Collecting your thoughts
Opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. You’ve probably heard that phrase before—or perhaps a less-polite version. Nevertheless, it’s true. Some people are quick to express those opinions, especially if it’s something they care about deeply. Others may never share their thoughts unless asked. But if you’re open-minded enough to consider the opinions of others, they can help provide guidance to make more informed choices.
Here at Today’s Farmer, we truly value your opinions. We put a tremendous amount of time and resources into each magazine, but those efforts do no good if we aren’t producing something our audience can use and enjoy. That’s why we periodically conduct surveys to allow readers to tell us what they think.
The time was right for one of those surveys last year. Especially in today’s agricultural environment, it is more important than ever to provide customers what they want and need in communications from MFA. Over the summer, we conducted online and telephone surveys using a Missouri-based research firm, Inside Information. We mailed postcards to a random sample of readers, inviting them to take the survey online. We followed up with phone calls to those who did not. More than 400 people completed the survey, giving us a trusted margin of error. The respondents were scattered across MFA territory, and their answers were anonymous.
I want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey online or talk with our researchers on the phone. Your feedback is truly appreciated. Here are some of the things we learned:
- We have very high readership. Nearly 94% of respondents indicated they read some of Today’s Farmer. Long-time customers, those who have been patrons for more than 20 years, had even higher readership.
- Today’s Farmer gives readers information they can use. Overall, 72% of respondents said they have acted at least once from a story or advertisement in an issue, while 55% said they changed a practice on their farm based on something they saw in our magazine.
- Readers expressed a positive overall opinion of Today’s Farmer, with 86% giving the magazine good to excellent ratings. The usefulness our Agronomy Guide was also rated highly at 72%.
- Today’s Farmer reaches more than just the name on the mailing label. Nearly half of readers pass the magazine to someone else or keep it and/or its articles for reference. Plus, each issue is read by more than two people per household.
- As for content, readers were most interested in agricultural news, markets, our “Tech Brief” column and stories about MFA products and services. Recipes also remain popular with about half of readers.
- Overwhelmingly, readers said MFA should continue to publish Today’s Farmer and that the magazine projects a positive image of the cooperative. Respondents also strongly prefer print communications with 96% only reading the physical version of Today’s Farmer.
- Demographic information we collected shows that Today’s Farmer readers reflect the agricultural variety in MFA territory. Most respondents said they raise row crops, beef cattle and forages, but a wide range of other types of farms were mentioned, including dairy, swine, sheep, goats and specialty crops.
- We found room for improvement in our electronic communications. Only 4% of respondents accessed Today’s Farmer online, and just slightly more, 16%, referenced online resources mentioned in the magazine. And while the printed Agronomy Guide was well received, only 7% had downloaded its mobile app. Those findings suggest there may be somewhat of a technology gap among our audience.
- The lack of online usage may be reflective of the median age of readers—64 in our survey. While that statistic is consistent with the average age of farmers today, it also shows we need to find ways to communicate with the younger generation of farmers as well.
Ultimately, the purpose of Today’s Farmer parallels MFA’s reason for existence: “to advance producer capability and profitability.” Rest assured that we will use the survey results and ongoing feedback from our readers to help strengthen MFA’s mission to serve the needs of our members and customers.
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