Building Your Farm’s Brand
This past August, Reid and Carla Weiland hosted Senator Joni Ernst on their Garner, Iowa, farm as part of the senator’s 99-county tour. This visit didn’t stem from Reid Weiland’s political connections or from Weiland Farms’ reputation, although the latter did help with the process.
When Weiland’s name came up as an option for the tour, the senator’s team took a look at his website and found that the farm’s values aligned with hers.
“Our sustainability plan includes goals for continuous improvement of the land,” states the website at Weilandfarms.com. “Efforts such as soil fertility, weed control, waterway structure, and land set-aside programs are investments that can enhance the land’s future value.”
Without needing to pick up a phone, Ernst knew what Weiland Farms stood for. That was Weiland’s goal when the farm went through a branding process and launched its website last year. While Weiland’s key audience is current and prospective landowners, the connection with the senator shows how a strong online brand and presence can foster relationships.
USING YOUR BRAND AS A TOOL
When Weiland decided to go through the branding process, he turned to Barnstorm. Launched in 2015, Barnstorm is a division of Osborn Barr, an advertising agency that focuses on agribusiness.
“About six or seven years ago, we started getting asked to present at farmer meetings about branding and how to apply that to the farm,” says Karen Pfautsch, vice president at Osborn Barr. “From those presentations, some of the farmers asked us to work with them.”
Seeing this demand, Barnstorm was launched to help farmers build their brands. The majority of farmers Barnstorm partners with are working on relationship building with landowners, says Pfautsch, while other key audiences include employees, investors, the community, and consumers.
The process starts with a brand assessment. “This series of questions helps us learn about the operation and the vision,” says Pfautsch. “A central message we repeat when we work with a farmer is, ‘Your brand is a tool to help you achieve your goals.’ ”
Barnstorm focuses on the big picture before deciding on the specific tactics – like a website – that can help the farm achieve those goals.
For Weiland Farms, this resulted in a mission statement that reads: Our mission is to cultivate and improve our portfolio of land assets through precision and integrity. This reflects Weiland’s desire to enhance relationships with current landowners and to grow the operation strategically through new leasing opportunities, which is critical since Weiland Farms leases 80% of its land.
The farm emphasizes the benefits it brings as asset manager with its use of technology and focus on water quality. “On a farm we lease, we are installing a bioreactor that is an investment between us, the landowner, and the Iowa Department of Ag,” Weiland explains.
After the vision is clear, Barnstorm chooses the tactics that will help the farm achieve its goal. This can include a logo, website, social media, newsletters, brochures, a farm résumé, and more. Pricing varies based on the plan for the farm.
In the first year, Weiland says he spent about $8,000 on the brand assessment, logo development, website, brochure, and best practices for an Instagram page.
“Spending that amount of money was a tough one to swallow,” he says. “But it’s our long-term vision. We think generationally and are geared toward building an operation that outlasts me or my dad. Having a brand is a big part of that.”