Before we go any further, it is important to note that all business forms have hiccups and would most probably fail - and rise - along the way. Now, let›s look at why farmers often do not make it.
I know many people want to get into farming with little money saved. But farming is a business like any other, and if you expect to be successful in any business, you’ve got to have operating capital and cash reserves. If you don’t have it, get it. It is better to get out, earn some, and save it first. You’re gonna need it.
Another reason that farmers fail is lack of focus or trying to do too much. Believe me, this has been the downfall of many upcoming agribusinesses out there. With farming, it’s not only easy to venture into countless enterprises. Chances are you would neglect one if you do.
But you can, however, diversify within the farming sector. You could start with livestock, add some chickens then rationalise adding pigs and even geese to the mix! Most importantly, start with the market in mind.
Another shortfall has been trying to emulate other farmers’ successes without understanding why they’re successful and whether it can be replicated. Always study the model well before committing. I have seen many farmers, starry eyed, rushing back to their original farming mode.
So if you’re going to set out to replicate some of that success understand you’ll need scale too, and that also means not being distracted by too many farming enterprises. One other reason small farmers fail is that many make marketing an afterthought and they make two big mistakes in this regard.
First, they simply don’t prioritise marketing until they have a product to sell and they fail to understand how critical it is to build a strong brand for their farm. As I said in previous columns, the time to start marketing your farm is before you start farming.
The second mistake related to marketing is that when they do start marketing, their ideology gets in the way. They get so caught up in all their personal beliefs and values that they let that drive their marketing. You know what I’m talking about.
Imagine if the world’s great marketers, such as Apple did that. Instead of showing you all the amazing things their products can do for you and what you can do with them - that they talked only about how you’ll have dropped calls with other solutions.
Or you’ll have to carry a separate camera and that’s a hassle. Or that you’ll need a paper map instead of their GPS.
They don’t hammer on that stuff. They show you the life you can have - the joy and convenience you can have, if you buy their products.
So there’s way too much negative language in the world of sustainable farming, but this creates an opportunity for you to be different.
Instead of emphasising what’s wrong with the world, focus on why you farm the way you do and the joy, health and connection your customers can realise if they support you.
Show them pictures, tell them with emotive, positive words. Because most farmers aren’t doing this.
So the good news is that if you can market positively, with a vision for positive solutions and change, it’ll be music to people’s ears, and it will differentiate you as a farmer.