Knowing your customer base is more important than ever, especially when your customer base includes the complex operations run by today’s large-scale commercial agricultural producers. That’s where the Large Commercial Producer Project research from Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business can play a lead role.

I often hear agribusiness professionals lamenting that their customer base is dwindling, but for those working with these large operations, that’s simply not true. In the 1990s when Purdue first launched the Large Commercial Producer Project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture reported that there were 15,890 agricultural producers with annual revenues above $1 million and 1,838 with revenues above $5 million. The most recent census (2012) identified 79,225 farms with annual revenues above $1 million and 8,499 above $5 million. That’s substantial growth for those agribusinesses targeting large-scale producers.

Just like agricultural producers have evolved since the 1990s, so has the Large Commercial Producer Project—the results of which will be presented at the 2017 National Conference for Food and Agribusiness, Nov. 7-8 on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. The project is now in its sixth iteration and is well known throughout the industry for helping agribusiness professionals understand the mindset of the commercial producer. The project is based on a survey of producers themselves and it explores how their fundamental attitudes impact their buying decisions.

These attitudes and their resulting behaviors have important implications for the way agribusinesses market and sell to commercial producers. And at a time when retailers know they need to bring deeper value than just a product, this research has become increasingly important.

Much of the project’s history is grounded in agricultural sales and marketing, as the center’s first director, Dave Downey, is an expert in the area of sales. As the number of interested faculty grew, the project evolved. Involvement from industry partners helps us to improve the project, keep it timely and ground our questions in the reality of the marketplace. Over the years, we have added questions about producer strategy and risk management. We include questions that help us understand the perception of value differences among brands and suppliers. We also ask about producer loyalties.

In the latest iteration, the project focused heavily on understanding producers’ buying and procurement processes, from initial information collection, to working with a salesperson, to follow-up service and the connection to farm success. This time around, the project looks at how producers evaluate many product and service attributes in addition to price.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing a series of blog articles from faculty focused on different sections and topic areas of the Large Commercial Producer Project to give you a taste of what you can expect to learn at the National Conference. The articles will focus on the following subjects by the following authors:

  • Risk Management, Dr. Nathan Thompson, Courtney Bir and Dr. Nicole Widmar
  • Producer Strategies, Dr. Allan Gray
  • Buying Preferences, Dr. Will Secor
  • Information and Salesperson Preferences, Dr. Scott Downey
  • Producer Procurement Processes, Dr. Mike Boehlje

All of these articles are meant to pique your interest in the survey results. For the full discussion and results, plan to join us at the National Conference. In addition to faculty-led presentations and panel discussions, there will be plenty of time for informal discussions among your industry peers about what’s happening in the marketplace.

We’ve been analyzing and digesting the data, both for crops and for livestock, and discussing initial results with our industry consortium partners. We are ready to share our insights with you and we look forward to adding your thoughts to the fold. We also look forward to joining you in better serving that ever-evolving and growing base of large-scale commercial producers.