Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Wish We Had a Photo of That: Plan Ahead to Ensure You Have the Images You Need

“Downtime” isn’t really an accurate description of the winter months for an ag retailer. Certainly, you’re not moving at the frantic pace of planting and harvest. But winter is the season to repair and prepare in expectation of the heavy demands ahead.

Winter is also a great time to prepare for next year’s marketing communication program. More specifically, to map out a plan to capture the essential communications resource regularly overlooked in many organizations—quality images. Quality images in ag are often missed because when the best photo opportunities arise, nobody was prepared to be capturing them.

Let me explain using a common ag example. Late fall and early winter are the selling seasons for seed. Logically, you’ll want to include an article on the topic in your newsletter, post it on your website and social media, perhaps create a flyer or postcard to promote an informational meeting. What would be the perfect shot? A planter rolling through a field, or a farmer filling his planter. Unfortunately, no one took that shot in the spring when the action was live. That’s where planning comes into play.


There are two approaches to gathering images that work well. The first—create an editorial calendar for the year. As you determine what topics you want to cover, you can also determine which images best illustrate those stories and when to capture them. Then create a seasonal shot list.

The second approach is less structured. Look at your business, identify the business segments that will be promoted, then determine the types of images that best illustrate each segment. Like the first approach, put together a seasonal shot list with the goal of creating a photo library that you can access whenever you need just the right image.

[caption id="attachment_1804" align="aligncenter" width="800"]winter-barn Photo by VistaComm senior journalist Burke Perry.[/caption]

By the way—winter is a great time to update staff portraits, capture indoor events and document regular winter activities like equipment maintenance. You’ll also have some days when conditions are right to grab some good winter scenic shots out in the country.

But how? And who?

Now to the mechanics. How do you capture all these images? There are several options. The first, best option is to find someone on your staff who actually enjoys taking photos—with a camera, not a cell phone (more on this shortly). Generally, there is someone who has the bug. Make them the official photographer, because they’re probably going to capture better photos. And they’re right there at work when photo opportunities occur.

[caption id="attachment_1808" align="aligncenter" width="800"]sunset-farm Photo by VistaComm senior journalist Burke Perry.[/caption]

Second, hire a professional. At VistaComm, we handle the photography when we’re onsite. The resulting photos can be added to your library. The drawback: Any professional is only on site occasionally. By scheduling them strategically, you can add a lot of good shots to your library. But you’ll never catch every event, every crop stage and every time you happen to drive by the perfect shot on your way home.

Third, everyone’s a photographer these days. If you have a smartphone, you have a camera, and that means more people are taking more pictures than ever before—many more pictures. Earlier, I mentioned that a camera is the best way for quality photos. That is absolutely true for print. But cell phone pictures are fine for most web use and, clearly, social media. Your force in the field is often at the heart of the action, so encourage them to capture action shots in season.

[caption id="attachment_1809" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Photo by VistaComm journalist Connie Smith.[/caption]

Good images breathe life into your communication. They help the writer tell the story or, in some cases, they tell a story all on their own. For more basic tips on taking better pictures, take a look at the blog article "10 Tips for Improving Your Photos to Make Your Marketing Rock!" by Dary Maulsby.

Need help capturing professional-quality, captivating images? Put a VistaComm journalist to work on your publications. Contact us today.

Article Source Here: I Wish We Had a Photo of That: Plan Ahead to Ensure You Have the Images You Need

Monday, December 19, 2016

Website Content: Give your readers what they want . . . in a format that’s easy to read.

There’s a certain way people read website content. It’s not the same as sitting down with the newspaper, or reading the latest edition of Farm Journal. People who visit your website are scanning. They don’t want long articles. They want information–FAST!

When writing website content, think like you’re a potential customer.

Why would they go to your website? What specific words would they type into a Google search in order to get there? Are they looking for information about products, services or agronomic practices? Figure out those answers, then give them the information they’re looking for.

Keep it short and sweet.

Make it easy for visitors to scan your website by using these writing techniques:

  • Use headlines and subheads that guide the reader through your content.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs SHORT.
  • Use bullet points. 70% of people look at lists with bullet points.1
  • Sidebars are good for emphasizing important information.
  • Incorporate simple and direct calls to action.

A variety of content works best.

Content is more than just words. Visitors to your site appreciate variety, so keep your site fresh with multiple forms of content. Here are a few examples:


Read Your Web Copy Out Loud

If a sentence is so long you cannot read it in one breath, then it’s too long.
If you don’t know where to pause, then the sentence needs punctuation. Or better yet, divide it into two sentences.

On the average web page, users have time to read
at most 28% of the words during an average visit.3



If the overall message doesn’t sound like your company’s personality, then it’s time for a rewrite.



If you stumble over a word or a phrase because it’s too complicated or awkward, find a simpler way to say it.



69% of web users spend 69% of their time viewing
the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.4



microphone-iconIf the wording seems like “corporate speak,” try adding pronouns like “we” and “you” so your website communicates more personally with your reader.


sleep-iconWrite it, then put it aside for a few hours...or preferably overnight. It’s surprising how much you can improve web copy when you look at it with “fresh eyes.”


VistaComm has put these and other great website and digital marketing tips at your fingertips in a handy e-book, WEBSITE KNOW-HOW: Grow Your Agribusiness with a Hard-Working Website. Access this valuable resource.



  1. “How People Read on the Web: The Eyetracking Evidence.” Nielsen, Norman Group.
  2. Burnes, Rick. “Study shows business blogging leads to 55% more visitors.” Hubspot.
  3. “How little do users read?” Nielson, Norman Group.
  4. “Horizontal attention leans left.” Nielson, Norman Group.

Read More Here: Website Content: Give your readers what they want . . . in a format that’s easy to read.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Website Optimization: Fine-tuning content so your website works harder

It’s not enough to judge your website based on how it looks or what it says. The real test is whether people visit your site . . . and how they interact with your site once they get there.

Put it to the test.

Take a look at your website and see if it accomplishes these tasks:

findCan prospects find your website?


How does your website rank on search engines?


Once people find your site, do they stay and interact with it?

accept-ctaDo site visitors accept your call to action?


seo-optimizationPay attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

There are entire books written about SEO, but it boils down to this: When people search on Google, Bing or another search engine, can they find your content? It’s all about anticipating what your audience wants—then skillfully (not heavy-handedly) inserting appropriate keywords into your content so search engines can find your site.

Create landing pages that inspire readers to act.

A landing page is a page on your website that has a form for a visitor to fill out. It’s there for one reason—to capture information from website visitors.

On the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit.1

Keep in mind that the landing page must offer them something in return—such as a product guide or e-newsletter, an easy way to RSVP for a field day or a request for more information. The better your landing page works, the more leads you get.

heat-mappingHeat Mapping: Finding out where your visitors are looking...and where they’re not

Mouse tracking and eye tracking analytics help you visualize how customers interact with your website.

  • When people are clicking on your website
  • How far they scroll down before leaving a page

69% of web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.2

Heat mapping provides a visual display of your website design performance. This helps you make your website design decisions based on actual user experiences. It also helps you optimize your website to ensure the best results from your website’s content and landing pages.


VistaComm has put these and other great website and digital marketing tips at your fingertips in a handy e-book, WEBSITE KNOW-HOW: Grow Your Agribusiness with a Hard-Working Website. Access this valuable resource online.


  1. “How little do users read?” Nielson, Norman Group.
  2. “Horizontal attention leans left.” Nielson, Norman Group.

Originally Published Here: Website Optimization: Fine-tuning content so your website works harder

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When it comes to marketing your agribusiness, are you a horseshoes and hand grenades communications planner?

This time of year many agribusinesses stress planning.

“Plan for next year’s hybrid placement and effective fertilizer use. And make those plans by tapping the knowledge of your local agronomy expert, the person who knows your operation.”

That’s excellent advice for creating next year’s communication crop, too. Let me sweep aside the accumulated seed corn guides on my desk so we can set guidelines for your 2017 newsletter and magazine harvest.

Say your first goal is making the ag journalism process easier and more effective. Working with communication experts to take advantage of their marketing services is an obvious step. But there’s the question of directly interfacing with the professionals who interview, photograph, design and proofread your publication. Do you really have time to come up with a list of possible stories and schedules the interviews for impactful content that will meet your marketing communication objectives?

If you put a value on personally working with your out-sourced ag marketing communication team, that’s great. Otherwise, designate a liaison within your organization, and grant this liaison some of your authority. A stand-in without backing from the top will be ignored, and your publication process will stall. When your staff dodges interviews or forgets to send photos, the pre-determined objectives of the newsletter or magazine process quickly erodes and you start missing project deadlines. Eventually, your chosen delivery date dies a sad little death.

Unless, your mailing deadline is the real problem. Did you choose a time for interviews—the typical start of a publication process—in a busy season for many of your employees? You can either reevaluate your mail date or help your staff come to grips with the value of timely ag marketing communication for customers and prospects. (Just a quick shout-out to the marketing services provided by VistaComm: Our ag journalists are willing to make the interview process EASY! We typically take no more than 30 minutes to gather information from a division manager or other interviewee and we’ll meet your staff or customers wherever is most convenient for them.)

Now, let’s talk a little about your mailing schedule as a whole. When did your agribusiness newsletter or magazine actually hit mailboxes last year? That’s the reality of the process. Typically, a newsletter requires four weeks from interviews to mailing and an additional 5-7 days for standard-class delivery. A magazine takes six weeks. Think about it. If you want to get those pre-harvest messages or year-end pre-pay information to your customers, you’ve got to plan for it then stay on schedule with your publications that outline this critical information. Design your mailing schedule with this one question in mind: What do we want our customers to do when they read the newsletter? If, for instance, you want them to make input booking decisions, plan for communication that arrives while they’re still making those decisions. You know what they say about horseshoes and hand grenades...

Contact us today

Read More Here: When it comes to marketing your agribusiness, are you a horseshoes and hand grenades communications planner?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Beginners Guide to Social Media Marketing in Agriculture

social media marketing in agriculture

Social media is kind of like a basement. When it’s filled with clutter, it’s a place you want to avoid. But when the junk is cleared out, you like to hang out there.

Today in agriculture, we are starting to see much wider use of social media by farmers and producers as younger generations begin to take over. According to a recent study by Connectiv, 40% of farmers 35 and younger are engaged in social media. When using social media for marketing in agriculture, you have the power to cut through the clutter and create a go-to space to connect with farmers. All it takes is a willingness to add the wow factor. Try these top 10 tips:

1. Remember--it’s not about you; it’s about your audience.

People are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. Social media posts shouldn’t be self-serving advertisements. What does your audience care about? Posts with the wow factor spark conversations that interest your target audience.

[caption id="attachment_824" align="alignright" width="236"]ebook_cta_icon-02 Like what you’re reading? For more great tips on marketing in agriculture today, check out our free e-book[/caption]

2. Grab attention.

Scary but true—the human attention span has supposedly dropped to a mere 8 seconds, a second shorter than a goldfish’s attention span! To grab attention, understand the factors that motivate people:

  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Be comfortable
  • Gain knowledge
  • Be healthy
  • Enjoy greater convenience
  • Make work easier
  • Be appreciated

Knowing this, you’d never accept this real-life example: “In an effort to highlight competitive salaries and benefits in the pork industry, a recent compensation and human resource practices survey was conducted by”

Remember how money is a motivator? Try this instead: “Want to earn $40,000 to $60,000 a year and enjoy the advantages of rural living? According to a recent study by, you can as a swine farm manager.”

3. Put the good stuff up front.

Grabbing attention means spending 95 cents of your dollar on the lead sentence. Look for ways to surprise or intrigue the reader. This tip works for social media posts, e-newsletter subject lines, titles and more. Even if your information is much more detailed than a social media post, write teasers that encourage your readers to click through to your company’s website or blog with the complete story. Here are some examples:

  • Want to know the 5 marketing must-haves you can't afford to ignore?
  • Enjoy more peace of mind when you cut these 10 useless items from your to-do list.
  • What’s zapping your productivity? Ditch these 3 distractions.

