Rhyne Cureton is more than a successful public speaker and pork farmer. He is also a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University with a bachelor’s degree in ag education – professional services. His experiences in EATBETA International, interning on a variety of farms and serving on the NC Choices Niche Meat Initiative and Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network has provided him with a unique perspective. He shares it with those he consults through Pork Rhyne Consulting and those attending his presentations.

Cureton, known on social media as “Pork Rhyne,” presented “Story Brand Marketing for Local Meats” as a recent webinar hosted by Food Animal Concerns Trust.

Cureton’s consulting business’s tagline, “Wisdom without the hogwash,” accurately sums up his life mission: spreading accurate and helpful information about farming.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Cureton said. “Context is more important than anything else. A lot of people fall into victimhood as they try to copy someone else without context.”

Farming is no exception. Farmers see a successful operation and try to mimic the processes of that farmer, but “a lot of small-scale producers don’t have lots of land, resources and a workforce,” Cureton said.

He encourages small-scale farmers to consider value-added options.

“I tell them to focus on value-added products,” Cureton said, “like a meat stick or make that lard into a skincare product. Agritourism creates experiences on and off the farm for the sake of legacy for a farm, like weddings, dinners and things relevant to what you want to do for your farm.”

Cureton said understanding the farm’s niche is crucial. “You have different abilities, skills and God-given traits,” he said. “Some fall victim to wanting to do all the livestock. Be good at two things. Then you have more synergy among both. That helps with marketing and resources. It also helps with stress management.”

Mentors can help farmers navigate their challenges and “can be a source of encouragement and wisdom,” Cureton said.

Reviewing data for what the farm has been doing is also important. “Instead of dividing your energy, you can say, ‘I did well with the cattle and pigs, but the egg sales I didn’t make much,’” Cureton said. “The next step I like to teach is the farm marketing framework. Be a part of your ideal customer’s story to help them achieve their goals and dreams.”

He said farmers need to make their efforts, through website and social media copy, about what problem they solve for the ideal customer. Most farmers say they want to farm because they enjoy raising food or want to make family-owned land profitable.

‘Pork’ Rhyne Cureton talks story branding

“Pork” Rhyne Cureton operates a farm consulting company. Photo courtesy of Rhyne Cureton

“I smile and am happy for them, then I ask, ‘If that’s why you farm, why do you have a farm business?’” he said. “Rarely do people say ‘Because I also want to make money.’”

But he drills even deeper. “The primary purpose of a business is not to make money but to … be a solution to someone’s problem, and the reward is revenue,” Cureton said. “People look at ‘business’ as a bad word … but it’s part of legacy building.”

To maximize a farm’s business, it’s important to identify the ideal customer and their particular need and problem. Many times, customers will tell farmers what they need, such as sourcing local food or finding the right skincare products. They need something different from what is offered and that is where farmers can fill the gap.

By homing in on a specific type of customer, farmers can tailor their marketing message to attract that type. Although this seems limiting, paradoxically, the farm will also attract outlying secondary customers.

“The future really will align more with agritourism and high-end value-added products for profitability,” Cureton said. “Also focus on agri-education: teaching people about things and getting compensated for it.”

One of his consulting clients was not making money raising birds to sell as meat for $4/lb. But she knew how to butcher poultry, so Cureton proposed she host workshops for $200 per person, teaching clients how to butcher chickens. The result? “Doing a demonstration class, I almost double what I make selling chickens,” Cureton shared.

The call to action (CTA) comes next. This is a part of a social media or blog post where the farmer asks the viewer to do something. Instead of just a picture of a cute baby animal, it’s important to include an “ask” to solicit action – the CTA. Perhaps the picture could offer the CTA of “We’re raising pastured pork. Are you interested in this? Comment below” and add a link.

“Realize what it means to engage your audience,” Cureton said. “Don’t just post cute things. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be a sale. It can be what I’m doing out in the field and I’m trying to figure out what you guys want me to raise next season and here’s a $5 coupon for filling out the survey.

“Try to engage people. If you don’t train them to be engaged, oftentimes they’ll take you for granted. They may follow you because you post cute pictures, not because you’re providing things they need to engage in,” he said.

Some farmers worry about competing with big grocery stores or Amazon; however, Cureton said to not focus on them because they possess efficiency of scale. Instead, focus on what the big operations can’t provide, such as specialty items that appeal to a niche.

“If you want to build your business in farming, build your email list,” Cureton said. “If only 10% of the people on your email list buy, and you have only 50, you won’t make much money. The best way of generating more is online content. Be a resource to the people in your community.”

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant