Farmers, may I have your autograph, please?


Woo-hoo! Pretend you’ve all opened a fortune cookie, and the little message says this: You’re going to be famous.

It’s been building for a couple years, and you’ve been pounding the pavement to the auditions, but one food trend spotter says “2012 will bring an added emphasis to a different kind of food celebrity — the farmer.”

You. You’re a rock star. The world wants to meet you.

“… interest in the farm-to-fork journey has grown considerably, inspired in part by food safety scares and, more importantly, a desire to know how the food we are serving our families is being produced,” writes food marketing expert and ConAgra Foods spokesman Phil Lempert.

Whether you call it farm to fork, or gate to plate, or some other catchy phrase, it all comes back to this: We like to know who raises/grows/produces our food.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. We know the obvious physical importance of food, and most of us also have made an emotional connection with food (how many of us gathered around the table to celebrate the recent holidays?). With so much of our lives revolving around food, quite frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for this food-consumer-farmer bond to take place.

Some of you raise “commodity crops” like corn and soybeans, and may feel removed from this food hoopla. But consumers see any farmer as a food producer (and really, you all are, even if you’re producing livestock feed or food ingredients).

It’s about health, trust, the environment, energy, sustainability, food safety, and the economy. What farmers do stretches into all these facets of our lives, and beyond.

I know I’ve written about this before (and here), but even I probably don’t grasp the enormity of this paradigm shift, and the opportunities it presents for ag innovators.

Steve Jobs once said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

January is always a great time to dream, to reimagine, to plot, to plan. The devil’s in the February-December details, but if not now, when?

As a pithy quote collector, I give you another one from media insider and author: “You can always find reasons not to do things. Then fine, don’t do them. Far more interesting and useful is to explore what might happen if you do them.”

We use the excuse (pick your poison) — “We’ve always done it this way,” or “It won’t work,” or “It’s not necessary,” or “I don’t know how” or “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, or my all-time favorite, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” — to avoid changing our farms. Why is that?

Instead, one expert suggests focusing on three key questions: What can we do to run the business better? What can we do to grow the business? and What can we do to transform the business?

We all know fame is fleeting. So if you want to keep your celebrity status, be less like a one-hit wonder and more like Tony Bennett or George Strait. They are classic superstars because they evolve with the changing times.

Can you?

By Susan Crowell


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