4. Add value.

Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What tips would make your life easier? What stories would be fun to share with your colleagues, friends or family? Social media posts with the wow factor help your audience learn something new, give them an interesting tidbit of information or offer helpful hints that make your readers’ lives better.

5. Timing is everything.

Social media is a real-time environment. Consider pegging your posts to a news hook or current event. Also, avoid sales pitches. Hard sells are a guaranteed way to turn off followers.

6. Make it personal.

Instead of writing to a nameless, faceless audience, envision a specific person you want to reach. Imagine you are talking to him or her, face to face.

7. Write short.

Your first line must be compelling. This usually works best when you’re concise and leave a little mystery. Let’s say you open with, “It had to happen.” Perhaps your post starts, “There’s a quiet revolution going on.” Now you’ve captured their attention.

8. Show and tell.

Social media posts with relevant images snag 94% more views than content without images, according to the marketing firm HubSpot. Research also reveals that when people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of it three days later. If a relevant image is paired with that same information, however, people retain 65% of the information three days later.

9. Include hard numbers.

When you add numbers to prove how your solution makes your reader’s life better, you’ve just added the wow factor—and credibility—to your social media posts. Example: Wish you could save $50 a month? You can when you switch to our service. Think of what you could do with that extra money!

10. Don’t forget the call to action.

If you want people to do something (call for more details, visit your website, etc.) specifically tell them what action to take. Provide relevant links and contact information. Also, ask readers to share your post. When you add the wow factor, it’s easier to keep the momentum going.

Post Source Here: Beginners Guide to Social Media Marketing in Agriculture

Thursday, November 17, 2016

11 Great Pointers to Start Marketing Your Agribusiness Using Online Video

video-production-at-albert-lea-seedIn today’s world, video is a key part of content marketing in agriculture. Video is everywhere. It’s accessible. It’s engaging. And, it’s surprisingly easy to create.

So, how do you get started making a video for your organization? First, stop thinking about the viral videos you see online. Those are for entertainment value. You want a video with marketing value—something that will engage your customers and prospects, drive them to your website and prompt them to purchase your product or service. Here is some content that works well in video format, and will also prove quite valuable to you and your customer: (more…)

Original Post Here: 11 Great Pointers to Start Marketing Your Agribusiness Using Online Video

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In Times of Change, Awareness Is Key

Change. The word is everywhere. It’s not overused, really, especially as we learned on election day. With that said, let’s talk about what prompts change—progressive, positive change.

Change begins with a simple awareness of the world around you, and a keen desire not only to keep pace, but to jump ahead of what’s happening. This is especially true in the business world.

For many of our clients, 2016 has been a year of change. Mergers. Acquisitions. Joint ventures. Management realignment. At VistaComm, we have recognized our role in helping clients make change successful for them. We’ve worked hard to position our company as a leader in agribusiness marketing. And this has brought change to VistaComm.

Change in Leadership

The first change occurred in leadership this July. Maria Walz, a 19-year veteran of VistaComm, was named CEO. A CPA by training, Maria previously served as our company's CFO and COO. “My goal in my new role is to bring proven marketing expertise together with innovative solutions to help our clients thrive,” said Maria.

[caption id="attachment_310" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Maria-Walz Maria Walz, New CEO of VistaComm[/caption]

A New Brand Identity

One of Maria’s first initiatives was to rethink and refresh our branding with a new logo and tagline. “Since we felt like we were writing a new chapter in our story, we wanted a logo that celebrated the ongoing evolution of our company and the success of those we serve in agribusiness,” said Maria.

VistaComm logo with tag

Our new logo reflects our style and philosophy. Simple. Memorable. Meaningful. The icon depicts two gently rolling, plowed fields meeting to form a shallow “V.” As Maria explained, that intersection is the crease in which VistaComm thrives—where agribusiness challenges get matched with custom-built marketing solutions. It’s fertile ground for nurturing ideas and growing business. “Our logo now mirrors the quality of the leading-edge services and solutions we provide,” said Maria.

