Effective Marketing for the Busy Farmer (BF 201)

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Most of us go into farming with the thought of making some – or all – of our livelihood through the sale of what we make or grow. As you grow your operation to provide more of your family’s income, having a carefully planned marketing strategy becomes more critical. Completion of this online course will enable you to better understand how to price your products, position yourself in the “buy local” and direct sales marketplace, and understand low-cost “guerrilla” marketing tactics to get the best bang for your buck and make your farm operation financially sustainable. If you complete the activities in this course, you will be armed with clear ideas about how to improve your marketing and sell more product.

Target Audience

New farmers with 1-3 years of farm management experience and/or serious aspiring new farmers who have already explored the basics of marketing and are ready to develop a formal marketing strategy.

Course Objectives

This course will help you:

  • Link your farm’s mission and vision to your commercial goals and marketing strategy
  • Understand the key elements of a solid marketing plan
  • Understand & use effective marketing strategies
  • Understand and use various pricing strategies with your products
  • Create a marketing plan through weekly input from the course instructors


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in.

Qualifying for Loans

If you are considering applying for a low-interest beginning farmer loan though the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), completing this course may help you qualify, if you meet other eligibility requirements. For farmers in NY who have already applied for an FSA loan and been told they need borrower training credit, all of our courses are pre-approved to provide you with this credit, if you complete all course requirements. For more information, visit the FSA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans website.


Laura Biasillo is an Ag Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.
Matt LeRoux is an Ag Educator specializing in marketing with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.


The 2014 offering of this course has already started. The course will be next offered in Jan 2015.

Course Outline

  • Week 1: Introduction to Strategic Marketing: Identifying a Target Market
    Topics Covered: Defining what marketing is (and isn’t), what to consider when developing your  marketing strategy, understanding types of markets and customers, crafting a marketing strategy
  • Week 2: Communicating with Customers
    Topics Covered: Overview of marketing plan components, including research, competition, communication plan, branding, positioning and differentiation in the marketplace
  • Week 3: Communication with Customers, Part 2: Layout, Design and Colors are Everything
    Topics Covered: How to set up your marketing materials to appeal to customers, spending versus wasting money on design of marketing materials, and how colors, font types and layout of your marketing materials can make (or break) your sale
  • Week 4: Promotions: guerrilla marketing, free opportunities, special offers
    Topics Covered: Promotions, low-cost/no cost marketing options, social media, how to set up a marketing schedule
  • Week 5: Expenses, budgets and pricing: How Much Should I Charge (and How Much is it Costing me to Produce this)
    Topics covered: Expenses (real and perceived), components of a marketing budget (as part of a larger budget), pricing (what to include and how to allocate costs)
  • Week 6: A Guide to Marketing Channel Selection
    Topics covered: Overview of the market channel selection and assessment tool, application to particular operations

Cost and Registration

Fee for this course is $200. Registration will open in August 2014 for a Jan. 2015 offering. Sign up for the Small Farms e-newsletter or like us on Facebook to make sure you hear about the course when it’s open next.

In this section:

Need Small Farms Info?

Visit our sister Small Farms Programsite, the Cornell Small Farms Program