Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software

What Farmers Know About Community

Family FarmI grew up in a farm community and while it’s unlikely one farmer thought of themselves as fierce competitors of another, they do provide a market with the same products.

However, I would often witness a sense of community that I think has been lacking of late, even with all of this talk of the word community. What I saw time and again was that if one farmer experienced a hardship, a broken down tractor, loss of livestock, or need to get the crop in before a big storm, they could usually count on the help of neighboring farms without the need to ask or expectation of payment.

Everyone in the community knew that they would probably need this same kind of support and gave a hand willingly. I wonder if today’s small business community could take this view? I wonder if we could take that view with our customers and even our competitors?

As we begin to will some sort of economic recovery take a quick look at your closest competitors. What’s happened to them during this downturn? Is there an opportunity to grab market share? If so, resist it and consider lending them a hand instead.

I know this may run counter to competitive wisdom, and I’m not suggesting we should to take on their payables, but I do think there’s a long view in being the kind of company that uses its position in the community to establish a statement about what’s really important.

Even with all this buzz about social and personal business behavior, I wonder if we’ve forgotten what real community is somewhere along the way.

Image credit: royal broil

Don't miss a single word!
Complete the form and we will send you articles just like this every week.

Raven Tools SEO Tools
  • johnwairephoto

    …it would be great if everyone was of this mindset. great post john!

  • http://twitter.com/joey_strawn Joey Strawn

    Community is one of those things that can be invaluable to a small business or community in general. Even when you think about geographic communities, the ones that are memorable, that get noticed and recommended to others are the ones that have a strong sense of camaraderie.

    I agree that this idea has been overlooked in most small business communities (and even on a larger scale) and I think that when we help each other grow, we all benefit by the process.

  • http://thinktankmen.com Michael Van Osch

    Great point and something we all need to consider more, especially small businesses. One of the things I promote when starting my mastermind groups is a video of an Amish barn-raising. It's a great way to think. cheers, Michael

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I think the barn raising is a fabulous metaphor for what community on and offline can look like.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    It's just another aspect of the give to get mentality I think, but so many are trained to view competition in another light. At some point we're all going to have to look in the mirror and do the math, let's hope it adds up well.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks John – maybe we could make it a movement of some sort. Help your competitor Tuesday or something

  • http://www.WindingStaircaseLLC.com Jeremy Powers

    I added a small post on my blog about community just yesterday. I think business-owners often tend toward ruthlessness out of fear. The most confident businesspeople I know are usually the most gracious. Thank you for the timely post.

  • Dfallon23

    I think there are certain things that do not “fit” well in capitalism. Art (in all forms), religions, and social work come to mind. Maybe old-school farming is like that too, but I'd like to put a line between traditional farming and “factory farms” where animals are cooped up on top of one another to maximize egg production, for example.

    I agree with the suggestion that there are problems with capitalism in that we tend to get more competitive with each other, but on the other hand we tend to look for ways to do things better: cheaper, easier, and more efficient. Are those bad things?

  • http://www.indiebusinessblog.com Donna Maria Coles Johnson

    This is a great post, and it's good to see so many comments agreeing on how we can help each other. There really is enough to go around. Hoarding is not only not nice, but it's also futile. Why spend energy trying to undercut someone else when it's a better use of energy to lend a hand and make sure your own core is strong at the same time? Talk about good karma! The kind of sharing your article highlights happens every day in the small scale cosmetics manufacturing arena. We help each other all the time through social networks, webinars and more. It's so much more fun to help build an industry than to help tear one down. That's how we roll!

  • http://ipresort.com Cam

    What you say here really resonates with me, John. I work for a mailshop near Dallas, TX. In our area their is a group called the DFW Mailer's and we get together once a month to discuss issues that have to deal with the mailing industry. The members are large and small shops and, a few years ago, when one shop had to shut down due to a fire, another shop let them use their facility to keep doing business. That is practically unheard of in any industry. I am very proud to be a member of such a group.

  • brianmcelroy

    Hey John,

    I'm a city guy, but I learned about how some farming communities work together while living in the mountains of Haiti.

    If you go to 17:40 in the film at http://www.fondwa.org, you'll see how Haitian neighbors form a “konbit” to collectively work their farms, which are owned individually.

    Technically they compete with each other as you mention- but collectively they accomplish much more.

    Regards,
    Brian

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    What a great example of a proactive approach to what I've talked about here – thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    So true about the fear thing here – this shows up in so many areas of life too.

  • http://www.lauraclick.com Laura Click

    I grew up on a farm in central Missouri (an hour east of KC) so I truly appreciate this post. You're right – farmers, and small towns in general, truly exemplify the idea of community. When my grandfather (who was a farmer) passed away last year, the outpouring of support was unbelievable. While I'd always witnessed my parents and grandparents help others, we weren't usually on the receiving end. During that experience, family friends came over to clean the house, do laundry, make food, help on the farm, etc. I've never seen anything like it.

    I think you're right – businesses can learn a lot from this approach of collegiality and community. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. If businesses learn to help each other out, I think we can all be more successful.

  • lauraclick

    I grew up on a farm in central Missouri (an hour east of KC) so I truly appreciate this post. You're right – farmers, and small towns in general, truly exemplify the idea of community. When my grandfather (who was a farmer) passed away last year, the outpouring of support was unbelievable. While I'd always witnessed my parents and grandparents help others, we weren't usually on the receiving end. During that experience, family friends came over to clean the house, do laundry, make food, help on the farm, etc. I've never seen anything like it.

    I think you're right – businesses can learn a lot from this approach of collegiality and community. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. If businesses learn to help each other out, I think we can all be more successful.

  • lauraclick

    John – I didn't mean to post this twice. I'm not sure how to delete the duplicate. Can you help?

  • Perry

    Thanks, it is important to remember in most markets a little friendly cooperation can make for a bigger market for all to share.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    And you can take on the big guys this way too :)

  • http://www.abonarconsultants.com/blog ScottK

    I grew up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan, and this has been my experience as well. Most farmers are willing to help their neighbours in any way that they can.

    I think this attitude comes from how hard life was when people first ploughed the prairie and cleared the trees. If they didn't help each other out they literally wouldn't survive the winter. The drought of 1930s further contributed to this attitude.

    Farmers sell commodities, which means that the price one farmer gets for wheat doesn't really affect the price his neighbour gets for wheat. I think some small business people feel that they have to hurt their competitors to get ahead, which fuels the attitude of non-cooperation.

    Given the changes in the economy and the transparency that social media brings, I think we'll see more cooperation among small businesses in the future. The conditions will demand it.

  • http://twitter.com/davidamoore David Moore

    John, I love your content, resources, everything you do. But you have absolutely lost your mind on this. I live in a rural community in eastern NC. I actually live on a farm, but I don't farm. My neighbors farm the land. I am a small biz owner providing printing & mktg services. The big difference here is that helping the farmer down the road get his crops in during a crisis, didn't take food off your own table. I am not malicious to my competition, but I get up everyday hoping to beat their brains out. It's a competition for goodness sake. He tries to steal my customer base & would greatly benefit if I go out of business. I don't wish him harm, but if all of his customers came to me because of legitimate reasons like better quality, service, prices, etc, etc; that's fantastic. It means I am doing my job with excellence. My family benefits. Now I will actually loan him paper or ink, if he is in dire need and runs out, but helping them maintain their customer base to be Mr. Nice guy, no way.

  • jackfedric

    Hey John I just came across this post and I really loved it. I have never seen farm culture but your content was so impactive I felt like I have seen all this things. That's really nice post.
    dubai hotels

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    David, the good news is that you get to run your business any way you like. This is just another option.

  • http://www.twitter.com/firstfound Andy @ FirstFound

    Well this has stirred up a bit of debate. I don't have any farming experience, but I do think the Kum-Ba-Ya picture here might be a little bit facile. That said, I could be wrong.

  • Darren Wilson

    I think http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coopetition is worthwhile in this discussion.

    This type of neighborly behavior among competing businesses is a touchy area for many Americans (USA Americans), where cut-throat capitalism as a form of economic Darwinism carries more weight than any religion (see Wall Street – either the movie or the Journal). “Qui bono?,” we ask

    Fierce competition can be good. Fierce cooperation can be good. But there are two sides to every coin, and both can have negative social and economic consequences, especially taken to extremes. I think it comes down to each situation.

    I know that this type of charitable, neighborly economic behavior takes place among farmers, and it may even be the norm, but it certainly isn't a rule. Farming by and large produces commodities, and those are among the most fiercely competitive products marketed (where volume and cost are the chief weapons. )

    If you think all the farmers don't care about fiercely competing with each other, you've never been down to the fish fry at the local (insert product) grower's association after the bourbon gets to flowing. Discussions about pricing (to the incredibly powerful consolidated grocery store buyers) can often lead to some colorful language and occasionally, bloody noses.

    There's a time and a place for everything. This post reminds me of the concept of sportsmanship. When that clock is running and the game is on the line, I want to see the linebacker lay the opposing QB out with a clean, vicious hit. But I also want to see him extend his hand to help the QB up after the whistle blows. Knowing the nuances of when (and whether) to do either is the difference between being a good sport and a bastard.

    Maybe you can start a movement which helps people identify good sportsmanship in business – good businesspersonship?

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Great thoughts Darren – you forgot horseshoes though, that's where the real stuff is settled.

    Agree about the extremes, that's true about more everything in life. Love the businesspersonship word

  • Daniel Hayes

    John- I completely agree! I was listening to Gary Vee talking about community and was amazed at his insight that our Grandparents are likely better suited than we are to interact and be successful in online community. They knew how important relationships are in business and in this era of Big Box, Big Company many have forgotten how much community means. If you offer value there's plenty to go around.

    Your site and podcasts are awesome! Thanks so much for what you do!

  • http://blogs.communitiesrus.in/communityconnect/ SanjayShetty

    I appreciate the concept you've illustrated here, and I feel that there are many more aspects of the nature, relations or motivations of communities… i've penned my thoughts on this, based on my experience of helping build technology focused communities, would love to hear your and your readers thoughts http://blogs.communitiesrus.in/communityconnect

    Regards,

    Sanjay Shetty

  • http://blogs.communitiesrus.in/communityconnect/ SanjayShetty

    I appreciate the concept you've illustrated here, and I feel that there are many more aspects of the nature, relations or motivations of communities… i've penned my thoughts on this, based on my experience of helping build technology focused communities, would love to hear your and your readers thoughts http://blogs.communitiesrus.in/communityconnect

    Regards,

    Sanjay Shetty

  • Wikkidesign

    My childhood also belong to Farmers and Agriculture family, and after reading few articles including the above one by john I was very much excited to create something on farmers and agriculture. That’s why I try small step with Farmers Orbit ( http://www.farmersorbit.com ) . Farmers Orbit is World’s Local Farmers community as well as Virtual Farmers Marketplace. It’s a Professional network for Farmers with trusted contacts which give farmer an advantage in their agriculture career or business. Farmers Orbit help you make better use of your network and help the farmer workers or partners you trust in return.