Leadership

Prime Future 86: Let’s not kid ourselves – 2 narratives that need to go.

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A wise industry leader recently described the elaborate R&D system within their production system as having one primary purpose, to “know I’m not kidding myself.” #goals

There are 2 pervasive ideas floating around the ag industry that are the epitome of kidding ourselves. They get thrown around on social media, at trade shows, and anywhere else producers gather. They are two sides of the same coin:

  1. The idea that farmers need to be thanked.
  2. The idea that consumers need to be educated.

Let’s talk about why those ideas are destructive, how they are connected, and the empowering narrative that should replace them.

‘Thank a farmer’ is not just a harmless pro-industry sentiment, it’s hubris:

  1. It’s industry level self-aggrandizing, and self-aggrandizement is not endearing to anyone but the aggrandizing. This drives the wedge further between producer and end user, mentally.
  2. Do you thank a plumber? an electrician? a trucker? a software engineer? a grocery store stocker? or any of the other jobs that keep a well-functioning society humming along? Implicit in the ‘thank a farmer’ mentality is the idea that the work of farmers is more important than the work of anyone else.
  3. Most importantly, it egregiously flips the narrative from “what have I done lately for my customers?” to “what have my customers done lately for me?”

And, obviously, no producer is in ag to be thanked. They might be in the business of agriculture because….

  • The financial returns meet your objectives.
  • Like the business, or the people.
  • Like the lifestyle it allows you to live.
  • Feel a sense of purpose and pride in producing something tangible.
  • See land as the best long term investment and agriculture as an industry that will always exist. People gotta eat.

…or a million other compelling reasons. Needing an external pat on the back is not one of them. It’s a silly & superficial premise to begin with.

Related, here’s why the idea of ‘educating consumers’ is also destructive:

  1. Abraham Lincoln established the land grant university system in 1862 which means we have 160 years of agricultural research backing up every aspect of how we produce food. And then we dump that 160 years of research onto the unsuspecting consumer that just was looking for the slightest reason to feel even better about buying pork loin at the meat case. Not ideal.
  2. It’s arrogant. It puts the burden on consumers to learn something that they may or may not be interested in learning, because we want them to do so.
  3. It’s hubris. It assumes that once consumers know what we know, then they’ll see it our way. Look I also prefer grain finished beef but if there’s a market for grass finished beef, for the love of capitalism, somebody produce some grass finished beef!
  4. Which consumers are we talking about? Consumers are not a monolith – there are a million sub-segments, that continue to further sub-segment.

Producers & processors who talk about educating consumers are kidding themselves. That’s not a thing. That’s an expensive path and a terrible use of time and capital. It’s a great way to spin our wheels and end up talking amongst ourselves with righteous indignation, lamenting those poor dummy consumers who aren’t buying our product as we think they ought. Sigh…

Do you see how these 2 ideas are connected?

Both narratives put producers at the center of the universe, expecting to bend consumer demands to the will of the producer.

But that’s not how capitalism works.

Whether we have trade associations to thank for generating these two ideas and embedding them in the psyche of American agriculture, or whether they were already embedded and trade associations simply tap into them, I do not know. But it’s time for these ideas to go.

I’m convinced the mentality behind these two ideas is what keeps folks complaining that it’s not how it used to be, instead of finding the opportunity in how it will be.

The alternative narrative is one that is as familiar to forward thinking producers as the air they breathe. It’s what every free market enterprise in the world has to do.

Create new value.

Market new value.

Capture new value.

No other industry educates, they M-A-R-K-E-T.

Forward thinking producers & processors are enterprising value creators that anticipate their customers’ wants & needs, and deliver accordingly.

Create new value. Market new value. Capture new value. Until that value is commoditized (look, its the nature of the business) and then find new value. Repeat forever, or at least as long as you want to be in this game.

Enterprising value creators don’t defend, they create. Don’t justify, they adapt. Don’t feel stuck, they pioneer.

They don’t kid themselves.

If industry associations want to move the needle in the right direction, the first step is to scrap every scheduled social media post or campaign that includes these outdated and misguided concepts.

I suppose it’s ironic I’m writing about this topic since the producers that drink their own koolaid are not the ones interested in emerging trends, technology & innovation in livestock, meat, and dairy. Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. 🙃

Back to emerging trends next week. What a time to be alive!

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