The National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) has released results of the first comprehensive national survey of "rural lifestyle residents," identifying that a substantial portion of rural households starting at only three-plus acres raise companion horses and additional livestock, own tractors, and are active buyers of country-living products and services.
The NAFB study measures this still-emerging consumer market segment at 26% of all U.S. households — and 69 million people.
Respondents among 2,000 households across the 48-state sample expressed strong attachment to radio, as an information and entertainment medium, and to the individual stations they favor. The survey also collected extensive new data about ownership of companion and livestock animals, property energy sources, plans to construct out buildings, rural-based retailers favored, and way-of-life information sources.
"The demographic and market data we have assembled substantiates this tremendous and very diverse segment of consumers," observed Roger Olson of Rural Lifestyle Media, who was contracted by NAFB to steer the project. "This is not the farm market — this is a huge and varied consumer group that has its own needs, preferences, and interests."
The following were among the key findings and insights from The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Report:
• Residents are not just in C and D counties as defined by Census populations, but are also within A and B counties.
• Stereotypes of low income, low employment, and limited disposable income — "myths of this market," says Olson — are unfounded; in fact, income level for many exceeds the U.S. Census median income of $44,684.
• Consumption of radio programming is strong, with 51-million age 18+ rural lifestyle adults being frequent listeners, there is a marked appetite for traditional agricultural news, including weather and markets.
The national response sample was derived selectively from residents considered "not in a place" by the U.S. Census, meaning their household is not within an incorporated city, town or village, or within a Census Data Place (CDP). The project was conducted by Ag Media Research, Sioux Falls, SD, a member of CASRO (Council of American Survey Research Organizations) and well-known as a ratings and research provider to agribusiness media and marketers.
Rural lifestyle living continues to attract individuals and families escaping urban population density, to claim space and quality-of-life amenities unavailable in the city. Some commute, some work from home, others are fully or partly retired. Some are so-called "weekenders" enjoying second homes in the country. Some "permanents" are making part-time incomes - out of need or hobby-related - from raising livestock or other small commercial ventures.
The new NAFB research showed that many in the rural lifestyle audience are looking for radio content in areas such as yard and garden advice, property maintenance, fishing, hunting, and business reports. Other areas of interest include companion animal care and livestock production.
While most live on the wide-open acres of unincorporated rural America, more and more reside in "urban circles" within a reasonable driving commute of large cities including Des Moines, Denver, Minneapolis, Louisville, and St. Louis. Land ownership is extensive among the rural lifestyle set, and acreages trend heavily at three-plus, five-plus, and larger.
Another phenomenon with the rural lifestyle audience is something that is familiar to many in the large-animal health industry. This is the "identity projection" of people who are involved in an activity that is seen as defining a person. It is not uncommon for a producer who owns 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans and a small herd of cattle to define himself or herself as a "rancher."
Similarly, the habits of rural lifestyle residents defining themselves as "living in the country" begin with merely three acres of land. Of course, the amount of land a person has determines the crops, plants, livestock and the need for equipment associated with these activities. But surprisingly, many of the rural lifestylers are starting the activities associated with rural living and rural land ownership with 3-plus acres.
Sponsors of the research are the NAFB Foundation, J.L. Farmakis Inc., the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Propane Education & Research Council.
For more information about The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Report, contact Roger Olson at 715/386-9361 or