Bridging the Gap Between Rural and Urban America

Bridging the Gap Between Urban and Rural America Davin Althoff

The Public Perception of Agriculture

OUTdrive Episode 30 with Davin Althoff

In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Davin Althoff, Division Director Agriculture Business Development at the Missouri Department of Agriculture. A lifelong farmer and experienced marketer and manager, Davin is driven by the passion to provide opportunities for Missouri farmers and agribusinesses.

Read more on their thoughts about bridging the gap between rural and urban America and the public perception of agriculture, closing the digital divide and the value of strategic digital marketing efforts. You’ll also find creative ways to increase brand awareness and more about the American spirit prevalent in rural America today.

Connecting and Educating Audiences

The agriculture industry connects the world through producers, consumers and every individual that plays a role in each step of the supply chain. While Davin and others in rural America understand the importance of agriculture, there are some who aren’t as familiar with the industry, all it touches and its impact. In his role, Davin and his team are challenged with educating consumers and increasing awareness about the industry. This means correcting misinformation, communicating correct information efficiently and finding creative ways to connect with consumers.

“We see more and more people become further removed from the farm,” says Davin. “There are a lot of people nowadays that are fourth generation removed from the farm, and they have no idea where their food comes from. You can’t fault them, as they are certainly yearning for information in a lot of cases. Unfortunately, in some cases, they’re getting the wrong information and getting misinformation.”

Ensuring that audiences are receiving accurate information from trusted sources is a challenge that Davin and many others in rural America face. Due to misinformation, public perception regarding the agriculture industry has in some cases become negative.

“Public perception of our culture has been a big deal for the last several years. Something we in the agricultural industry have to continue to work on is bridging the growing gap between rural and urban populations,” he says. “Another challenge we see in agriculture is connectivity and that we’ve got to continue to invest in broadband. In rural America, there are a lot of people that do not have good connectivity. In the day and age we’re in today and the advancements in technology, they need to be connected.”

Closing the digital divide is vital for providing farmers and ranchers access to important resources and opportunities across rural America. To learn more about efforts currently underway to expand rural broadband access, check out episode 24 of OUTdrive to hear from Abby Carere with Conexon and how they are partnering with electric cooperatives to deploy broadband in rural America.

Effective Digital Marketing Tactics

Broadband is becoming more readily available as a result of federal and state programs. Leveraging the immediate connection of broadband, Davin and the Missouri Department of Agriculture use a variety of digital methods to reach audiences.

Davin shares their efforts, saying, “We’ve done some different things with social media such as product giveaways to draw people and their interests to our social media platforms,” he says. “We also have a website for the Missouri Grown Program, It’s our platform to connect buyers and sellers. Any Missouri Grown member that is interested in being on our website and promoting their product can be on our website and reveal the products that they have for sale.” Although the website does not currently support e-commerce functionality, Davin shares that he hopes it will in the future, providing even more opportunity to connect producers and consumers.

In addition to social media and the Missouri Grown website, Davin is an advocate for strategically implementing digital marketing efforts across the board. “It’s a really effective tool and I first saw the benefit of it when I was at the Missouri Beef Industry Council through the connectivity and metrics we were able to get.” he says. “When connecting with customers, we want to be strategic with our dollars and be as focused as we possibly can and digital marketing is the best way and the best approach to do that.”

Through advanced targeting methods and analytics, digital marketing allows you to efficiently reach specific audiences and deliver a strong return on investment. When integrated into a strategic marketing mix, digital methods are an effective way to increase engagement and build brand awareness.

If you are looking for more ideas on how to build a strong marketing mix to reach audiences in the agricultural industry, tune in to episode 16 of OUTdrive to hear from Dan Cassidy, Chief Administrative Officer of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

Creative Tactics to Increase Brand Awareness

Another proven way to increase engagement and awareness is reaching audiences through creative ways. While this looks different for every company, thinking outside of the box and trying new things often leads to strong results. For Davin and his team, one way that they have built awareness for the Missouri Grown program is through Missouri Grown Holiday Gift Boxes. Pulling inspiration from other states with similar programs in place, Davin’s team shared the idea with him last year and they hit the ground running in 2020.

“Our original goal was to sell 200 boxes. We thought if we could sell 200 boxes in the year that we launched the program, it would be a huge success,” he says. “Through social media promotions and promotional efforts from our communications team, and even the governor doing a social media post for us, the program has just taken off.” Quickly surpassing their goal of 200, the team has sold nearly 450 boxes and plans to continue the program again next year.

The Missouri Grown gift boxes started as an idea to connect Missouri producers with consumers and it delivered excellent results. In marketing, there is a time and place for proven practices, but don’t be afraid to try new things and allow yourself and your team to share creative ideas.

Gain additional insight from Davin and Cliff on bridging the gap between rural and urban America and the public perception of agriculture and the American spirit prevalent in rural America today in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!