Marketing practice change

The Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust – an example of ‘marketing practice change’.

Systematic pasture renewal – the process of replacing older, less productive pastures with new grass and forage species through crop rotation – is a practice that many farmers are aware of, but aren’t necessarily convinced that renewing pasture at a faster rate than the currently do is worth the investment, because the on-farm benefits aren’t immediately or clearly observable.

So if farmers aren’t even aware of the practice they may have a need for or the benefits of the practice, how do you go about stimulating farmer interest, and eventually adoption? This is where the ‘marketing practice change’ extension approach comes into play. It’s the approach we can take when we want to trigger farmer demand for a practice, and it relies on multiple co-ordinated channels of advice.

The Pasture Renewal Charitable Trust was established in 2007 by a small group of agribusiness companies who realised that the whole industry would benefit if they worked together to grow the sector. And more importantly, there was a real opportunity to grow New Zealand’s wealth if pastoral farmers better utilised the new, more productive grass and forage cultivars available.

Farmer with his dogsThe Trust’s sole aim is to encourage farmers to undertake more pasture renewal. They have focused on communicating “why” more frequent pasture renewal is a beneficial investment for New Zealand's farmers, leaving the “how” and “with whom” messages to those involved in the industry, and decision-making and ownership of the process with individual farmers, who can best determine what is right for their properties.

To achieve this aim the Trust has employed a ‘marketing practice change’ extension approach, using many of the same activities from a ‘technology push’ approach (like mail outs, facts sheets, advertising and articles in farming media, fields days, sharing results from demonstration trials), with the key addition of providing technical resources targeted at retailers, rural advisors and extension agents so that these ‘trusted advisors’ can provide consistent and timely information and offer evidence-based advice to their farmer networks.

‘Marketing practice change’ as an extension approach worked well in this situation because:

  • The on-farm benefits of pasture renewal aren’t easily or immediately observable
  • The practice the Trust is promoting (10% annual pasture renewal) is testable, so evidence-based benefits that are desirable to farmers can be identified and communicated
  • Pasture renewal is relatively compatible with existing farm systems (so not too many other significant changes are required to achieve the potential benefits)
  • Connections made through rural advisors’, extension agents’ and retailers’ networks reaches a wider group of potential farmers, and provides a co-ordinated message on the need and implementation of the practice.