at your copy. I’ve got a thorough course on copywriting in the Small Farm Nation Academy where I break down these sins, step by step, and show you how to correct them on your own.

That’s a really important marketing task you can focus on, right now.

Winter task number six is to schedule farm events for the coming year. This includes farm tours, market dates, and any special events. Farm dinners, classes—that kind of thing.

Be sure to align your events with your brand positioning, and make sure they’re relevant for your audience. If you’re selling premium artisan cheese to foodies then a corn maze probably isn’t the event you want to focus on. Think more along the lines of cheese appreciation dinners paired with local wines, brews, and spirits.

Farm events can be a great offering. Not only can they be real money makers, but, when done well, they create deep, lasting relationships with customers who now have a bond with the farm.

I know what I’m talking about here…I’ve done lots of these farm events. I think it’s a great opportunity for you too, and now’s the time to plan out yours for next year.

Finally, winter task number seven is to gather customer reviews and create a plan to promote them.

Look, getting reviews is easy. Here’s the trick. Ask. Just ask.

Ask on Facebook, Instagram or wherever you hang out. Ask via email, and ask in your farm store.

And make it easy. When someone says they don’t know what to say (and some will) point them to a page where they can see other testimonials. If you’re just starting out, have that page be a private page you create with a few examples.

Good testimonials only need to be a sentence or two. That’s all. If you want to see some examples head over to Small Farm Nation Academy and you’ll see over a dozen testimonials from members of the Academy. It’ll give you a sense of how to structure your own testimonials.

When you have your testimonials don’t just file them away. Promote them! Make them very visible on your website, for sure. But also promote via email and turn them into nice graphics you can share on social media.

Okay, there you have it. Seven important marketing tasks to focus on this winter. Here’s a recap.

  1. Join Small Farm Nation Academy so you can take farm marketing courses.
  2. Optimize your site for email list building.
  3. Create your blog calendar for the upcoming year.
  4. Plan your email marketing for the coming year, especially the auto-responders and sequences.
  5. Re-write the copy on your website, and do so strategically.
  6. Plan farm events for the coming year.
  7. Gather and promote customer reviews.

If you focus on these seven areas now you’ll be in great shape next year, even if you get sidetracked by those pesky farm chores.

To share your thoughts:

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Thanks for listening. Until next time!

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How to Create an Email List

How to Create an Email List


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And one of the challenges I hear most often expressed from small farmers (really any small business, actually), is how difficult it is to create an email list of potential customers. In fact, when I created a survey in my farm marketing group on Facebook, members rated “building a customer list” as the number one challenge.

It’s frustrating to them, I know, for not only is farming and owning a small business challenging enough, now they’re thinking that they must become experts in marketing as well. They’re right. But I’d like to offer some encouragement and perhaps a few helpful tips to help them, and you, to automate the process of building your email list. In my experience, there are three components…layers, if you will, to ensure that your list automatically grows over time and becomes populated with people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, and what you have to offer.

1) What’s Your Story

Effective marketing, particularly in the niche of sustainable farming, farm to table restaurants and homestead based businesses, starts with a story.

  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who cares and why should they care?

The last question is important because it relates to the market you’re targeting, and your words need to resonate with what the customer values.

Where do you tell your story? You tell it on your “about” page, for sure, but your story needs to be conveyed in other ways throughout your website. Your use of images will tell the story as well as the words you choose on each page, in every email and in all social media posts.

WARNING: Don’t fall into the trap that I see so many do of copy-catting language. In the world of sustainable farming, it seems that everyone’s about page draws from a limited supply of words that run the risk of being overused. I’m thinking:

  1. sustainable
  2. organic and/or non-gmo (or beyond organic)
  3. grassfed or pastured
  4. humane
  5. back to the land
  6. and so on

These may be true statements behind why you began and how you operate, but, if you’re not careful you’ll look and sound like everyone else. You don’t want that because customers won’t perceive you as special as you really are. So choose your words carefully, but make sure they’re YOUR words, even if you pay someone to write them for you.

2) Create Rich Content

Even today, there are still far too many businesses that create websites to serve as online brochures. The problem with that is, once the visitor reads your about page and your offering, they “get it” and have no reason to come back.

It’s your job to give them a reason to come back frequently! Why? It’s one way they stay connected with you and that you stay top of mind when they think of who their favorite farmer (chef, etc.) is.

So how do you get them to come back? For over a decade now, the answer for many has been via blog posts. That’s still a viable strategy for many reasons, but the truth is that many people read those blog posts through RSS readers, which delivers a feed of your post to them without them actually visiting your site. And if you’re opt-in forms are in the sidebars, RSS readers won’t display them. True, you’re still in their thoughts, but it’s a pretty passive relationship. Not nearly as active as them typing in your URL to visit you.

Think about it from your perspective. What would cause you to go back to a website, other than one like Amazon where you make frequent purchases (we both know you do)?

A great method of driving traffic is through email marketing. Sending an email with links to rich content on your site that they can’t get another way.  Of course, this requires an email list, which is the subject of this post, but you’ll understand how to do that once you digest all of these tactics. For now, your goal is to create keyword-rich content that is true to your story and resonates with what your target audience cares about. What kinds of content?

  • how-to blog posts
  • inspirational images
  • how-to static pages (doesn’t have to be blog posts)
  • recipes
  • stories (case studies, customer stories, etc.)
  • press releases and announcements
  • etc.

The content needs to be “rich” from two perspectives;

  • rich in terms of value to your reader and
  • rich in terms of keywords that will enable web searches to find you. Those keywords should be the things your target customer thinks about and searches on.

For instance, if you’re targeting folks interested in “organic farmers near Lexington, KY” or “raw milk near Woburn, MA”, your blog posts or static pages are a great way to create copy that’s both rich in keywords and content for your target customers. That way, you can craft language on your “about” page that’s less boilerplate and more unique to your story, mission, and values. When you’re a relatively new enterprise, showing up in search results is an important way to “get found,” and one of the best ways to show up is to create a steady stream of content. But when visitors do show up, your job is to get them to convert from visitors to subscribers. Often, you accomplish that with lead magnets.

3) Use Lead Magnets the Right Way

A lead magnet is simply something you offer in exchange for your visitor to sign-up for your list. It needs to be valuable since they’re giving you something valuable in exchange. An example of a lead magnet is the image on the left, which goes to this page. I use it throughout this site where I offer an enticing guide in exchange for opting into my list. This simple lead magnet added 120 subscribers to my email list in the first 3 days. All I did was share it on Facebook, that’s it.

Now, here’s what’s critical about this lead magnet. It directly connects my target audience (owners of farm businesses) to what I want to offer them (membership in the Small Farm Nation Academy). Therefore, the lead magnet works because it’s completely in alignment with my membership site offering.

In your case, it will be whatever you have that’s unique to you and, most important, valuable to your audience. For instance, if you sell raw goat’s milk, perhaps it’ll be a guide on how to make soap or cheese from the milk. If you sell pastured poultry or pork you may create a special subscriber’s section of your website that includes videos for cutting up a whole chicken, making bacon and charcuterie and so on. The point is to think about content that your market values and will be willing to join your list in exchange for receiving the content.

But–here’s where many people go wrong. It needs to be something that, if the person doesn’t download, they will either experience pain of some sort, or they’ll realize a great reward.

In my lead magnet example, if the farmer doesn’t download, they could miss out on knowing the secret sauce…the expert tips that bridge the gap between how their farm is currently performing and how the best farms perform, from a marketing perspective.

At the same time, they get a great reward if they insight that can help propel their farm business. So you’ll have to ask yourself, “will my customer feel pain if they don’t download the bone broth lead magnet, or will they experience a great reward if they do?” I’m thinking not. So, lead magnets can be a great tool in building an email list, but, to get great results, they need to be the right kind of lead magnet. FYI, for you members of the Small Farm Nation Academy, just post your lead magnet question/struggles in the forum and get some expert advice.

Of course, when you create content that connects to a lead magnet, don’t just post it on your website. Repost it on Facebook and other social media platforms, and be sure to use widgets and tools to encourage readers to share it on their pages. This will ultimately drive visitors to your site so that they can opt-in for the valuable content you’re offering.


This is a detailed topic and I could go on for quite a bit, for we haven’t even discussed the technology you use to create your opt-in forms, email marketing providers and so on. For this post, the point is to think about creating content that:

  • tells your story in a unique, compelling way
  • gets folks to visit your site repeatedly
  • has a clear strategy for converting them from visitors to subscribers

In terms of action items for you, think about these:

  • Set a specific goal for building your email list…say, adding 20 or 100 new subscribers a week, or whatever’s appropriate for you.
  • Review your “About” page as objectively as possible to see how will it resonates with new potential customers. Again, if you’re an Academy member, post in the forum if you’d like an expert review.
  • Look at your website to see what lead magnets you’re using. If you’re not using any, see what content you have that could be developed into a lead magnet.
  • Get into a habit of emailing your list on a predictable schedule (every Thursday, every two weeks, once a month, etc.). This not only sets a clear expectation with them but also forces you into a pattern of developing new content on that schedule.

Now, get busy growing your marketing list. It’s the lifeblood of your farm business!

10 Reasons Farms Struggle Selling Product

10 Reasons Farms Struggle Selling Product


Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week.

So it’s marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. As you know I cover four categories each month, one per week. I do an episode on farm strategy, followed by an episode on branding. Last week’s episode was on online marketing and today is on marketing.

And it’s an important episode, and if you’re a farmer, this is gonna really resonate with you.

I want to talk about why small farms struggle so much to sell their products. If you’re a small, family farmer, you know what I mean.

I gave this issue a lot of thought, both from my own experiences selling farm products as well as from what I hear from so many other farmers.

And when I thought it through, I created this list of ten reasons why small farms struggle to sell their products. Listen in and see what you think.

Now, in this episode I’m going to just go through the list of ten. I’ll tell you what I think the issues are and why they exist.

Then, in the next Marketing episode, which will be in four weeks, we’ll revisit the list and I’ll share my thoughts on what we, as farmers, can do to, not only overcome those issues, but strategically position our farms for success.

Does that sound good?

Let’s get started.

Okay, so Timmy says there are 10 reasons why small farms struggle. Here they are.

Reason number one is that small farms are inconvenient to buy from. This one is obvious.

Here—let’s look at how most people buy food. They walk or drive a short distance and go into a grocery store that’s open 7 days a week and, in some cases, 24 hours a day. Then their senses are bombarded with an endless array of options. Fresh produce, packaged meats, charcuterie, wine, bread, eggs, milk, vegetables and fruit from all corners of the globe and, of course, rows and rows of processed food.

Let’s say it’s the holiday season. They realize they need more root vegetables…or another turkey. What’s easier? Driving five minutes to Kroger to grab what you need? Or doing a Google search for a farm and trying to find their phone number. When you see they don’t have a number on their farm website (most don’t), they have to fill out a contact form and wait for a response. And wait.

See what I mean? Let’s be honest here…it’s flat out far less convenient to buy from a small farm.

Reason number two is that the farm is almost ALWAYS far removed from a good market. And that’s for a good reason. I mean, there’s not a lot of land to farm in downtown Chicago—or Dallas. So the farm is out in the country. Often, it’s far out in the country. In my case we were two hours and 15 minutes (without traffic) to Atlanta.

So farmers often struggle because they’re far away from a good size market—one with a population of at least 50,000, and that’s bare minimum. So they try to sell locally in, usually, economically depressed areas, to the people who are MOST likely to want and need the cheapest chicken from Wal-Mart.

So distance to good markets is reason number two.

Reason number three is that small farms sell inconvenient products. What do I mean by this?