A new tagline—Next-Level Marketing for Agribusiness—positioned with our logo is direct at explaining the WHO and WHAT of our business model. “We’re marketing experts in agribusiness,” said Maria. “We know our rural, ag-based audience, their sensibilities and what they’re looking for in a marketing partner.” Gets a Facelift

Our next major change was a powerful new website to help payoff our “next-level” approach to serving clients. “Whether your challenge is upgrading your branding and messaging, clearly communicating with your stakeholders, growing your market share, or raising your industry profile, we can offer a variety of solutions—all outlined on,” said Maria.


In summary, our awareness of our clients’ needs led us to many positive changes this past year. And with these major changes comes a commitment to responsibility. To keep up. To do better. To grow. And to always maintain awareness of what’s taking place around us.

See More Here: In Times of Change, Awareness Is Key

Friday, November 4, 2016

5 Reason Your Agribusiness Should Join the Social Media Party

You’re invited! That’s right, I’m inviting you to a party where a majority of your business’ customers will be. That makes this event a great opportunity to network and build relationships. It’s also the chance to promote products and services, notify your customers about upcoming events and educate them. Plus, who doesn’t love a good party?

Hopefully, I now have you wondering where and when this party is. Well, what if I said you didn’t have to leave the comfort of home to attend? Grab your laptop and cozy on up because I’m inviting your agribusiness to join social media.

According to a study by the USDA, 71% of farmers now own computers with Internet access.1 Another study reported by Successful Farming stated that 42% of farmers who use Facebook and Twitter use it every day.2 That means if your agribusiness isn’t on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or other networks, you’re missing the chance to interact with your customers.42 percent use facebook or twitter daily

5 reasons why your agribusiness should be on social media

  1. Social media gives your brand a voice.

More exposure for your brand is always a plus, but social media provides the opportunity to define your brand’s personality. Social media can easily take you from just another agribusiness to an agribusiness customers connect with. Try posting a humorous quote your customers can relate to. It’ll foster a sense of camaraderie.

  1. Social media builds relationships.

This is where the SOCIAL in social media comes in to play. The best part: There are so many options for getting conversations started on social media. You can encourage customers to share their stories (for example, a photo contest). Bring together customers who are facing a similar situation. Use social media to gain feedback. And the list goes on.

  1. Social media enhances company trustworthiness and credibility.

Your agribusiness has a team of knowledgeable, agricultural experts ready to assist your customers with their needs. Social media is a great way to remind your customers of your expertise. Write blog posts on relevant topics and share the links on your social media accounts. If your company has any news releases or was in the media, post it to your social accounts. These posts will establish your agribusiness as an industry leader.

  1. Social media helps increase your online exposure.

People spend a lot of time on the internet, but how are they spending that time? says individuals are spending 28% of their online time surfing social media, and the average time spent on social media per day is two hours.3 If you want to create an online presence for your business, it’s important to be where people are spending their browsing time—social media.

  1. Social media expands potential sales.

If your customers are using social media, it means your prospects are as well. This gives your agribusiness another potential selling point. More and more producers are sharing their on-farm successes through social media that others are using to influence their buying decisions. Make sure to include posts tailored to this audience.

Contact us today



  1. Farm Computer Usage and Ownership, USDA, 2015 (
  2. Farmers Making Use of Social Media, Successful Farming, 2015 (
  3. How People Spend Their Time Online, com, 2016 (

Read Full Article Here: 5 Reason Your Agribusiness Should Join the Social Media Party

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New ideas for your ag cooperative’s next annual meeting

Annual Meeting.jpg

About this time every year, “plan annual meeting” pops up on the to-do list. If you’re like most people, you pull out the file and basically rehash your farm cooperative’s annual meeting from last year … and probably the year before. [caption id="attachment_1031" align="alignright" width="178"]Susan Meier annual meeting image Susan Meier, principal of Meier and Associates, and senior governance consultant with BoardSource, suggests easy ways to make your annual meeting more effective.[/caption] We checked with an expert: Susan Meier, principal of Meier and Associates and senior governance consultant with BoardSource , the nation’s premier governance resource for nonprofit organizations. Susan has 28 years of experience working with boards of directors—helping them make their organizations and annual meetings more effective.

