Aileen Barron is a woman in agriculture with more than just skills on the farm.
Growing her agri-marketing business from just a seed, Aileen has combined her strong marketing degree with her complete understanding of the farming sector to make an agri-marketing business that’s helping agribusinesses across Ireland and abroad.
Aileen grew up in Waterford on a family farm, and it was this lifestyle that engrained in her the drive she needed to create Green Acre Marketing.
“Growing up on a farm, you have a self-employed feel within the family. It’s naturally engrained in you to work hard for yourself. There’s no such thing as 9-5 in your mind when you’re on a farm!” explained Aileen.
Aileen with Simon Coveney, former Minister for Agriculture and current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government
Aileen was on maternity leave with her second child when she decided to work on her idea for Green Acre Marketing. At a time when most women think they deserve some downtime from their day job, Aileen broke the mould and began creating an entirely new career!
It was in March 2014 that she officially started working as a sole trader business. Alone, she built up Green Acre Marketing as something that Irish agribusinesses needed. Marketing is an intensely vital tool for any business, but Aileen found that there seemed to be limited options for those in agribusiness.
“You might have hired a marketing company to help you with flyers for a dairy event, and without the right knowledge, they’ll produce a flyer with a beef cow on it,” says Aileen.
“Being a marketing business with total knowledge of the farming sector means that clients can ring us up without having to first explain themselves and what they do in too much detail, like they would with a marketing firm that has no idea about farming.
“I had a bit of a background in marketing for the agri-sector before; but I identified that there were no marketing support services designed just for agribusinesses. They’re short-resourced, because most marketing agencies don’t have agri-knowledge.”
Aileen has a degree in Agribusiness and Marketing from GMIT, a Postgraduate Diploma in Sales Management from UCD’s Smurfit Business School and a Diploma in Digital Marketing, giving her everything she needs to give clients the support they need. The business grew exponentially in 2016, with two new members joining her team. At the moment, Aileen is Managing Director, Lisa Dunphy is Head of Communications and Events, and Sheena Hopper is Head of Digital Marketing. For Aileen, she considers her team to be more than just staff; they help to drive the business forward in every way.
She now has over 35 agribusinesses working with her, and since farming is mostly seasonal, she can offer a range of agri-services and support at the right time when agribusinesses need it most. Her team’s knowledge in nutrition and agronomy paired with their experience being farmers’ daughters themselves, Green Acre Marketing can understand an agri-business’ aims without any delay.
The company offers a range of services to agribusinesses including event management, literature design and development, digital marketing development, advertising campaigns, PR and marketing mentoring. An important part of marketing is working on how the customer perceives the business, its brand, its company and its product.
“We work with international businesses as well, because there are companies that want to do work here in Ireland but they don’t know how our sector operates, or how our marketing systems are. We help them by offering them the right knowledge of Irish farming, media, and networks.”
The false idea that some people may have about agriculture is something that Aileen is passionate about rectifying: “Some people think of farming as a very specific role where you have to be out on the field or have grown up in a farming environment. If you don’t come from a farm, you can still have a great career in agriculture.”
“Young people are interested in agribusiness, but they think that if they’re not from a farm, then they can’t do it. If you want to be an accountant for example, you can specialise in agriculture,” adds Aileen.
The Green Acre Marketing website offers more than just contact information for prospective clients; Aileen has worked on producing helpful blog posts on various topics relevant to agri-businesses; one of which focuses on preparing for the autumn and winter months. You can read it here.
Aileen was one of the pilot participants in the ACORNS programme, a rural development initiative to support business start-ups for women outside of urban areas. The scheme, which was funded by the Department of Agriculture, has helped to create thriving businesses outside of cities that may never have been brought to fruition.
“It was probably one of the better things I’ve ever done. It was great being around very like-minded people, and you could bounce your ideas off them and learn from one another. I could learn from their mistakes and they could learn from mine.”
Green Acre Marketing has been officially recognised for its success, as it was nominated for an Agribusiness Award in 2016 in the ‘Provision of Professional Services’ category.
“We didn’t win,” laughs Aileen, “but it was great to be nominated! The business is less than three years old, after all.”
Her plans for the future are optimistic but do-able for a business that has grown so much in such a short space of time.
“I want to be able to grow the business with the best people possible. We’re striving to be the best in agri-marketing services, for Irish and international agribusinesses. That’s the thing about this business; it’s all built around people. We need to find the best people to join us.”
In the future, Aileen hopes to expand the range of services that she currently provides and make everything work on a much larger scale. Check out her website here for more information.