We used to sell all kinds of meat products. But we sold many of them whole. As in a whole chicken? Now, dealing with a whole chicken is nothing for me, and probably not for you. In fact, I’d much rather have a whole chicken so I can make stock and what not.

But I had many consumers ask me what to do with a whole chicken! That’s because they’re used to buying from a grocery store where all the bones have been removed from meat! Go see for yourself…there are almost no bones in a grocery store!

So consumers often don’t know how to cut up a whole chicken. And they certainly don’t have the room to store half a cow or pig, much less understand a “cut sheet” and how to request the meat costs they want.

But another reason small farm products are inconvenient is that we live in, increasingly, a “prepared food” society. You know—these are the “meal-kits” made popular by such firms as Blue Apron.

Now, I believe Blue Apron has a questionable business model itself, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing demand for prepared meals. Heck, even Chick-Fil-A has entered the prepared meals business, featuring recipes and pre-measured ingredients for five chicken entrees—Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Enchiladas, Dijon Chicken, Pan Roasted Chicken and Chicken Flatbread. These kits sell for $15.89, and can be ordered using the Chick-fil-A One app and/or picked up at the restaurant.

And it was only a matter of time, right, but even Amazon entered the prepared-meal game. In late 2017, amazonfresh.com and allrecipes.com announced a partnership that will allow for meal preparation delivery.

Now, the Amazon/All Recipes approach isn’t exactly the same as Blue Apron, but the point is that two things are happening. 1) there is no decline in the consumer’s demand for convenience, and 2) businesses (and venture capital) are aggressively investing to meet that demand.

So, to recap, reason number three is that small farms typically sell inconvenient products, and consumers increasingly want more convenience.

Reason number four is that small farms sell unfamiliar products. Remember, consumers are used to walking the aisles of the modern grocery store. While it appears there is lots of variety there, there isn’t as much as you’d think.

The reason it appears there is variety is because all grocery stores have global inventory. They only carry a couple of fruits you couldn’t possibly grow locally. But you can get mangoes, pomegranates, grapes, bananas and even oranges in January, wherever you are.

And you won’t find any of those things in your local CSA box. Your CSA box may have carrots in the cool season, but even that may be a problem for consumers. That’s because in grocery stores, carrots are orange, and only orange. And most people know—maybe—two types of lettuce. Iceberg and Romaine, perhaps.

And if people want Brussel sprouts, they usually grab them in a frozen food box. They rarely know what vegetables look like out of the ground or how to prepare them.

Supermarket apples are unblemished, and carrots are straight as an arrow. Now, compare that to typical CSA products, where far sweeter and more nutritious carrots may in fact be crooked. Ditto with local apples that were so healthy a worm didn’t mind taking a bite.

Of course, the fact that small farmers grow so many heirloom varieties can be a benefit, but it’s also confusing to many consumers. So much so that farmers create recipes and instructions on what to do with the CSA box contents.

So, reason number four is that small farms sell unfamiliar products.

Reason number five is that small farms are flat out more expensive than most supermarket alternatives. Now, I said most here, because a small farm can definitely beat premium retailers, such as Whole Foods, on price.

I used to make about 30,000 pounds of artisan cheese a year. We sold it to a distributor which then sold it to Whole Foods, Kroger, Disney and the like. When I’d go into Kroger I’d see our cheese at $28/lb. Definitely a lot more than I got paid for it. So, could I have made great profit selling directly to consumers for less than that—say, $25/lb, or even $20/lb?

Absolutely!

And the same applies to the vegetables, fruits, meats, soaps and everything else in those type of stores.

But—those high prices they charge, at least in the case of meats, is partly because of the convenience. I mean, they’re not selling a whole cow. They’re selling a filet mignon. Or a chicken breast.

And, they have a physical store close to the consumer. So that warrants a high price for premium supermarkets like Whole Foods.

But Whole Foods, even at $16 billion in annual sales, is tiny. I mean, total supermarket sales is about $700 billion in annual sales. So the overwhelming majority of Americans shop at conventional supermarkets and, increasingly, at supercenters like Wal-Mart, Costco and Sam’s Club.

