Thorough Assessment Is Part of Marketing Plan

SWOT planning checklist
A SWOT analysis asks entrepreneurs to list their operation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to help determine their best path to success. Photo courtesy UTIA.

SWOT—it sounds like something from the Department of Homeland Security, but it’s really a necessary step in any thorough marketing plans.

Direct farm marketers in Tennessee should conduct a SWOT analysis as part of their marketing plan before producing farm products. A SWOT analysis asks entrepreneurs to list their operation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to help them determine their best path to success. For direct farm marketers, the assessment might include listing labor resources and marketing and customer service skills as well as external conditions such as the demand for local products, competition and regulatory requirements.

Megan Bruch Leffew, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Extension’s Center for Profitable Agriculture, said that community farmers markets are one example of a common opportunity in Tennessee for selling farm products direct to consumers. “Ask yourself where those markets are, when they are in operation, and whether they are accepting new vendors,” she said. “It is also good to determine opportunities for new or different crops and farm products as well as whether there is already an established customer base at those markets.”

On the other hand, the marketing expert said operations need to assess existing conditions, or “threats,” that might limit opportunities. “Determine if the products you plan to grow are already available at the market,” said Leffew. “Also, will you be able to continue already profitable production while taking on the new market channel? Sometimes an apparent new opportunity can actually be a threat if it takes time away from what you are already doing well.”

Also, regulatory requirements may take significant effort or investment by producers. “Be sure to find out if there are any specific zoning, permitting or other regulatory requirements related to a new marketing channel,” said Leffew.

For more information about different direct farm marketing strategies, Leffew recommends the UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB 1796), available for free at your county UT Extension office or online at  Click on the link to “Publications” and search for the title.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a joint effort of University of Tennessee Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.


The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Megan Bruch Leffew, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,