We depend on farmers to grow and produce our foods just as much today as we ever have. However, the most recent ag census indicates something strange is happening. From 2007 to 2012 there was a 4% drop in the number of active farmers. In addition to the total number of farmers falling, the average age of farmers is rising, and far fewer new farmers are entering the business.
The average age of principal farmers is now averaging 58.3 years old, and compared to the previous census the number of new farmers in operation for 5 years or less fell by 23% according to the 2012 census.
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture
The aging of farmers could perhaps be attributed to current generation simply growing older while the children and replacements are merely waiting to take over. With the 2017 ag census currently underway, we will be looking for more up-to-date numbers, but unfortunately they won’t become available until 2019. With the number of new farmers dwindling and the age of current farmers rising the question remains: What’s the best way to reach them?
The Impact of Technology on the American Farmer
Technology has always been a part of American farms. As new and more efficient tools become available, farmers continue to adapt and modify their methods to best utilize what is available to them. Over the years, because of various advancements and improvements in farm tech, it now takes fewer people to do the job. That means, even with potentially fewer farmers in years to come, the need for equipment has never been higher. To stay competitive, today’s farmers are using more and more high tech gadgetry.
Farmers’ Demand for the Internet is High
Something most of us take for granted is quality access to the internet. However, getting broadband in rural areas of the country is not always a guarantee. Since farms are typically located in these more secluded rural areas, farmers may not always have access to optimal internet connections.
Even with that disadvantage, the latest ag census reveals that farmer internet access had jumped from 57% (2007 ag census) to 70% (2012 ag census). That’s a sizable jump. Especially when compared to the overall U.S. internet usage numbers. In the same time period, from 2007-2012, the overall usage climbed from 75% to 79.3%. That’s just over a four point increase in the overall population, while the farmer specific segment jumped 13% in that same exact time period. As internet technology continues to be refined and developed it is expected for that number to climb even higher when the 2017 census results are released in 2019.
Reaching Farmers Online is a Great Strategy
You may not immediately think of computer or cell phone use when you think of farmers, but the proliferation of tech and gadgetry is making it increasingly common. The majority of farmers already have access to the internet, and those without will more than likely have it within the relatively near future . . . so, why not begin your targeting efforts online?
Though the age of farmers has risen and social media use is typically lower with older demographics, 40% of active farmers still report using Facebook. As access to broadband spreads to rural areas and Facebook continues to dominate social media usage, that number will only continue to grow. And though the current crop of farmers are predominantly older now and fewer new farmers are around than in previous years, a new younger generation will inevitably take over. This means the potential online audience for agriculture OEM’s will only continue to grow as a more tech savvy youth gradually replaces the old guard.
Take Advantage of Facebook’s Dominance with Your Targeting
Targeting farmers online is a great strategy moving forward, but taking it further and specifically focusing efforts with Facebook can be a key to reaching the online farmers who are most likely to purchase your product. Facebook allows you to upload your own specific prospect audience. How can you use that capability?
Using data from EDA you are able to find farmers who would be your ideal customer. Have a new cultivator coming to market? You are able to find farmers who currently own cultivators and narrow that down by age of equipment so that you can accurately target farmers who have older equipment and may be in the market for a replacement.
Take that custom-built audience and upload it to Facebook to reach those specific farmers online during their time on the social media platform. You can also build lookalike audiences which targets Facebook users similar to the profile you’ve created with your custom audience. In addition you can target based on ages, demographics, and even geographic location. All of which could be refined before loading those audience into Facebook by using EDA. Facebook has been the dominant online social media platform for years and shows no sign of stopping. By becoming very specific and targeted you are able to reach those who can benefit most from your product. This can be a highly effective marketing strategy as you move forward.
Reaching the Online Farmer of the Future
As time marches on and technology continues to grow exponentially year after year, the spread of the internet and dependance on modern technology will only grow among farmers. Taking advantage of their online behaviors and specifically targeting them with custom audiences built with data from EDA and the multitude of Facebook advertising options gives agriculture equipment manufacturers the best chance to reach potential customers. Internet usage will continue to grow and farmers’ online presence will only increase as society embraces technology. Being proactive and looking for prospective customers online where they spend the most time can give your company the edge and allow you to establish an advantage over the competition.