Stories that Sell: A Robust Communications Toolkit for Sustainable Ag Farmers and Ranchers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $39,806.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Women, Food & Agriculture Network
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Ahna Kruzic
Women, Food and Agriculture Network


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    The next generation of farmers and ranchers come from historically underserved backgrounds: farmers of color, women, and Veteran farmers. A 2017 study commissioned by the National Young Farmers Coalition shows 60 percent of beginning farmers are women, 13 percent are farmers of color, and 75 percent are first generation. These farmers are more likely to operate smaller farms (averaging 19 acres), and 75 percent labeled their farming as “sustainable.” 

    This next generation of farmers, those we wish to serve, face multiple barriers when attempting to build successful agriculture operations and change the face of agriculture in today’s world. A key challenge these farmers face is finding a marketable way to share their stories that rewrite the agriculture narrative. Our project will support and better understand the needs of these farmers through a survey, online video advisory meetings, listening sessions, and the creation and distribution of training and education materials. Based on the information we gather from the survey, from these listening sessions, and from research of past programs and interviews conducted with experts in marketing and storytelling, we will create curriculum to help farmers pitch and tell their stories across multiple channels and platforms. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Create and distribute an online survey to ~10,000 WFAN members regarding the communications barriers they face, and their storytelling and marketing needs. 
    • Host six in-person listening sessions in six distinct locations, reaching ~120 farmers, to learn barriers preventing them from successfully telling their stories and marketing their operations, and to learn their educational needs. 
    • Research previous sustainable agriculture programs that pertain to communication, marketing, storytelling. 
    • Interview marketing and storytelling experts. 
    • Create a curriculum, 12 podcasts, three videos, four online webinars, and 20 handouts, to be used by farmers in programming across the region at in-person training and networking events.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.