Looking at the challenges facing agriculture today, the list must include the fact that Americans are further removed from the farm than ever before. For the most part, they don’t know or understand common agricultural practices farmers use to produce the food and fiber we all enjoy.
The public, with limited working agriculture knowledge also includes policy makers at the local, state and national levels. Even though the public may lack agricultural knowledge, they do have an interest in learning more about farm production, says Julia Nolan Woodruff, Ohio State University extension educator.
By providing information to the public about common agriculture practices, chemical applications, animal welfare issues, manure application, and so on, you will be educating in a proactive and positive manner, she says. A farm public relations (PR) plan will help you provide an organized and meaningful delivery of information to the public.
Before you dive into a PR plan there are a couple of questions you should answer first:
What are our farm’s PR goals — why are we doing this?
Who will take the lead on developing and implementing the plan?
These are two very important questions, says Woodruff. You might want to create awareness, develop a favorable farm image or build a larger customer base. “It doesn’t matter what your goals are as long as you have them set and are written down,” she explains. “Without goals, it will be difficult to determine if the plan is meeting your farm’s PR needs and if it is worth the time and effort.”
It is also important to have someone responsible for the farm’s public relations plan. Without a specific person taking the lead on the PR plan, it may just remain a really good idea that never got started.
After these questions have been answered, it is time to begin developing your plan.
The first step is to think about your farm’s mission and objectives. Your mission statement will help explain what your farm does, how it does it and why. “It is important that you build your mission statement on your core values,” says Woodruff. This will help the public understand who you are and what is important to your farm business.
You may also consider writing a short history of your farm business. How the farm was started and the changes that have occurred over the years may not seem exciting to you, but today’s public is interested in getting to know and learn about farms and farmers as we’ve seen through the growth of the local foods movement.