Real Conversations About Agriculture

No need to thank me. Let me thank you!

Today is National Ag Day. That is, as I sit to write this, it is March 14th, National Ag Day, and in the middle of National Ag Week, March 10-16, 2019. Today was set aside to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Today, you may have been encouraged to thank a farmer. You may have been told that each American Farmer feeds more than 165 people (up from 25 people in 1960’s). You may have been asked to appreciate the role agriculture plays in your everyday life by providing you with safe and affordable food products aplenty. Perhaps you were told to value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong US economy or to understand how food and fiber are produced in America. On Ag Day, we ask the consumer to sit up and take notice of the significant worth of what we do every single day.

In a March 8, 2019 Agweb.com article, guest columnist Katie Miller, a managing partner of IMB cattle with experience in protein marketing, works to bridge the gap between production agriculture, the food production industry and the consumer. She advocates, and I paraphrase, that rather than get our noses out of joint about being misunderstood and under-appreciated, we should instead thank our customers for letting us serve them. Appreciate that they do business with us, and in return we should strive to continue to offer the best products and service possible. She urges us to listen to the consumers questions, answer them omitting any condescending or reproachful tone, and thank them for the opportunity to tell your story. In short, check your entitlement at the door, start a dialogue, and extend some graciousness to the consumer and greater community that supports you. Maybe then we will get some of the appreciation we seek.

On a recent air flight, Louise and I struck up a conversation with our seat mate. How did the conversation begin? She was snacking on some Jack Link’s jerky. We told her that the jerky she was eating was packaged a few miles from our home. She was thrilled! She loves the stuff. We also learned that this city girl from Honolulu, Hawaii, is a loyal fan of the “Incredible Dr. Pol” TV series on National Geographic Wild featuring a veterinarian who practices in central Michigan. In fact, going to Michigan to meet Dr. Pol in person is on her bucket list. When she learned that we were in production agriculture, she peppered us with questions making a very long flight seem very short. Although I’m not sure she quite yet understands that Michigan and South Dakota are not next door from each other, she learned a lot. We learned a lot and became fast friends. It is safe to say that she was delighted to receive the several packages of Jack Link’s Jerky that we shipped to her upon our return home.

I encourage you to strike up a dialogue with those you come in contact whether it be in person or through social media. Thank them for consuming our products and ask them how we might serve them even better. To those who consume the products that we in American agriculture produce, thank you. To all of those involved in the process of getting our commodities in the hands of the consumer, from the seed genetics researcher, to the veterinarian, to the line worker at the packing plant, to the spray coupe driver and more, thank you. You are part of a great team!

Image Credit: Alex Kraus

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