Two people smile as they take a selfie using a smartphone

LEAD Maryland participant and educator take a selfie together. Image credit (c) UMD AGNR Image Database.


Updated: May 2, 2024
By Ginger S. Myers

By Ginger Myers, Evermore Farm and retired UMD Extension Agricultural Marketing Specialist

This article is part 2 of a 4-part series. They will be posted monthly. You can read part 1 here. 


For any start-up business venture or new learning challenges there are four “ships” in the road map to success: mentorship, relationships, partnerships, and ownership. 

These don’t negate traditional business planning or peer-learning opportunities but they may accelerate an entrepreneur’s business growth trajectory from “dream, plan and implement” to a profitable, sustainable and satisfying business.


Farming is Better with Relationships


Connect with Service Providers and Professional Groups

Producers rely on advice about products, markets, services and operations from people they know and trust such as agronomists, retailers, stock agents, producer groups, and other farmers. These are professional relationships that often evolve into friendships and may even yield partnerships. Your local Agriculture and Food Systems Extension Agent can be a key resource for advice, connections, and technical knowledge. Find your local Extension office here.


Connect with local farmers 

Farming is a relationship-centered industry. While research is important, speaking with real farmers with firsthand insight on farming in your specific area is one of the most effective ways to learn what farming is really like—and how to be successful.  These relationships often evolve into friendships and can sometimes yield a partnership.

Many farmers are passionate about continuing the rich legacy of American agriculture and helping others get started. Listening to their stories of challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned can help you on your own farm journey.  

By cultivating relationships from the beginning, you will form lasting connections that will stick with you for many years. In the future, you will be able to return the favor and help the next generation of farmers learn how to start farming


Community Relationships

You will not be farming in a vacuum but rather within a local community. Be positively engaged with those in your community. This can head off misunderstanding and problems that may arise in the future that could jeopardize your farming start-up.

  1. Nurturing relationships with landowners and neighbors is a big deal, and it’s all about building trust. Seemingly little things like mowing a drive or cleaning up the grounds with a weed eater can make a big difference.
  2. Be informed about local zoning, health department regulations, and county and state regulations concerning application times and soil conservation planning  that apply to your enterprises. Research these before you fence, plant, process or start selling any of your products.
  3. Consider ways to connect with your community: donations to a food bank or church outreach program, speaking to civic clubs about your journey, and connecting with local college programs as a tour site.
  4. When you are ready, participating in a farmers market is a great way to form connections not only with customers, but often with community leaders.


Relationship Marketing

While all marketing focuses on gaining clients and increasing profits, relationship marketing and transactional marketing take different views of the role of the client. The transactional approach views the client solely as a vehicle for sales, while relationship marketing establishes a relationship with the person behind the sale.

Relationship marketing has broader, longer-term goals than transactional marketing. Relationship marketing focuses on developing long-lasting relationships with clients to secure sales well into the future. Relationships as a focus of marketing strategy aids in the understanding of consumer needs and wants, which is useful to implement profitable exchanges. 

Some relationship marketing strategies include branding, customer service training, community and media relations, social media, newsletters, blogs, referral programs, and frequent buyer incentives. These marketing efforts are investments in the promise of long-term sales.


Online connections

Technology has made it possible for farmers to connect directly with customers in more ways than one. Many farmers and ranchers have implemented digital strategies to move produce off their fields and onto our plates.

Face-to-face interaction is less frequent, and many more services and product transactions are occurring behind a computer or smartphone screen. Online, clients can quickly access a world of information that influences their purchase decisions.  This makes the direct customer relationship more important than ever. It is very important to have an easy-to-navigate, updated, professional-looking website and/or a social media presence. 


Learn more

As you develop your farm relationships, you may find it helpful to learn more about stress and relationships management from our Women in Agriculture Webinar Archive.