By JAMIE SEARS RAWLINGS
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — Jennie Schutte and her husband, Walt Patrick, grew up on dairy farms, and in many ways, their 120-acre Pilaroc Farms in Fayetteville, Tenn., has the same tools that those family farms had for generations.
But Schutte does have one tool in her belt that her father never had—a bigger megaphone with which to tell the story of her farm, her family and their products.
Spending her career before Pilaroc as an advertising and marketing executive for agriculture products and then later as a salesman of animal health products, Schutte knows how to wield communications and marketing strategies to better promote her family’s pork and beef business.
The tools available to young farmers today, combined with expertise in how to use them, is something Schutte knows gives her an advantage over the farm she grew up on.
“My dad could tell you anything imaginable about his cows, but he wouldn’t be able to do it to as broad audience like we can,” she says.
“He was really proud of his farm, and my mom and what they did, but he had a limited audience to the guys at the local grain mill and some seed corn dealers.”
“I get to tell our story to thousands and thousands of people every day.”
Indeed on social media sites Facebook and Instagram, where Schutte shares photos of cows and pigs alongside pictures of her three children working on the farm, she reaches nearly 2,000 viewers, who chat with her about recipes she’s shared, Name-A-Pig Contests and upcoming Farmers’ Market schedules.
Reviewers on the social media platforms call Pilaroc’s products “the best hamburger meat” and the “most mouthwatering steaks.”
Nate Wolfe, a Pilaroc customer of nearly a year, agrees with the reviews. When he initially connected with Schutte and Patrick at a local festival, he says he found in the couple’s pork and beef products the answer to his growing dismay with grocery meat.
“I retired from the grocery industry with 42 years, so I feel like I am able to look at a piece of meat and determine whether or it’s a high quality or not,” he says.
“I think even without it being labeled select or prime quality, Pilaroc’s is a finer quality,” he says.
“It’s got better marbling and the flavor is just better.”
Emily Polak, curator of the Instagram handle and blog Huntsville Foodie, agrees with Wolfe’s assessment of the meat that Pilaroc provides.
She told her readers and followers as much after, Schutte sought her out and asked if she could share some cuts of meat with the blogger, another way in which Schutte has harnessed the power of social media to help garner attention for her product in a different market.
Polak calls the arrangement “unique,” having never seen a food blogger in her area feature food from a farmer directly instead of through a restaurant or market.
In a blog post in July, Polak featured each of the cuts of meat provided by Pilaroc and then warned her readers, “once you taste this meat, you may never go back to store-bought.”
Polak says the relationship she formed through the social media interactions and meetings with Schutte was mutually beneficial.
“It was neat to see it be successful for her farm as well as for me,” she says.
Beyond its ability to help keep and attract new customers for her farm, Schutte believes it’s a mandate for the current generation of farmers to be vocal about the industry.
“I feel like we have to have a presence on social media as a form of advertising and as a cheap inexpensive way to get the word out about us, but also to help tell the story of agriculture,” she says.
“I think that’s a responsibility of farmers to do a better job of telling our individual stories.”
“We have to do a better job of telling our story and how we do what we do ethically and responsibility by bringing it to back to agriculture and the land. That’s part of our responsibility to make sure that the audiences that aren’t on farms every day trust us.”