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Putting the “culture” in Agriculture


I just started reading the recently released book The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund. One of the biggest things to hit me so far is the focus on how customers can use social interactions to get the sense of the “culture” of a business and gain insight into the values a company believes in. Baer and Naslund write “Your company culture consists of two key elements: Your business’ underlying intent and the people you bring together to carry it out.” In other words personal interactions and relationships built with people and faces of the company allow customers the opportunity to learn what the company believes in and it’s core values.  Another great point made in the book is : “Having a great product or business to sell is important. But if you truly have something of value to offer, the how and why you go about doing that are every bit as critical as the what.” To further define culture Baer and Naslund explain it consists of 3 parts:

○        Passion

○        Philosophy on how people who interact with the business are treated

○        Actions taken to prove your “culture”

We in agriculture need to work on building relationships with our customers (those buying and using our products) and share our values on “how and why we do what we do” with them. In farming, we may not have a formal customer service department to interact with our loyal customers and as a result they have no understanding of some of today’s innovative farm practices. On the flip side with no clear way to communicate with consumers farmers lose touch of societal shifts in eating habits and changes consumers may be wanting.  We are vital pieces of the food chain, however, the only personal interactions our customers have with people in the food chain are with the employees of the supermarkets or restaurants they frequent. Does the supermarket chain and its employees have the same values as farmers? Restaurants? I would hope so however I am not willing to risk my farming future on it. As farmers we need to be cognizant that the majority of our customers learn about farming from driving by our farms as they go about their daily routines and from their interactions at farmers markets. If our customers drive by an unkempt farm what impression are they left with? If the only personal relationship with someone in agriculture is those they meet at farmer’s markets what do they think of the rest of farmers? In agriculture we as farmers care greatly for the environment, animals and our communities, however are we conveying that message through relationships? For more on creating relationships please read Building Bridges, Connecting Communities.

A good friend of mine and fellow Agvocate Chris Chinn asked the question Who Is Telling the Story of Agriculture?” in a recent blog post. I would like to ask a different but similar question:

“What are you doing to tell the story of agriculture?”

Do you have to tell your story of agriculture online with social platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook? No, however you need to tell your story where you are comfortable doing so. Places such as schools, churches, civic groups and supermarkets are great opportunities to interact with others and share your values with them.

Another great way to show that we as farmers care for our communities is to sponsor roadside cleanups or community events. As a group farmers are some of the best stewards of local communities, however do those who live outside the local area see what we do? To bring more awareness to what we as farmers care about we can sponsor events in bigger communities to help others understand the “culture” of agriculture. If there are major roadways near your farm sponsor the cleanup of a section of roadway so the many cars driving by see that farmers care.

In addition to community support and social platforms other great ways to agvocate are speaking to local service and hobby groups like Larkin Martin from Alabama does. Laurie Kyle from Wisconsin uses her background working in a school library and nutrition degree to discuss inaccuracies she sees in articles by writing letters to the editor and adding comments to online articles.

Together we can put the “culture” back in Agriculture and tell the wonderful story farmers and rancher’s have to tell!

For more reading on “culture” here is a blog post I came across after this was originally posted: “Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time”

Dairy Fun

Dairy kids having fun
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Cow games – Follow the leader – Wordless Wednesday


Follow the leader

Here you can see how much our cows love to walk on the rubber mats that we have for them.

Agriculture – brand protection


More and more you hear companies saying we must protect our brand. What is meant by this is to make sure you brand is not being mentioned negatively, whether in traditional or emerging forms of media.

For those of us in Agriculture our “Brand” gets pretty fuzzy: Are we animal agriculture, plant agriculture, forestry, soy, corn, dairy, beef or any of the various segments of Agriculture?

In my opinion we are first and foremost “Agriculture” and that is the true brand we need to spend the time sharing our story about. We are doing a disservice to ourselves by using an age-old tactic of war “divide and conquer.” As the California Farm Bureau Federation President, Paul Wenger, said in his address to the Annual Meeting delegation, in Monterey, last December, “If you cut one farmer, we all bleed.”

I feel it is our duty as farmers, who collectively are some of the most knowledgeable people on this planet, to band together, share our story and promote “Agriculture” our brand.

Some great examples of unity and positive “Agriculture” promotion are the Agchat Foundation, the Farm American project  and the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. On a regional level I am personally a contributor to the Know a California Farmer effort and encourage others to do what they can to help promote “Agriculture”.

These projects are great examples of working together for all of agriculture, without showing favoritism and divisiveness.

Now, as “Agriculture,” we need to join together and support programs like these.

What things that happen on a farm are of interest and should be shared online by farmers?


What things that happen on a farm are of interest and should be shared online by farmers? Write an answer on Quora

What things that happen on a farm are of interest and should be shared online by farmers?

A visual insight to my dairy farm.


Although it is a few months old here is an awesome video of my dairy farm that was created by Brett Marty and Launch Squad for Evernote ( a great notetaking, web clipping & more program) . I keep thinking I will take occasional videos around the farm to post and every time I am reminded of this one and it is just so good I feel I cannot compete with it.

Excited to see farmers speaking up


I am extremely excited to see all of the blogs, tweets and status updates from farmers explaining that what the recent “undercover video” shows is not the norm. The pride I felt today while catching up with reading all the posts that I missed on vacation was amazing so I listed some below.

