Archive for Thoughts

Does The Farmer Brand Need A New Logo?

Bill Bakan the "Fun Tsar" and Pumpkin Launcher

Greetings from Bill Bakan, Farmer Bill the “Fun TSAR” at Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery.  I was encouraged to comment on a post on Just Farmers by a friend of mine.  Seth Teter with the Ohio Farm Bureau had just put up a blog post on February 9th entitled “Farmers are People too”.  He made some excellent points and also asked for input.  I did so and a few of the folks who follow and read the blog suggested I offer it as a blog post itself.  Recently the “pot was stirred” a bit you might say on with the Dodge Ram commercial.  The wake was almost as impressive as the splash itself.  I’ll put a few words about me at the bottom if you are still interested in learning a little more about me but I’m really “Just a Farmer”!  The following is my post in the comment section:

At one time the “farmer” had but one “image” replicated over and over in children’s story books as the kindly gentleman in bibs and straw hat chewing on a reed of grass. It was a “Brand” almost a “logo” before Nike, Under Armor, or McD’s had meaning. It represented those images flashed upon the national stage before us in a 2 minute montage’ this past Sunday, during the “Big Game”.
Farming was simple when the brand was cast, it is not so much today. Back in the Day the virtues of a farmer extended not much farther than a person whom ensured the absence of hunger and a pillar within the community their families helped to build. No bumper stickers needed you saw them every day and the worlds were intertwined.

Today I’m a “farmer” on a family farm that walks in many worlds from “commercial” to “organic” Maybe I am too “Old School” anymore but a “Lasting Image” can no more be created or destroyed by “campaigns” unless there are supporting actions and facts to back it up.

Remember money talks and B.S. walks (yea I still say stuff like that) and despite all the perceived problems some of us think we have in agriculture about our image a multi-national company just spent millions of dollars to try and extend their brand to encompass our image. No matter your opinion or perception of the Dodge ad the fact it happened at all along with the “Year of the Farmer” says a great deal. That was money talking.

The permanent thing I endeavor to is guided by where I see my competitive advantage related to agriculture align with emerging opportunities I perceive and then I try to adapt to evolving environment all the while staying true to my core principles. What does that mean? I DO NOT purposely “Agvocate” (I hate that word) rather I “Project Image by Doing” (sound familiar?). I engage with what I do not understand and attempt to learn. I ask “foodies” questions like “Why is Monsanto so bad?” I listen to their responses and attempt to learn based upon my experiences and agricultural knowledge if they have a point and if so or not how can we continue to have a mutually positive interaction.

We are not “chosen” we just have greater opportunities to interact along a timeline than most ways of life that is associated with more romantic images or our countries heritage. Hence we get the call more often and may find people interested in learning about agriculture and thereby its “people”. Along that path may we be wise enough to relive their worries, because that’s what’s it all about!

Hakuna Matata


Bill; 1985 Ag Education Grad from The Ohio State University currently owns and helps operate Maize Valley Farm Market in Hartville, Ohio with his Wife of 27+yrs Michelle, Brother in Law Todd and Mother and Father in Law Kay and Donna Vaughan.  Former custom applicator and certified crop consultant, grain inventory manager for 475,000 bu. farm storage facility, on the families 3,000 ac grain/dairy farm. Former Hazardous tanker  CDL truck driver etc, (You know the drill).  Farm currently consists of approx. 700 acres with 40-50 different crops with direct farm market, winery and agri-tourism destination and farmers’ market off site sales also.  But basically I shoot pumpkins out of a cannon for a living… how cool is that??? Shhhhhh don’t tell anybody I may have get a “real job” someday!  

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Farmers are people, too

Seth Teter


It seems it’s becoming more fashionable to eschew the slew of slogans that heap praise onto farmers. The thinking goes something like this: slapping a “Thank a Farmer” sticker on your truck bumper condescends to nonfarmers, does little to improve agriculture’s image, and it’s kinda like a lead singer that wears his own band’s t-shirt – it’s just not rock n’ roll.

But my beef with this and similar image campaigns is that they treat “the American farmer” as something, not someones.  And farmers are much more interesting as individuals than as an institution. Like 2 million times more.

So, would the real farmers please stand up?  All you ordinary people scattered among the rest of us Americans in our individual pursuits of happiness.

I don’t mean that as a slight.  Rather, I see it as Mr. Chesterton did:

“We should always endeavor to wonder at the permanent thing, not at the mere exception. We should be startled by the sun, and not by the eclipse. We should wonder less at the earthquake, and wonder more at the earth.”

That is to say the mythical Marlboro Man is decidedly less wonderful than a real story of a rancher named Jeff and his son who likes to talk about dinosaurs and other important things.

And while we respond to a hungry world with the triumphant call of progress, we see that agriculture’s endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth has always been miraculous in its monotony. To get caught up in the heroics of feeding the masses is to forget that each sprouted seed offers a sufficient marvel.

How much more wonderful to think that this intimate involvement in the process of life is not reserved for a special class of God’s chosen caretakers, but is work chosen by mere human beings.

And then to see a that a farmer’s stewardship of land mirrors a teacher’s stewardship of knowledge or a musician’s stewardship of culture or a nurse’s’ stewardship of health is to see we share something in our humanity.

So in all this clamoring over the right image, I’ve come to learn that any particular farm is simply an extension of its particular farmer. If you hope to understand anything about agriculture, you’ll first need to know something about its people.  Particular people – with names, and faces, and passions and perspectives.

You know, people like you and me.

Seth Teter is an agricultural communicator at the Ohio Farm Bureau working to facilitate conversations at the intersection of food, agriculture and community.


