a feature written by 'JP' Joshua Paxton, staff writer

Related Features

Canadian farm operations employ more than 280,000 workers nationally and generate over $70 billion in sales. To put it in perspective, the average cost of operations is $0.83 per every 1 dollar in sales. With over 80 per cent of sales recycling back into the economy, start to consider the number of other businesses in a community that benefit from farm operations.

There are over 650,000 tractors in operation in Canada, maintained and purchased to a value over $18 billion dollars. Equipment dealers strive to maintain brand loyalty, understanding the value of long-term relationships and the investment made by operations that require multiple equipment solutions.

​From 2011 to 2016, the value of farm capital—specific to land and buildings —increased to over $427 billion nationally. Consider the impact on local insurance providers, lawyers and accountants who provide business consultation and management services. In communities across Canada farmers and their supplier partners participate as great sponsors of local events. In particular, the leadership and support of fairs and festivals is unrivaled by any other industry.

Canadian fairs generate over $1 billion of impact on local economies, with an average large fair generating approximately $48 million for its community, derived from the spending of non-locals and fair operations. Marketing campaigns highlighting themes of cultural tradition,
agriculture education and community association propel the popularity and support for these great events.

The agriculture industry is a leading supporter of Canadian fairs and festivals.  This video from CAFE - the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, illustrates the many values of these community events and the opportunities for brand engagement  - (YouTube, What is CAFE all about?, CAFE, Published on June 13, 2017)

An often overlooked industry sector, Canadian agriculture is a rich vein of marketing spending. Behind the flash of attention-grabbing campaigns launched by consumer packaged goods, and in the shadow of giants like the financial and insurance industries, farming in Canada is a community cornerstone that provides the foundation for many other businesses.

STATS CAN - The Business of Agriculture info graphic
STATS CAN direct marketing in Canada, agriculture

Helpful info graphics break down big data, available from Statistics Canada.  Click the image to link to the complete PDF.

Feeding Canada's Economy: The Power of Agriculture

Continue the conversation...

Farming is an integral part of Canada’s past, present, and future. In this video, Evan Fraser, director of the Arell Food Institute, discusses how Canada’s farmers can become more sustainable in their agricultural practices. (YouTube, Farming is Canada, CBC, published November 23, 2017).

According to Statistics Canada, drawing information from the 2016 census, one in eight farm operations employed direct marketing efforts to sell to Canadians. It could be inferred that this investment played a part in the 8.2 per cent growth to more than 14,740 farms reporting sales of $1 million or more. Nearly two out of three Canadian farm operations spending on direct marketing reported less than $50,000 in sales. Eighty-nine per cent of farms offered some sort of direct sale opportunity on their property, and 22 per cent participated in farmers' markets.

Recognizing that the competition for produce sales extends beyond neighbouring farms to super shopping centres it’s understandable why the next generation farm operators have recognized the need to engage
their community and build brand loyalty.

The trend is most notable on the coasts. On both sides of the country, British Columbia and the Maritime provinces, the average percentage of farms marketing direct to consumers exceeds 20 per cent, with Newfoundland leading the western province 34.2 per cent to 32.2 per cent. The more central provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba are less inclined, averaging just under 5 per cent.

'Reta Byvelds has worked with the agricultural community since 2007 in her role with Nutreco Canada. Asked about her views on the future of agriculture in Canada, Byvelds shares:

“The face of agriculture is changing. The agricultural producer is getting younger. The one thing that stays the same is that they are rural based, have a strong sense of community and they are owner managers.”

A reflection of the youth movement, the Hensall Co-op found success in 2018 when they re worked their logo to better emulate a retail brand. When their new design was recognized as a similar layout to a popular athletic brand the demand for their promotional wares spiked, and so did their visibility in the community. Reta and marketing colleague Melanie Prosser shared further insight into their
understanding of building a brand relationship with farm operations.

"With that [brand] loyalty, however, comes a strong obligation to maintain the brand promise."

“Many of our customers are members of the Co-Op, so indeed they wear our brand with a particular sense of pride. There is a history of brand loyalty in this sector, whether it’s seeds, tractors or insurance. A lot of it stems from local connections. With that loyalty, however, comes a strong obligation to maintain the brand promise. Daily farm operations already have to be flexible to account for so many things
that are outside of farmer control, whether it be weather or commodity prices. They need reliable partners for stability.”

If your goal is to join the value chain in the agriculture sector you had best understand the core values. Integrity. Reliability. Community.