There’s no way small farms can compete on price against the average supermarket or Costco. So, since the majority of Americans shop there, it’s clear that small farms are a more expensive alternative.

Now, before you start yelling at the speaker that it’s an unfair playing field because big Ag gets grants and subsidies, let me say I hear you. I get that. And I almost added that as reason #11 small farms struggle. But really, it’s not a separate reason. It belongs here under prices, because the fact is that it makes prices seem cheaper for consumers. And that’s my point with reason number five—that small farms are flat out a more expensive alternative.

Reason number six that small farms struggle to sell products is because they’re not unique as perceived by the consumer. This is related to what I said earlier—a carrot is a carrot, a chicken is a chicken and so on.

Small farms spend a lot of marketing energy talking about why pastured poultry is better than industrial chicken. Why raw milk is more nutritious than ultra-pasteurized milk. Why an organic carrot grown in fertile, local soil is more nutritionally dense than a supermarket carrot grown in sandy Florida soils. Why an orangish free-range egg yolk is so much more delicious and healthy than a cheap supermarket egg.

We all go to great lengths to educate consumers for a good reason. Most of them can’t tell the difference. A chicken looks like a chicken. A nutritionally dense carrot looks, on the outside, like a carrot devoid of nutrients.

So, while we know our products are unique and have nutritional benefits, most consumers are unaware of this. That’s reason number six.

Reason number seven that small farms struggle is that most people don’t even know they exist. Even the most famous farmer, if there is such a thing, is unknown to almost everyone. You may know Joel Salatin and Polyface, but I can promise you that the vast majority of residents of the Shenandoah Valley shop at typical grocery stores. They don’t even know of his farm.

It’s easy to see why. I mean, small farms like yours and mine don’t have money to spend on television or radio commercials, We don’t advertise on billboards, we don’t have retail store fronts, with signage, and we don’t sponsor events to “get our name out there.”

So, it’s true. Most people don’t even know that your small farm exists. But as I’ll explain next time we explore this subject, that’s a big opportunity for you.

Reason number eight that small farms struggle is that they have inconsistent production. What I mean is that they either grow seasonally, as in the case of fruits and vegetables. Or they produce a finished grassfed cow “every now and then.”

Obviously this makes it difficult to sell to those who need a steady, dependable supply. Buyers like restaurants and resorts, for instance.

So as much as many small farmers want to sell to restaurants, and chefs would like to support them, the fact is the farm’s production is not aligned with the restaurant’s needs. So it’s a force fit, at best.

Part of the reason for that relates to—

Reason number nine that small farms struggle, which is processing bottlenecks. Industrial meat producers have at their disposal huge processing plants that are increasingly automated. They can process thousands of animals a day, dispatch the bones and wrap everything in clear, plastic packages.

By comparison, a typical small meat farm has trouble finding a local processor for their grassfed beef or pork. Most of the time they’re forced to drive many hours each way for processing. Even then, they have to make their appointments months in advance. So imagine how challenging that is—forecasting when your cows will “finish” on grass and scheduling the processing date to match that.

Pastured poultry farmers can’t even find someone to process their chickens. Often no matter how far they’re willing to drive. There are just not many processing plants that process small batches of birds.

If the farmer does find a poultry processor they’re usually forced to drive long distances each way. Imagine how much extra cost this adds to the price of a chicken since the farmer can’t exactly “make it up on volume.” So this contributes to the huge pricing problem small farms face.

Of course, many farms would be happy to process on farm themselves. But various laws and regulatory bodies block this. Which leads me to my final point.

Reason number ten that small farms struggle to sell products is intense regulation hurdles.

What do I mean? Here’s a simple example. My farm was located five miles from a state line—on the South Carolina / Georgia border. I was in Georgia but much closer to Greensville or Columbia, South Carolina than I was to Atlanta.

