Working Family — Is Your Farm Special?

 Farm Journal | October 1998

As reported  by Robin Hoffman in the Farm Journal October 1998:

” . . .If you prefer on-farm examples, they’re easy to find, too. You just have to look at farm business that live or die with their ability to draw customers– like the Tudor family’s farm bed-and-breakfast in Avella, Pa.
The first step in developing a marketing plan for your farm is to define what’s special about your product or service. What’s your edge? Why should someone rent you land or give you a crop contract or bury your Halloween pumpkins?
And don’t just make something up. Try to build your marketing strategy around your natural advantages, management talents and preferences. If you can’t quickly, clearly say why your operation is special, don’t expect potential customers to figure it out.
Marcy Tudor found her edge while visiting B&Bs in Europe. “We came back with the idea that staying with us would be like staying with family and friends,” she says.
So the Tudors work hard to treat guests to a warmly traditional family farm holiday. It all starts with a personal commitment, not only from Marcy but also from her husband, Dale, and 17-year-old son, Nigel.
“You have to spend time with the guests and show them around the farm,” Marcy says. “But we enjoy it. It’s fun to get to know all the people.”
To make their 104 acre farm more fun for visitors, they stock it with all sorts of interesting animals, including two kinds of cattle, sheep, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and rabbits. “We’re going for a kind of ‘family farm of the 1950s’ feel.” Marcy says.
This philosophy keeps two rooms in their 120-year-old farmhouse booked up and encouraged them to convert a summer kitchen into two more rooms.
Many experts see this kind of “entertainment farming.” along with direct farm-to-consumer produce sales, as big growth areas. But the same principles of marketing focus will be equally critical in operations that depend on attracting landlords or added-value contracts.
……A few years ago, Marcy Tudor’s pitch won a national innovative marketing contest sponsored by Home Office Computing and Microsoft. And she has only gotten better since.
She started with an idea for a brochure. “I went to several printers and not only wouldn’t they do what I wanted, they wanted to charge too much to do it,” she says. So Marcy, an accountant by trade, fired up her computer and printed the brochure herself using Microsoft Publisher.
“What opened up the marketing possibilities for me was computer publishing,” she says. “The software is surprisingly easy. And when you do it yourself, it’s not that expensive.”
She also publishes a newsletter, a guidebook to the farm and surrounding area, a cookbook, a farm safety booklet, a workbook for kids, and her own press kit.
True to her marketing plan, Marcy updates customers on goings-on around the farm in friendly, informal style. When their first Scottish Highland calf was born, she sent our a birth announcement saying “It’s a bull!”
She writes the sort of letter you’d love to get from family and friends, but don’t. “It’s important to keep it personal, to let yourself come through, ” Marcy says. “And you just have to keep selling yourself.”
She also recently developed her own Web site, which includes pictures of the family, the rooms, and the farm ( “Every month more customers come through the Web site,” she says.
And leaving nothing to chance, “We keep all our awards on the walls of the breakfast room, where guests can read about us,” she says. “We also keep a basket full of thank-you notes from former guests, just to remind people they’re having a good time.”
Marcy suggests practical marketing classes offered by community colleges could be helpful in developing a plan. But she says she gathered many of her ideas by simply paying attention to what other people were doing.
You obviously can’t copy Marcy’s B&B plan to attract landlords or value-added contracts. But you will need the same focus and creativity. and keep looking. Right now, somebody is already doing exactly what you should be doing.”