What are landowners looking for?
Landowners come in many shapes and sizes, figuratively speaking. As you look at the diversity of this group, they cannot be lumped into one or even two categories. Their demographics are many and their thoughts of how their land should be utilized is also diverse.
I spoke to a landowner this week who lives out of state but has family land in western Oregon. He shared with me his background, which included being raised in town and having little farming knowledge. But his appreciation for the history of the farm and value, both in sentiment as well as monetary, prevent him and his family from selling it. At the same time being a forward-thinker and a student of business. He also realizes that simply renting it for a grower to raise corn and soybeans on is not the long-term business plan they would like to pursue.
Landowners are looking for more.
This landowner would like to work with someone who is a beginning farmer or an established farmer. But is someone who has a value-added business plan to bring to the table. He said, and I tend to agree, “For many small farmers, a value-added business plan will be a way for many to grow beyond where they are now even in the midst of their much larger competition.” So what does a value-added business plan look like in farming today?
For this individual, they are looking at someone who will focus on sustainable practices when it comes to soil nutrient management. Now, I know that the word sustainable can be a relative term and can take on as many meanings as there are landowners.
As you are thinking through and building your plan, be specific on what this looks like for you. The more specific the details of your plan, the more you will have the support of the landowner to move forward. Keep in mind, in many of these value-added plans, this is not a short-term enterprise. This is a long-term relationship.
What types of crops are you going to grow?
Specialty crops such as grapes, berries, produce, mint, hops, to name just a few, can all be value-added options. For others, perennial crops like orchards, evergreens, or hardwoods. These crops will allow you to use land differently and create revenue stream that is not tied to a commodity system. Livestock is almost always a viable part of a sustainable farm.
For many specialty or perennial crops, you will need to search for your market in order to sell your products. This a processor who is marketing your crop to the community and the world. For others, it may just be the local farmers markets or retail store who will buy from you. If you see there is not market out there in your community, you may have to work on creating one or see what other emerging markets are down the road. One thing is for sure, this will take time to develop. A detailed strategy of marketing, networking and a communication plan is very important.
Do landowners want to show the farm off?
The last piece of the plan I want to cover today is agritourism. Many farmers have built and diversified their farm simply by helping the public understand agriculture better. They are also giving them a local source for their products. There is no better way to build customer loyalty, than when the customer gets to come to your farm. They can experience your world and take a piece of it home with them.
Those who are involved in this type of work are on the front lines in sharing all of our story in farming. Keep up the good work! This can add extreme value to your bottom line as well as connect in ever-increasing numbers those who don’t know where their food comes from.
So what does a value-added business plan look like for you?
It may include one or all of these examples and even more that are not mentioned. Do not limit your thoughts and plans to what I say on a blog post. Think outside the box and dream. Unless you are Kevin Costner, who will think outside the box and dream beyond a field of corn? Who is willing to seek out a diversified value-added business strategy? Did I mention I was looking for someone in Western Oregon? If that is you or if you know of a farmer who is looking to get into this type of farming, but is limited on resources and land, contact me. I can help.