Brumfield suggests mission statement
NEW BRUNSWICK — Dr. Robin Brumfield, a farm management specialist at Rutgers University’s Agricultural Extension Service, delivered a talk recently on creating a vision and mission statement for smaller farmers at Blake Hall on the Cook campus.
Having a vision and mission statement is a key step to starting and maintaining a farm business, a Rutgers farm management specialist said to participants in the Annie’s Project program.
“Your mission statement should be a short two or three sentences that describe your business, short enough so you can memorize it easily, but it also states why you exist,” said Brumfield. “Big businesses have had mission statements for years. This also applies to small farms, since they are small businesses.”
Brumfield’s talk was aimed at getting farmers to think about what makes their farm unique and how a mission statement can help them in their efforts to grow their respective businesses.
Helping farmers formulate a vision statement for their farms is one of the most important functions of the entire series of six Annie’s Project classes, Brumfield stressed.
The class, held Dec. 10, was one of a series of six seminars with many good guest speakers — farmers and academics — that are part of Annie’s Project, a low-cost educational program designed for women farmers or women considering farming as a second career.
Brumfield recalled: “When I took this course to Turkey, everybody looked down at them [farmers,] as peasant farmers. But meanwhile, they are feeding their country, and my opinion is, you’re doing is the most important job in the world. One of my favorite vision statements from one of the Turkish farmers was ‘Growing healthy food for healthy people.’ It’s simple and it covers everything.”
During her presentation, Brumfield asked class participants to consider:
*What are the values you hold and what are you giving of value to your customers? This should answer the value proposition, that is precisely what do you do for your customers?
*What values do you hold that you won’t compromise?
*How are you thought of/perceived when interacting with people?
*What do I want in life?
*Why does my business exist? What is its purpose, why do I do it and who do I do it for?
“It’s not just that you’re producing eggs, but why would they want your eggs versus something else? Often times, the competition isn’t from other farmers, it’s the consumer dollar,” she said, adding it’s a matter of looking at what are they doing with those disposable consumer dollars?
Farmers with retail road stands need to ask themselves, “what do you offer that’s the best place for them to spend those dollars?” Smaller farmers with their own roadside stands are not necessarily competing with other farmers, but with other consumer desires: a bottle of wine, some chocolates or imported cheeses, “or any number of other things that consumers want.”
Smaller farmers need to find a niche that somebody else isn’t satisfying.
“You have to identify what the market need is, and sometimes customers don’t even know that they have a need. Before they came up with the iPhone, did customers say they needed an iPhone?! Sometimes you have to identify the need for them before they’ve thought of it,” she argued. The key is to grow products and offer services that satisfy that need but also at prices customers are willing to play while you maintain profits.
“When I was in graduate school, I used to go pick strawberries to save money,” Brumfield said. “Now, nobody goes to save money, they go for the experience,” she said, to be out in an open space, in fresh air.
Brumfield stressed that your farm’s mission statement should highlight the unique aspects of your farm but also describe how that benefits the customer.
It should be short enough to remember while answering the questions “why are you here, and where is it going in the future and how can I avoid other competitors?”
A farm’s mission statement must focus on the customer value proposition, “and is something that’s on your website, on your social media, your newsletters, all of these things can help unify everybody that works on the farm with a common purpose and direction.”
She added: “Now, everybody wants to know their local farmer; local is big, pollinator- friendly is big, organic is big.”
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