Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Excuse for Not Meeting Customers' Demands?

I am a connoisseur of ag related blogs. Lots of my friends and colleagues write, read and comment on these blogs and I like to stay up-to-date on what's happening in my beloved industry.

There's plenty of blogs to choose from ...
But lately ... I haven't been able to digest anything I've read. 

I am tired of hearing this phrase - "we feed the world" as an excuse for why I should stop eating at Chipotle. I've also read it in blogs talking about conventional vs. organic/naturally grown foods and in the GMO debate.

To me - a lover of Chipotle's food, a proponent of GMOs and someone in favor of cashing in on niche marketing - "We feed the world" is the "my dog ate my homework" of the ag industry.

Why do we insist on making excuses? Yes, farmers in America are working hard every single day to raise crops with higher yields than last year, raise livestock humanely and preserve the land for the next generation. I get that. And yes, it's something to be proud of ... but it's our job to do it better and to give the people what they want.

If the automobile industry didn't keep improving their product, we'd all be driving 1966 Ford Mustangs ... because they are about the coolest looking car in the world. Instead, we now have vehicles equipped with things like cupholders, airbags and anti-lock brakes to name a few. Heck, I've even got a fancy back-up camera in my truck and a sunroof. Ford could have just stopped after the 1966 Mustang, and our sodas would have flown all over the place when we take corners at 35 mph. [Then again, not everyone drives like I do...]

I would look so cool in this!
We in agriculture keep working to better our products, just like the automotive industry. We want to use less resources (like water, pesticides, herbicides, etc.), improve our bottom line and ultimately produce more corn, wheat, alfalfa, beef, chicken, apples, berries, cucumbers, etc., because the population is growing. Why did Henry Ford perfect the assembly line? To streamline the process. To make it easier for Americans to own a car. Again, similar to the car makers, we couldn't stay in 1966 because ultimately our CONSUMERS wanted more and they want options while grocery shopping like low fat yogurt, Certified Angus Beef, wasabi flavored crackers or blood oranges.

That's right, the consumers (those who buy our products and feed them to their families), demand more from those that grow their food.

  • They demand safety. Luckily for them, we have the safest food supply in the world ... but there's always room for improvement.
  • They want choices. Think about it people, we're not all driving Toyota Prius or Ford F-250s. Similarly we can't expect everyone to enjoy Filet Mignon, twinkies or gluten free sustainably grown kale chips equally --- there has to be something for everyone.
     
  • They want to know the people who grow the food. Why do you think there's lots of car commercials showing the people who work in the factory smiling and doing their jobs? Because the people want to know and trust those that are growing (making) our products. By providing an open dialogue and explaining what happens on our farms and ranches, we are making strides here folks.
People like my brother and the rest of my family are working hard on the farm.
Now, you can hate on Monsanto and other biotechnology companies all you want. But their innovations and research create jobs, and a few years down the road farmers plant these products and they make their way to your table. It takes all kind of kinds. Without companies investing in biotechnology research, we would all be attempting to crossbreed tomatoes in our backyard. I don't think it's feasible for every family to grow their own food. Because boyfriend and I would starve ... I have tried to grow a garden, and turns out my thumb isn't green. But I do trust vegetable farmers to grow something healthy and delicious to serve alongside my home raised beef at supper time.

Feeding the world is a group effort. If the consumers demand more from their food, it's our job as agriculturists to give it to them. If they want GMO-free, grass fed pork and hand-picked wild rice ... it's our job to figure out how to grow these products and get them to the customer. But, those that demand these products will more than likely be willing to pay a premium. To those of us in marketing, it's our job to capitalize here.

It's a vicious cycle! But, I think our industry is up to the challenge. We have buckets of smart people graduating with agriculture degrees across the country very soon and I hope they're up to the challenge of meeting the consumers' demands.

We'll need to work together to raise the organic, natural, non-GMO, hormone-free, gluten free, etc., products that the public wants and figure out how to .... you guessed it .... feed the world.

This growing population will still need to be fed. Just because there are still a few 1966 Ford Mustangs left, doesn't mean I'm driving one. Instead I have a late model Ford F150, because I enjoy anti-lock breaks and cupholders. Plus, I will trust the automotive industry to provide me with a newer vehicle when the time comes. I just bet it'll be safer, be better for the environment and maybe even a few colors to choose from --- similar to the produce, grains, meat and poultry that my fellow agriculturists will be growing to fill the grocery stores at that time.

Until Next Time,
Robin

P.S. - I've thought about writing this blog for a while. I opted not to quote any of the "annoying" blogs, and instead make it more of an opinion piece. Please respect others in the comments below.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#FlemingFarm

We bought a house.

It's a precious old farm house, built in 1910 or 1912 (depends on which piece of paper you look at). It's so cute.

We signed the papers last Wednesday. It was a scary, awesome, exciting feeling. We own a house!

It looks like this. [Please excuse my iPhone photos below. I plan to break out the real camera soon.]

Notice the seafoam green ceiling on the front porch? Seafoam green will be haunting my dreams.

We have already started remodeling. As I stated above, there's seafoam green on the porch ... and in the living room, the dining, room, the upstairs hallway, the office and the basement. Little by little, seafoam green will be disappearing.

Here's a fine specimen. Also, anyone need an organ?
There's also different colors of (ugly) carpeting in each room. It will be going away to dumpster heaven this weekend.

Electric blue carpet and periwinkle walls. My neutral palette is going to be a shock!
We have lots of painting and planning and packing and unpacking and junk throwing away to do. [Probably not in that order.] But it's exciting ... and it OURS! We hope to be moved in May.

Stay tuned for more photos and updates. Also, you can always follow me on Instagram here, or the #FlemingFarm hashtag to see progress.

Until next time,
Robin