Jim Lindauer is a cattle rancher with over 50 years in the beef business. He is the latest generation of the Lindauer family to run Running W Farms in Chestertown, MD.

“I’ve raised grass-fed Highlands for most of my life. I’ve been a meat cutter, a buyer and I’ve been active in marketing. And I can tell you that how you market your meat can be just as important as the quality of the meat itself,” he said.

Sponsored by the American Highland Cattle Association, Lindauer explained how to best do this in the presentation “Marketing at Farmers Markets.”

First, Lindauer said that a cattle rancher has to understand the different marketing approaches used in various settings. “Are you going to do direct marketing? Are you going to do wholesale? Maybe a CSA?” While all of those are viable and effective marketing methods, Lindauer explained that for farmers markets, the direct marketing approach is best.

To successfully stand out from other producers when directly marketing their beef, a farmer must be doing something no one else is doing. “You need to know what your story is, and how you’re going to communicate that story to others,” he said. Lindauer recommends using social media to put that story right in front of the consumer.

Marketing tips from a Highland rancher

Consumers are naturally curious these days about where their food comes from. If you raise Highlands, like rancher Jim Lindauer, educate your customers about the breed to pique their interest. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

Often, the products in conventional beef sales can vary quite a bit. One day you might get a good steak, but on another day that steak may not measure up to past performance. If a farmer can make the case that when you buy a steak from them you know it will be good, the consistent quality consumers can count on will be an important part of that farmer’s story.

Such niches can also be something non-tangible. Some ranchers have noticed an uptick in customer loyalty when they begin to advertise that they don’t kill wolves on their farm, for example. While that had nothing to do with the quality or taste of the beef itself, it proved to be a difference that some people were willing to pay for.

Lindauer pointed to recipes as a shrewd marketing method at farmers markets. He quipped that a good recipe can spread through a farmers market like a virus. Having a ready supply of recipes printed on cards, prominently featuring the name of your beef operation, can be a very effective strategy for farmers.

In Lindauer’s opinion, the most important aspect of marketing at a farmers market is the opportunity to meet the farmer.

“The customers want to be able to talk to the farmer. Whoever is in your booth should be knowledgeable about the product and willing to be able to jump in and talk about it,” he said.

Being able to put a face to an operation, and having customers be able to pose questions to them on how the animals are raised, who the processor is, animal health and the location site itself makes customers feel more of a connection to a supplier – and can engender loyalty to that producer.

For more information visit HighlandCattleUSA.com.

by Enrico Villamaino