People seek out
my work because I’m
known as a person
Her passion is evident. She still owns
the descendants of a family of cows
she bought when she was 12, and she
and her husband built a farm in west
central Indiana. She’s proud to be
involved in farming.
There are a number of benefits to
having a small speaking niche, Payn-Knoper says. For example, after a
career in agriculture, she was able to
leverage her vast network to kick off her
“You’re able to tap into the business
you’ve been a part of,” she says.
With your network firmly in place, she
explains, identify relevant business tools,
then apply them to your own business.
“Many of the product and
marketing ideas that are shared at
NSA won’t work in agriculture, but
some can be adapted,” she says. “For
example, founding NSA XY [a group
of NSA members who are Generation
XY] taught me the value of a social
As a result, Payn-Knoper has
become well known for using social
media tools to build food literacy. She
founded AgChat (hashtag: #AgChat),
a weekly conversation on Twitter
about agriculture that has had 2,300
participants from eight countries. Most
recently, she spearheaded a group to
launch the AgChat Foundation, a not-
for-profit to empower farmers and
ranchers to use social media to tell
Damian Mason does a mean Bill Clinton
impersonation. When he started his speaking business, Executive Entertainment,
it was all about comedy. Today, Mason
brings the funny—but now, he brings it to
the world of agriculture.
Why agriculture? Because that’s
where his experience, knowledge and
passion lie. Mason, who was raised on
a farm and has his own farm in Indiana,
earned a degree in agricultural economics
from Purdue University.
There are few people who can speak
about agriculture, he notes. “And there
are fewer people who can do agriculture
and do funny,” he says.
As the humorous farmer, Mason has
successfully carved out a niche within a
niche. Agriculture now represents about
half of his business, he says.
“It’s a unique niche because there are
not a lot of people, percentage-wise,
who are involved in agriculture,” he
explains. “There are 2.5 million farms
in this country, and less than half make
their full-time living off the farm.”
But if you’re thinking of entering the
agricultural niche, beware, Mason warns.
“It’s an advantage to have a niche,
for sure, but it doesn’t mean you can
pick one out of the blue,” he says.
It’s important to find something
you’re passionate about—and something
you know well.
“You can probably get up and
tell a customer service story even if
you’ve never been a customer service
representative. However, you cannot
fake agriculture,” he says. “If you’ve
never planted a crop or run a grain truck,
you’re not going to be able to fake it.”
While agriculture is a specialty niche,
it’s not just about farmers, Mason
notes. He speaks to farm bureaus, state
bankers associations, equipment sales
people and chemical companies.
Having a niche is helpful, Mason
says, but he’s found success by