But could I sell my raw milk or pastured poultry in South Carolina? No. Even though I was only a half hour from a good South Carolina market, I couldn’t sell there. But I could drive 6 hours to Valdosta, GA to sell there.

And I’m not alone. It’s common for farmers to live near state lines—often multiple state lines—and not be able to sell their products on the other side.

And, as I said, many farmers would like to process their red meat or poultry on farm. But you can’t do that without investing in becoming an inspected USDA facility. Some farms, such as White Oak Pastures in Georgia and Gunthorp Farms in Indiana have done this. But at a major capital expenditure that most small farms can’t, or won’t, risk taking.

So there you have it. The ten reasons that I see for why small farms struggle to sell their products. As you can see, there’s no fluff here. These are very real reasons why it’s challenging to sell small farm products.

But where there is challenge there is opportunity. Ask any entrepreneur. And in the next marketing episode, I’ll guide you through what you can do to overcome these hurdles and position your farm for sustainable success.

Thanks for Listening!

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How to Create an Email List

How to Create an Email List for Your Farm

One of the challenges I hear most often expressed from small farmers (really any small business, actually), is how difficult it is to create an email list of potential customers. In fact, when I created a survey in my farm marketing group on Facebook, members rated “building a customer list” as the number one challenge.

It’s frustrating to them, I know, for not only is farming and owning a small business challenging enough, now they’re thinking that they must become experts in marketing as well. They’re right. But I’d like to offer some encouragement and perhaps a few helpful tips to help them, and you, to automate the process of building your email list. In my experience, there are three components…layers, if you will, to ensure that your list automatically grows over time and becomes populated with people who are genuinely interested in what you’re doing, and what you have to offer.

1) What’s Your Story

Effective marketing, particularly in the niche of sustainable farming, farm to table restaurants and homestead based businesses, starts with a story.

  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who cares and why should they care?

The last question is important because it relates to the market you’re targeting, and your words need to resonate with what the customer values.

Where do you tell your story? You tell it on your “about” page, for sure, but your story needs to be conveyed in other ways throughout your website. Your use of images will tell the story as well as the words you choose on each page, in every email and in all social media posts.

WARNING: Don’t fall into the trap that I see so many do of copy-catting language. In the world of sustainable farming, it seems that everyone’s about page draws from a limited supply of words that run the risk of being overused. I’m thinking:

  1. sustainable
  2. organic and/or non-gmo (or beyond organic)
  3. grassfed or pastured
  4. humane
  5. back to the land
  6. and so on

These may be true statements behind why you began and how you operate, but, if you’re not careful you’ll look and sound like everyone else. You don’t want that because customers won’t perceive you as special as you really are. So choose your words carefully, but make sure they’re YOUR words, even if you pay someone to write them for you.

2) Create Rich Content

Even today, there are still far too many businesses that create websites to serve as online brochures. The problem with that is, once the visitor reads your about page and your offering, they “get it” and have no reason to come back.

It’s your job to give them a reason to come back frequently! Why? It’s one way they stay connected with you and that you stay top of mind when they think of who their favorite farmer (chef, etc.) is.

So how do you get them to come back? For over a decade now, the answer for many has been via blog posts. That’s still a viable strategy for many reasons, but the truth is that many people read those blog posts through RSS readers, which delivers a feed of your post to them without them actually visiting your site. And if you’re opt-in forms are in the sidebars, RSS readers won’t display them. True, you’re still in their thoughts, but it’s a pretty passive relationship. Not nearly as active as them typing in your URL to visit you.

Think about it from your perspective. What would cause you to go back to a website, other than one like Amazon where you make frequent purchases (we both know you do)?

A great method of driving traffic is through email marketing. Sending an email with links to rich content on your site that they can’t get another way.  Of course, this requires an email list, which is the subject of this post, but you’ll understand how to do that once you digest all of these tactics. For now, your goal is to create keyword-rich content that is true to your story and resonates with what your target audience cares about. What kinds of content?

  • how-to blog posts
  • inspirational images
  • how-to static pages (doesn’t have to be blog posts)
  • recipes
  • stories (case studies, customer stories, etc.)
  • press releases and announcements
  • etc.

