7 strategies for talking with consumers

All of a sudden you find yourself in a conversation about farming with someone who’s not a farmer — perhaps at a party or a community event. Will you be prepared?

Your approach matters! Having some strategies on hand to have a meaningful discussion will make a big difference. Think of it as getting to know one of your customers.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Go in with a positive attitude. Most people like farmers and won’t disagree with how you farm. Research shows that, in general, consumers believe that farmers are credible sources of information. And they also want to know more about farming and how their food is produced. You are their conduit to learning more about agriculture.
  2. Establish rapport. Start a genuine give-and-take dialogue. Introduce yourself and tell them a bit about what you do. Ask them about themselves. Find common ground, whether that’s where you live, that you are both Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, or have kids the same age.
  3. Be respectful and reserve your judgements. Remember that this person doesn’t come from a farming background. Their perspectives and opinions are bound to be different from yours and may very well be influenced by their peers and/or social media. They believe what they believe for a reason. Here’s a chance to find out why and have an honest discussion about it.
  4. Make it personal. Share your story. Most farmers farm because they love it. It’s a passion and a lifestyle, not just a job. Let them know about your family, your farm and why farming is important to you
  5. It’s about engaging, not educating. This isn’t an opportunity to set someone straight. No one likes to be lectured. Welcome their questions and answer as genuinely as you can. They’ll appreciate that you are taking the time talk with them and will look to you for more information because of your knowledge and experience.
  6. Be conscious of the language you use. Words you may use every day as someone in the agriculture industry may mean nothing to a non-farming audience. We may take terms like tillage, heifer and crop rotation for granted, but they might not have a clue what you’re talking about. Invite them to let you know if they don’t understand.
  7. It’s more important to ask questions than provide answers. Find out what they really want to know. Probe for more information by asking questions. Establish what they are really asking, to zero in on what they have questions or concerns about and why. Perhaps it’s not really GMOs they are concerned about, but the pesticides associated with GMO crops. Learn to listen and be patient.

Most of all, it’s the conversation that’s important, not necessarily the outcome or whether or not you agree. You’ve helped someone connect the dots between what it is you do and the food that’s on their table every day — which benefits us all.