“There are usually specific requirements for annual meetings,” says Meier, “but that doesn’t mean the meetings have to be formal and ‘all business.’ The best way to keep members interested is to actively engage them in the meeting itself.”
The bylaws for most agricultural cooperatives require annual meetings to provide a business review, elect officers and report on plans for the upcoming year. But you do have leeway to enhance the overall experience for members. Following are some suggestions you might consider as you plan for your next annual meeting.
  1. Better meeting publicity

Cooperative bylaws typically require meeting notification—which is legally just a statement of date, time and place. But for no additional cost, and very little effort, you can beef up the annual meeting notice to make it more interesting and enticing for members. Following are a few suggestions:
  • Ask a local high school art class to have a poster design contest for the annual meeting. Give the winning design a gift certificate to your c-store. You get a great poster … and you create goodwill with the community when you publicize the winner of the contest.
  • Publicize the meeting on your Facebook page.
  • Instead of just putting a notice in your newsletter, write an article telling members something interesting and different they can expect at the meeting.
  1. Get members interested and involved before the meeting

Every year, members show up and expect the same thing—likely because the annual meeting content is basically the same year after year. Why not engage them before the meeting, so they’re more interested in attending? Meier suggests this simple approach:
  • Include a questionnaire with the RSVP. Ideally, members would fill out the questionnaire when they RSVP online. But you could also collect answers over the phone and on printed RSVPs.
  • Questions should have 2-5 answer options—not open-ended questions. Examples might include:
    • What was your biggest challenge on the farm in the last year? (commodity prices, input expenses, weed control, insect control, etc.)
    • Which of the following has had the biggest positive impact on yields in your operation? (precision ag, better chemicals, better seed, etc.)
    • What is your primary reason for attending this annual meeting? (socializing, patronage report, free meal, etc.)
  • Start the meeting with a PowerPoint review of the answers. Then use these answers as a guideline for the overall message of the meeting—focusing on how your cooperative responds to members.
  1. Simplify committee reports

According to Meier, you can improve these reports by asking officers not to simply report on activities or performance … but rather to frame those reports around several questions such as:
  • What are the two biggest issues your committee is addressing this year?
  • What is your committee’s single most important message to members?
  1. Use an activity to engage the crowd

Meier suggests an “index card exercise.” Place blank index cards and pencils on each table. Toward the beginning of the meeting, pose a question to the audience that will engage members in the future of the organization. An example would be: “What can your cooperative do to help your operation be more efficient this year…in five words or less?” Give guests a minute to write their answers anonymously on the index cards, then collect cards. While the meeting continues, have a few staff members compile a list of answers. Later in the meeting, share an overview of member suggestions—perhaps relating those suggestions to things your cooperative is planning for the coming year.
  1. Follow up with reports about the meeting

Be sure to take photos during the meeting. Think beyond the typical “crowd photos,” and try to capture shots of members interacting with each other. Then post the best photos on your cooperative’s Facebook page or Instagram account as a way to interact online with members. Also include a report about the meeting in the next issue of your farm cooperative newsletter. This would be a great place to include a recap of the survey results and “index card exercise. Want to know even more ways to improve communication with members and customers? Contact one of our agri-marketing specialists to get the conversation started, or take a look at our e-book:

e-book download - Powerful Content: 6 Best Practices in Agri-Marketing and Communication

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #3

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Make Great Neighbors

We all want a neighbor that makes the neighborhood better—not the guy who never mows his lawn and keeps a car up on blocks. Cooperatives are great neighbors. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. 

They provide vital jobs in their communities. Through the real estate, sales and payroll taxes it pays, the co-op is a major contributor to the tax base of local governments, helping to support schools, police and fire protection and other vital community infrastructure. It also donates to a number of local charitable and civic causes every year.