The content needs to be “rich” from two perspectives;

  • rich in terms of value to your reader and
  • rich in terms of keywords that will enable web searches to find you. Those keywords should be the things your target customer thinks about and searches on.

For instance, if you’re targeting folks interested in “organic farmers near Lexington, KY” or “raw milk near Woburn, MA”, your blog posts or static pages are a great way to create copy that’s both rich in keywords and content for your target customers. That way, you can craft language on your “about” page that’s less boilerplate and more unique to your story, mission, and values. When you’re a relatively new enterprise, showing up in search results is an important way to “get found,” and one of the best ways to show up is to create a steady stream of content. But when visitors do show up, your job is to get them to convert from visitors to subscribers. Often, you accomplish that with lead magnets.

3) Use Lead Magnets the Right Way

A lead magnet is simply something you offer in exchange for your visitor to sign-up for your list. It needs to be valuable since they’re giving you something valuable in exchange. An example of a lead magnet is the image on the left, which goes to this page. I use it throughout this site where I offer an enticing guide in exchange for opting into my list. This simple lead magnet added 120 subscribers to my email list in the first 3 days. All I did was share it on Facebook, that’s it.

Now, here’s what’s critical about this lead magnet. It directly connects my target audience (owners of farm businesses) to what I want to offer them (membership in the Small Farm Nation Academy). Therefore, the lead magnet works because it’s completely in alignment with my membership site offering.

In your case, it will be whatever you have that’s unique to you and, most important, valuable to your audience. For instance, if you sell raw goat’s milk, perhaps it’ll be a guide on how to make soap or cheese from the milk. If you sell pastured poultry or pork you may create a special subscriber’s section of your website that includes videos for cutting up a whole chicken, making bacon and charcuterie and so on. The point is to think about content that your market values and will be willing to join your list in exchange for receiving the content.

But–here’s where many people go wrong. It needs to be something that, if the person doesn’t download, they will either experience pain of some sort, or they’ll realize a great reward.

In my lead magnet example, if the farmer doesn’t download, they could miss out on knowing the secret sauce…the expert tips that bridge the gap between how their farm is currently performing and how the best farms perform, from a marketing perspective.

At the same time, they get a great reward if they insight that can help propel their farm business. So you’ll have to ask yourself, “will my customer feel pain if they don’t download the bone broth lead magnet, or will they experience a great reward if they do?” I’m thinking not. So, lead magnets can be a great tool in building an email list, but, to get great results, they need to be the right kind of lead magnet. FYI, for you members of the Small Farm Nation Academy, just post your lead magnet question/struggles in the forum and get some expert advice.

Of course, when you create content that connects to a lead magnet, don’t just post it on your website. Repost it on Facebook and other social media platforms, and be sure to use widgets and tools to encourage readers to share it on their pages. This will ultimately drive visitors to your site so that they can opt-in for the valuable content you’re offering.


This is a detailed topic and I could go on for quite a bit, for we haven’t even discussed the technology you use to create your opt-in forms, email marketing providers and so on. For this post, the point is to think about creating content that:

  • tells your story in a unique, compelling way
  • gets folks to visit your site repeatedly
  • has a clear strategy for converting them from visitors to subscribers

In terms of action items for you, think about these:

  • Set a specific goal for building your email list…say, adding 20 or 100 new subscribers a week, or whatever’s appropriate for you.
  • Review your “About” page as objectively as possible to see how will it resonates with new potential customers. Again, if you’re an Academy member, post in the forum if you’d like an expert review.
  • Look at your website to see what lead magnets you’re using. If you’re not using any, see what content you have that could be developed into a lead magnet.
  • Get into a habit of emailing your list on a predictable schedule (every Thursday, every two weeks, once a month, etc.). This not only sets a clear expectation with them but also forces you into a pattern of developing new content on that schedule.

Now, get busy growing your marketing list. It’s the lifeblood of your farm business!