It wasn't that long ago that "rural lifestyle" was a new phrase and a new market segment. Today, for many dealerships the rural lifestyle market is a significant and growing revenue stream. Now, there's a new rural catchphrase - urban ruralism. Urban ruralists are those people who live in the city, but are finding ways to grow their own food in creative and resourceful ways, from container gardens to patio greenhouses. These urban food plots aren't necessarily small. One "warehouse farm" in Chicago will soon total 150,000 square feet.

Ag marketer Kristi Moss of Paulsen Marketing describes the market this way: "The urban ruralist walks on concrete, but dreams of grass." She raises interesting points in a recent blog post about the opportunities for this new market segment:

"There's a market for seed, for small greenhouses, for perennials, for fencing, for proper companion animal (and chicken!) housing. There's a market for feed, for tools, for animal care and for knowledge," Moss says.

Unfortunately, most of these urban ruralists are not purchasing tractors or UTVs or riding mowers - yet. I still think there's opportunity here for rural lifestyle dealers to create customers. Perhaps the container gardeners of today might be the rural property owners of tomorrow. It's not so much that they want to green up their patio, but that they want to grow their own food. That's a passion that can grow with each season.  And, what about the food that can't be grown in the city, such as meat or grain? Those local food enthusiasts are turning to the traditional rural lifestyler or farmer - your current customer.

The point is to see the connection to customers everywhere. It's smart business to partner and support organizations like FFA, 4-H and commodity groups. But, maybe as the city gets a little closer to the country, it might be time to see what opportunities await in that rural/urban belt.

For instance, how many of you sell equipment adaptable for very small areas, such as push mowers or string trimmers? Are you only marketing to your current customer lists and rural zip codes? Test the market and see if those urban ruralists might find exactly what they need at your dealership. A good starting place to find groups of urban ruralists or local food enthusiasts is to do a Google search for a city and the words "local food" or "slow food."

These customers are as hungry for knowledge as they are for locally grown food. You provide that knowledge. You provide a glimpse into how they can go beyond local food to a self-sustaining lifestyle. You just have to make sure they know everything you have to offer and create that new customer base.

Lynn Woolf,
Managing Editor
Rural Lifestyle Dealer