The farming community is not known for blowing its own trumpet. However, episode seven of the AFCC considers the importance of positive interactions between farmers and the general public. Innovative farmer-led initiatives have proven to be a real hit in satisfying British consumers’ appetite for expanding their knowledge and experience of farm life in the digital realm.

How to benefit from the growing popularity of the staycation

Scottish agritourism expert, Caroline Millarprovided her insight on the current boom in staycations. With overseas travel still proving problematic, 2020 is the year that many families will choose to explore the British Isles. 

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions on 3 July, Scottish agritourism has seen a huge spike in bookingsSome self-catering providers report being able to book their on-farm accommodation 40-50 times overMany farm stays are well-positioned to provide a socially isolated holiday, so the appeal is obvious. This success has been made possible by a framework of marketing initiatives that promoted Scottish agritourism throughout lockdown. 

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Farm Cottage
Interaction is key to stimulating agritourism

Although Covid has had a significant financial impact on the sector, Caroline highlighted the importance of maintaining consumer engagement when lockdown rules were initially implemented. 

The Go Rural brand has a consumer-facing remit to encourage tourists to visit a range of Scottish farm businessesWhen Covid brought agritourism to an abrupt closeclose-knit network of farmers decided to bring the countryside to those who could no longer access it, by showing how farm life continued despite the pandemic 

Go Rural initially implemented a two-week ‘Lambathon on their Facebook page which Visit Scotland helped to promote more widely through their marketing channels. Each day featured a different farm for a live half-hour session filmed inside the lambing shed. Up to 250 families watched live every day, with each of the daily videos being viewed between 500-1,000 within 24 hours.  

Based on this success, a more broad-based theme was introduced. The Welcome to my farm series saw close to 100 Scottish farmers hosting virtual farm toursgiving consumers an insight into the diversity of Scottish farming - from cereal production, goats, lamb, beef, cheesemakers and dairy farmers 

Go Rural has attracted a sizeable international audience of 10%with many regular viewers in the US logging on dailyWith lockdown now lifted, Go Rural is maintaining the momentum they’ve generated by introducing another new theme. ‘Come onto my farm for lunch’ features local restauranteurschefs and cooks coming to look around farm and then prepare a dish using fresh, farm-sourced produce. It gives consumers an inspiring taste of what Scotland has to offer. 

Lamb
What do consumers want from farmers?

These social media-driven campaigns have proven key to cultivating the agritourism brand. Go Rural has evaluated its activity via an online consumer survey. Generating feedback from a sample of 500 individuals that have engaged with the campaign, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.   

Key takeaways highlighted by the data have included instilling a better understanding of hard-working farmers warmth and friendlinesstheir higher animal welfare standards, and knowledge about the environment. As a result, those surveyed said they were more likely to visit a farm, buy farm produce and to come and stay as a result 

It goes to show the important role that farmers have in raising awareness of what they do and the benefits that their businesses offer consumers. 

As farmers with tourism or leisure businesses, we must continuously engage with our customers to make them aware of things that we may not think are important. If people want to understand us, build trust with us to be able to stay or visit and buy food, then we must help build those relationships.” 

Lockdown provided a captive audience which helped Go Rural to really galvanise the sector and build a base for supporting the growth of agritourism in Scotland in the long-term. 

Scottish cottage
Lockdown provided a captive audience which helped Go Rural to really galvanise the sector and build a base for supporting the growth of agritourism in Scotland in the long-term.

Additionally, Caroline has been working in a B2B consultancy role since 2007supporting farmers to diversify into tourism and leisureShe acknowledges that many farmers are skilled operationally and strategically yet require new skills when it comes to B2C communications.   

Marketing, business development and sales are all areas that must be addressed when running an agritourism enterprise. Caroline is involved in facilitating two of Scotland’s enterprise agritourism programmes. These bring together network of people who meet regularly to share knowledge and skills from experts. The aim is to build confidence and help farmers make the right investment decisionsIt has been vital in supporting many farmers to take that next step in growing their business. 

Building a farmer’s toolkit

Caroline’s passion for equipping farmers with the right tools to manage their businesses was echoed by Anna Jones, broadcast journalist, farmer’s daughter, and Just Farmers founder. 

Through her diverse experience, Anna explained how media training has helped farmers get the right message across via broadcast channels. Just Farmers educational workshops aim to shed light on what journalists are looking for when they construct a story and how farmers can develop brilliant content to better engage with a wider audience. 

Knowing how to speak to different audiences is essential. The key to engaging with consumers is making them care about what you do and delivering an authentic message.  

All the farmer-focused campaigns that have been successful throughout lockdown have shown genuine, real farm stories and presented them in a creative way that consumers have really bought into. It’s an approach that all farmers can capitalise on - to promote, inform and educate the public about the issues that matter.