Agriculture Must Focus and Personalize Its Message

Fodder for Thought

We need to make more personal contact with consumers and also thank them for their business.

Published on: September 6, 2012

"Farmers and ranchers feed the world."

"Thank a farmer."

These are common sayings among agricultural organizations and commodity groups. Many individuals in agriculture-advocacy circles also use these phrases from time to time for various purposes.

While I believe the intentions behind these statements mean well, I question whether it really does any good when it comes to customer relations. In the end, it likely does more to boost farmers’ egos than it does to engage our customers and build meaningful relationships.

Beef Producer blogger Andy Vance once said that it’s the middle 80% that matters most. The point of his observations was that we need to be mindful of what that 80%, those who are our customers, thinks of us and our industry.

At the same time we must also strive to not beat each other up over how we convey our story to that critical 80%.

It is not my intent to beat anyone up over the use of these phrases. Instead, I am just trying to understand how and if they hold real value and effectiveness in our efforts to share our stories and foster communication with the 80% of people who matter most to us.

So I ask, what does "feeding the world"’ and "thanking a farmer" really mean to our customers? Is this really something they can relate to?

They are indeed noble ideas but they are also broad and very general ideas. To make these ideas relatable, perhaps a more personal touch is needed.

Putting names with the faces of the farmers and ranchers ‘feeding the world’ and adding individual perspectives to these concepts through shared stories and experiences brings things to a level others can more easily relate to.

Efforts such as donating to local food banks, assisting with food in disaster-relief efforts and volunteering time or donating food for charitable causes are great examples of how farmers are ‘feeding the world’ right here at home.

I realize many are already doing just that through blogs and other social-media outlets. However, it is important we continue to encourage these efforts. It’s also important we do not lose sight of the real purpose of why we are doing all this -- meaning all of agriculture -- in the first place: for our customers.

While, we hope that our customers will "thank a farmer" for the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that are put into the food, fiber and fuel they produce, it is also important we take the time to thank a customer.

You see, without the customers agriculture has no incentive to continue on.

Agriculture was made possible from the very beginning because of trade. This exchange of goods provided incentive for individuals to specialize in farmed goods and generate surplus food. This in turn allowed further specialization in other areas by those who no longer needed to dedicate time to growing their own food.

From gate to plate, plate to gate, and all avenues in between, all are equally needed and equally just as important. Let us not forget that.