University of Maryland Extension

Avoid Speaking "Farmese" to Consumers

Ginger S. Myers

Ag Marketing News Update

It was a joke in the county economic development office where I worked that I was the only person in the office that spoke “farmese.”  You know…that strange language that uses terms like sustainable, organic, row feet, CSA, cagefree, free-range, over-order pricing, certified organic, etc.  Any phone call from a farmer came straight to me because I was the only one in the office who understood what they were talking about.

Every field and occupation has its own unique set of terms and definitions. Those engaged in the field understand them and use them with ease. But farmers now comprise less than 2% of the population the end user of agricultural products is a consumer that may be at least three
generations removed from ever having cut seed potatoes.

Regardless of your product, you need to speak to consumers using their own words and definitions. For example, “sustainability” is not a household word but it does represent several key values to customers including: healthier, locally grown, authenticity, socially responsible, environmentally sound and simple living. Link your product or industry segment with consumers by explaining your product’s attributes in terms such as family health and wellness, produced on a family farm, or raised without pesticides or commercial fertilizers.

We often make purchasing decisions based on the packaging and presentation of products. Consumers are seeking stories and ways to connect to where their food comes from. To you it may be just a milk carton or peck or apples, but to the consumer it can represent a farm or a factory; a mass-produced commodity or a unique heirloom worth preserving. Consider what claims of descriptions you put on packages or how you label your products. Are you using terms that have a clear meaning to customers?

Economic concerns are at the top of every consumer’s shopping list, but so is getting ”value” for their food dollar. Help them link “value” with “quality” by describing your products in terms they will understand such as freshness, its nutritional content, tender, and tasty.  Be pro-active in helping consumers understand food labels and production methods so they can be better informed about where and how their food is produced. 

 Summer 2009

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