Farmer testing squad key to product reliability

Farmer testing squad key to product reliability

1 August 2022

Reliable farm equipment and clothing start with a commitment to ongoing improvements based on real farmer feedback. We meet with Test Squad farmers Belinda Price of Taranaki, and Amy White from Marlborough, to hear about them putting products through their paces.

Like all farmers, Belinda and Amy know what they need when it comes to farm equipment and workwear - quality gear that will stand up to weather, hard work and tough, changeable conditions.

This is why their opinions, and those of other farmers around the country have been sought to bring genuine insight into the product development process for Farm Source's 360 and Country Mile brands.

"Behind 360 and Country Mile, there has been a fair amount of design innovation and testing before it even gets to our stores," says Terry Gardiner, the brand's Strategic Sourcing Manager. "Our team are involved in a rigorous quality assurance program involving factory and independent testing across all products," he says.

"This ensures they deliver both quality and trusted value. We back this up with a store warranty to ensure our farmers are confident the product will do the job intended."

The 360 brand has been developed specifically to meet the daily demands of New Zealand farmers. Many garments within the current workwear range have been developed by extensive on-farm testing. The resulting individual farmer feedback has then been used to define the final features and construction.

The Country Mile brand is well-established and known by farmers for its affordable range of animal health, agrichemical, dairy shed supplies and fencing products, and has been in market for more than a decade. New products in the Country Mile range are continually trialled with our test squad to ensure products deliver in terms of value and quality.

"Since the introduction of these brands, we're always looking to innovate and improve the product range" says Gardiner. "To that end, we created a testing squad of farmers from across New Zealand," he says. "Belinda, Amy, and their fellow testers trial a range of products from both brands and provide honest and constructive feedback. This feedback influences future product development and plays a key role in providing our farmers with purpose-designed products when used regularly on farm, meet and hopefully sometimes, exceed their expectations," he says.

The squad is provided with various items and then asked for specific feedback, such as how durable and waterproof each item is. With the 360 clothing range, the team is also asked for feedback on colour, fit, durability, comfort, fabric drying time and seam strength.

Belinda has been in the squad for about a year. "My team and I have tested mostly the wet-weather gear at this stage, and some of the aprons," she says. "I was asked if I wanted to be part of it and I thought it was a great idea, to be part of making the products farmers use every day. So far I've been impressed with the gear we have received."

"Farmer feedback is important as we're wearing it day in and day out, so it needs to be worth the money you spend on it. We usually spend a lot on protective clothing and wet weather gear, and will only buy what is long-lasting and does what it needs to do."

Amy White joined the squad a year ago, too. Her first trial of gear turned up in July last year. She tests them daily in real farming situations, such as working in the rain, wind, and whatever weather comes her way. She then reports back on her findings.

Her local Farm Source store manager nominated her for the testing squad and she says the experience has been great. "I enjoyed testing the wet weather gear in the rain since I stayed dry!" she jokes. "But truly, it's great trying the latest products and providing feedback on anything that enables continual improvements season to season."

Like Belinda, Amy sees her role as a key one. "Getting farmer feedback on the products is important. Farmers are the ones buying the products. We want quality and value with long-lasting products that are guaranteed to work as hard as we do. There's no point in spending money on products that break after a few weeks' hard use. I was given a pair of 360 gumboots, where I would normally buy a competitor offering, but I love milking in them due to their comfort and lightness."

The 360 and Country Mile team plan to continue the test squad as an ongoing commitment to building the brands to meet the needs of kiwi farmers.

To view or purchase 360 or Country Mile products, visit nzfarmsource.co.nz/360 or nzfarmsource.co.nz/countrymile.