ATHENS, Ga. — Farmers and agricultural producers have faced numerous challenges in recent years, affecting the day-to-day tasks of running their operations. Add in a global pandemic and a push toward direct-to-consumer sales, and sustaining an agribusiness can seem overwhelming.
To help producers navigate, the University of Georgia is offering a workshop on digital marketing strategies. UGA Cooperative ExtensionAgent Brooklyne Wassel has teamed up with the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, to offer a free four-part webinar series weekly beginning March 8 at 6 p.m.
“My thoughts and experience through last year is that most businesses — if not all — had to adjust marketing strategies because last year was crazy for everyone. Agricultural producers were in the same boat and a lot moved to direct-to-consumer sales,” said Wassel, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Pike County.
Though all of the SBDC’s webinars are free and open to the public, many in the agriculture industry have a hard time seeing themselves through the examples, she says. That’s why she teamed up with Robbie Parks, a business consultant with the SBDC, to create content and examples tailored to the agricultural community.
“Other counties work with the SBDC in conjunction with the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program, but a lot of producers don’t get the marketing knowledge unless it’s part of one of those types of programs,” Wassel said.
Topics for the upcoming series include identifying and reaching customers online, connecting on digital and social media platforms, and storytelling.
Social media has become an effective tool for farmers to connect with the consumer audience and sell products. “They want to feel like they’re connecting with the farm next door,” Wassel said. “A lot of what we talk about during the telling your story online session is the component of having some entertainment and some education. There’s a happy formula of what that looks like.”
Whether they are interested in one topic or all of the content, it’s never too late to jump in and learn.
“If participants do join us for all four weeks, they should come out of the series with a tailored marketing plan,” Wassel said. “This should be relatable to producers from a one-person show to a large agribusiness. We’re all starting from the same point. It really is for any type of agricultural producer.”
The program will conclude with a panel discussion of producers who have marketing experience, including a beekeeper, a beef cattle producer and an agritourism representative.
“I don’t think direct-to-consumer marketing is going away anytime soon. People want to know where their food is coming from. They want to visit the farm next door. Agritourism is on the uptick — we learned that from the Ag Forecast this year,” Wassel said. “Some producers did really well with that last year. We’ll highlight those in the fourth week when we wrap up, but not everyone was able to do that. Maybe they were even afraid to start developing a website. We need to teach them how to market as an agribusiness, because that’s what it is.”
–Josh Paine, University of Georgia