A few blogs in response to the video:

Farm Experience:

  • Dark Secrets of Farms by Michele Payn-Knoper — Michele provides insight into her personal experience on hundreds of dairy farms.  She talk about the common practices she’s seen employed on dairy farms.
  • Animal abuse: It’s disgusting by Tessa Curti Hall — Working as a vet, Tessa sees several dairy farms and urges people to understand the footage seen recently is disgusting and reflects a very rare occurrence.
  • Drama on the Farm, Farmer Attacked by Chris Chinn —  There are hazards in farming to that threaten the lives of farmers as they care for animals at times. This is the story of a nearby farmer caring for his herd when an accident took place.
  • Why I’m mad as hell by Connie Lechleitner — Connie talks about the emotions she went through as she watched the video and continued to think about it.  The reality is caring for animals only makes sense for farmers and anything else is unthinkable.

Community:

  • Hell yes, I’m mad by Jeff Vander Werff — Jeff provides some tips on the objectives groups have when they release video critical of agriculture achieve certain goals and why it requires individuals respond, whether the attack is personal or not.
  • My Thoughts On The Ohio Dairy Farm Abuse Video by Troy Hadrick — As a life-long cattleman, Troy outlines his thoughts around the veracity of things on the internet, importance for legal followup and how insulting it is that anyone could believe this is part of the community he belongs to.
  • Hey! Quit Picking On My Friends. Why I Thank A Farmer! by Eliz Greene — Eliz talks about how she has gotten to know farmers through stress management training.  She highlights how important it is for people to consider fairness and honesty as well as to question what they see by asking farmers for their perspective.
  • Zero tolerance needed on animal abuse by Mike Barnett — Mike says this should serve as a call to action for farmers to make it clear that agriculture doesn’t accept such abuse in its ranks and will pursue legal prosecution of anyone engaged in it.
  • Now More Than Ever by Kelly Rivard — The importance of community for agriculture is the focus of this post, starting with the neighbor across the fence and continuing to ag neighbors own the road and further afield.
  • I Just Can’t Get It, Don’t Want to Either by Janice Person — Having been on vacation when the news of abuse broke, Janice had a contrast of images running through her mind. She cannot understand the motives for such behavior and has decided to build on the images most common in ag even if she can’t forget.

Responding:

  • This Week’s Column: Farmers Hate Animal Abuse by Andy Vance — As an Ohio farm broadcaster and cattleman Andy has a unique local view into the motivation of groups like Mercy for Animals and the Humane Society of the US when it comes to the legal process.
  • Guest Post: Undercover Agendas by Mike Haley — Ohio farmers are among those most appalled by the behavior seen in the recent on-farm investigation and Mike talks about the thoughts that haunted him in the days after seeing the video and the questions it raised.
  • Mercy For Animals Ohio Dairy Farm Video Outrages the Agricultural Industry by Shaun Haney — Shaun provides an overview of the video, his thoughts, and links to the video, other blogs and imbedded the video comments by Ohio ag commissioner.

Different undercover footage same reaction from me: Outrage


I am hearing of some video footage coming from a dairy farm in Ohio that shows someone abusing an animal(s) and my reaction is the same as every time one of these “exposes” is brought to light.  I feel a response is so important I am taking time away from my family’s vacation to express my disgust with this behavior.

Every other farmer I know who cares for animals has at one time or another put those animals well being ahead of their own or their families time or needs. Wether it is treating a sick animal during the middle of the night after having been woken from a well deserved slumber to recover from the previous days long hours, or having to jump up from the dinner table to fix a water system so the animals have a cool refreshing drink. I firmly believe that the right thing to do when anyone observes another person abusing an animal they should immediately stop what they are doing and confront the person or report it to their supervisor if that is not effective then make contact with someone in a regulatory capacity. An employee who blatantly abusesan animal observes another employee doing the same without taking the appropriate action should  be immediately terminated.

Here are some of my previous thoughts on this topic:

Update on the Animal Rights activists use of sensationalism

January 27, 2010

I watched a investigative report on a major networks late night news show Nightline  that was about dairy farms. The sensationalism used in these stories is getting harder to watch as a second generation farmer whose family has cared for our animals comfort for nearly 40 years. I feel the media and activist groups use isolated incidents to create a sense of a major problem when quite the opposite is true. In the video I listened to the farmer say he does not stand for the improper care of animals and has previously fired employees for just that. I only wish he was able to express whether the employee(s) in this incident had been let go. If you want to see a video of animals on an average dairy you can see avideo I did for Evernote. the California Milk Advisory Board also has put together some great videos of average dairymen and dairy families throughout California.

The dairy farmers  in the United States are working toward implementing a best care practices program for animal care called the National Dairy FARM Program. when this program is in place we will have an animal care manual that all dairy farms can use to continue to provide the highest level of care for their animals.

A great friend of mine Jeff Fowle, a cattle rancher from northern California has a great post on his blog Common Sense Agriculture discussing  animal rights versus animal welfare and why we should pay close attention to the difference.

In addition the post I made on this topic in September of 2009 is still pertinent as is the post referenced below from Dino Giacomazzi.

Sensationalism and the Animal Rights movement

September 29, 2009

Below is a link to a blog post by a fellow California Dairyman Dino Giacomazzi. Dino does an awesome job highlighting the unnecessary pressure and sensationalism some Animal right groups are using to ban the docking of Cattle Tails in CA. This is all unnecessary because no farm or dairy group opposes the ban and one group even supports the ban now that the farmer can provide prompt care for an injured animal.
I’m not a farmer but I play one on TV!

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