One more reason VistaComm is proud to work with our cooperative clients across the United States.

Contact VistaComm today

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #2

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Empower Their Members

There’s strength in numbers—a foundational reason that cooperatives were created. Take the agricultural industry for example. Individual farmers lack power in the marketplace and can be easily manipulated by the ever-more concentrated number of buyers. But united in a co-op, the power of one is multiplied by the many. The co-op enables producers to tap into larger markets than they could on their own, and to bargain for better prices.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fast Fact About Cooperatives #1

Co-op Month Fast Facts

Co-ops Strengthen Communities

You’ve no doubt heard that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. The same is true for co-ops, in a way. Because cooperatives are owned by the customers they serve, any profits from the business are returned to co-op members as year-end patronage or are reinvested in the business, not sent out of town to distant, outside investors. That money stays in the communities where co-ops do business, helping to fuel the local economy. Very neighborly for sure. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How to Better Manage Your Forecast Planning From a CEO's Perspective

Q4. It’s here!

And for a lot of us, that means the final push toward planning for the coming year. My advice: Break the exercise down into manageable segments. This is my approach and the segments I use:

  • Revenue
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Labor
  • Expenses

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Celebrate the Cooperative Way

October is national Co-op Month, a time to celebrate the cooperative way of life and how these unique businesses impact the communities we live in. Whether you know it or not, cooperatives are all around us. Growing up on the family farm, I never realized the full impact of our local cooperative. In the small town of Archer, Iowa, where I grew up, if there was no cooperative there would be no town. This is not uncommon in many small towns througout America where co-ops support the communities they are in. To this day, the local co-op supports the Archer community and its 131 residents through employment opportunities, local tax revenue and community service.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Soothe Customer Pain, Grow Your Business

In the movie classic Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella follows a voice no one else can hear with memorable results. Among the messages he receives: “Ease his pain.” That’s not a bad mantra for ag businesses to keep in mind as we close out the 2016 production season. The company that does the best job of making life easier for their customers will likely gain more of them next year. Word travels fast in the country.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nebraska Co-op Employees go Above and Beyond to Help a Fellow Employee

At VistaComm we serve a lot of clients who work and live in rural America. In helping our agribusiness clients market and communicate with their customers we come across all kinds of amazing stories of how these cooperatives and ag retailers are helping people in their communities. We recently published Farmers Ranchers Cooperative's newsletter which contained one of those great stories about how co-op employees came together to help a fellow co-worker in his greatest time of need, and we had to share.

Read the exerpt below, or view the full newsletter by clicking here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


With $3 corn and $9 soybeans, it’s easy to see why farmland values are declining. But don’t take our word for it. There are scads of reports from industry experts, including:
  • The Kansas City Federal Reserve, which last month suggested farmland prices have softened from 3% to 5% from a year ago in Nebraska and Kansas.
  • The Chicago Federal Reserve, which reported farmland values have declined an average of 1% in its states, which include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin. However, value in Wisconsin and Illinois actually increased, while Iowa's dropped 6%.
Here are some of the trends we’re seeing.

High-quality land is still a valuable asset says David Klein, managing broker and auctioneer with Illinois-based Soy Capital Services. Take the August 25 sale of 640 acres east of Peoria in Washington County, Illinois, for example. The land averaged $11,600 per acre, with ranges from $9,800 to $11,600 per acre. “That tells me that high-quality farmland continues to be in high demand,” Klein says. All over the Corn Belt, we continue to hear that farmers are paying good money for high-quality land. Demand for that land will continue, Klein reckons.
Farmers are still buying. In the Washington County example, Klein says farmers bought most of the tracts. This continues to be the case in most sales, although we’re seeing more investor action in some of the sales we’ve tracked. “People are trying to make the case that outside investors are propping up land values,” says Steve Nicholson, analyst with Rabobank Financial. “However, farmers are still buying the majority of the land. Are there outside investors? Yes. But it’s not the majority.”