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Thank You From The Farm

Each and every one of us has different lives, backgrounds and futures ahead of us, yet, we all wake up in the morning, get dressed and carry out our day.  We all have needs, wants, preferences, etc etc…yet they are different for each individual person.  One person may prefer to eat a Steak or a Pork Chop, while another is a Vegan.  One may prefer the meat products they consume to be raised outdoors, while another sees a benefit from CAFO’s.  One sees the benefits of Organically raised foods while another sees the benefit of GMO’s.  No matter what your food preferences are, or your preferences on how they are produced, the one thing we all need is someone who has the knowledge to grow or raise our food supply needs for the rest of us.  For example, a Farmer or Gardener of some type, shape or size.

On the other hand, where would the Farmer (like me) or Gardener be without the consumer/customer?  Where would they be without customers choosing to spend their hard earned dollars on products from various Markets, Stores, Groceries, and Convenience Stores,  just to name a few?

The answer is simple…


Those who produce our food products would be basically out of business and would be producing only enough to feed their own families, preventing them from making a living doing what they do best.

While scrolling through Facebook the other night, I found this picture of this sign…

No Customers, No Money, No Future

No Customers, No Money, No Future

The sign is very true.  If there aren’t any farmers, there will be little to no food to eat, clothing to wear, juices and milks to drink, etc. etc.  On the flip side, if there weren’t any consumers who choose to purchase the farmers products, there would be no farmers.

The person who posted this picture also commented:

No Customers

No Money

No Future.

No truer statement could have been made.  Without farmers, there would be no food and no long term future for any of us, but without the Customer choosing to spend their hard earned dollars on their food of choice there would be no farmers.  Yes, the mutual dependence of it all goes round and round.

The more I thought about this sign, I realized that while there have been a few social media campaigns designed to encourage the Consumer to get to know about and Thank a Farmer for what they do (#thankafarmer  for example), I have yet to see a campaign in which the farmers thank consumers for their continued support.

So starting today, I encourage a new way to Give Thanks called:

“Thank You, From the Farm” or #farmthx

In closing I would like to take this time and say:

This #farmthx goes out to all of the consumers/customers who have spent their hard earned dollars purchasing the products I produce.  By doing so, you have allowed me to continue doing what I love, producing quality food and various other products for you.  Regardless of your preference of GMO, Organic, CAFO, Free Range, Conventional, Vegan or otherwise, I and other Farmers around the world Thank You for your continued support.

While it’s true, that without farmers, there would be no customers, without customers, there would be no farmers.


Meet The Author:


Matt Boucher Matt Boucher is a 4th Generation Family Grain farmer in North Central IL.  Over the years the Boucher Family Farm has raised Cows, Pigs, Chickens, Ducks and other animals as well as Corn and Soybeans.  Today, Boucher Farms is owned and operated by Matt and his wife Heather, and produces both Corn and Soybeans for various markets in the Midwest and beyond.    Boucher Farms can be found on Facebook by searching for the page “Boucher Farms” on Twitter at @boucherfarms, or at Matt’s Blog “Off The Cobb



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2013 Prediction – The Year Social Media Goes From Walking To Running?


My work as a digital strategist involves continually observing trends to make decisions and recommendations benefiting my employer. As such, I cannot help but always be looking ahead.

So when good friend Ray Prock shared an Edelman Digital blog post breaking down conversation flows between brands and users on five of today’s most-used social networks, it caught my attention.

Specifically this portion about Google+:

“Much like Facebook, conversation is typically confined to the brand’s Google+ page, granting brand control of the story. The line is muddled when users incorporate Google+’s core features; Hangouts, Circles and Ripples and their latest dive into Google+ CommunitiesUsers are able to organize their online lives and conversations through these features, controlling how the story approaches them.

Think about that last line for a second…

  • Organizing our online lives.
  • Organizing our online conversations.
  • Controlling how content approaches us.

Gosh…doesn’t that sound NICE?!

Social media was meant to do this to begin with, but many have become overwhelmed, inundated or even feel “controlled” by what has become a very disorganized online “life.”

Bloated streams of information, from years of connecting to everything and everyone we’ve felt compelled to follow, fan and like have many of us now feeling the need to regain control.

The sense of relief we gain from “cleansing” our social profiles and feeds is just what the doctor ordered in many cases. I believe this trend will only increase as the early majority of social media adopters reach their “over-saturation” points.

It’s critically important for organizations/businesses to pay attention to this trend if they wish to remain relevant in the future.

To put this in perspective, I’ve outlined my take on where social media adoption and usage trends have been and are going, in three distinct phases:

Phase One: The Social Media Land Grab (2004-2010)

  • We all scrambled to connect and network through social media platforms, establishing our profiles and pages, filling in the digital representation of our social graph.

Phase Two: Finding Where We Belong (2010 – present)

  • Now that we’ve all established ourselves online and connected to everyone and everything we’ve felt we’ve wanted to connect with, we find out that this social realm has become an extremely noisy place.
  • We de-friend, hide from News Feeds, establish niche groups and communities (public, semi-public and private), gravitate toward our closest relationships and affiliations we’ve developed.
  • We increasingly spend our social media time “where we belong” and “where we need to listen” vs. taking in as much as we can from all we are connected to.

Phase Three: Putting It To Work (2013 – ?)

  • The novelty of the Social Media Land Grab that started nearly a decade ago wears off.
  • Niche communities flourish and grow through enhanced social communications and collaboration tied to real-life action and results.
  • Smart organizations/businesses start meshing “social” into processes, workflows and design, tying it to business goals, rather than treating “social media” as a bullhorn akin to mass media mindset of the 20th century.
  • Those who grasp social in business design and marry it with flourishing niche communities start separating themselves from others as they “empower” community to create, letting happen “what wants to happen” rather than “myopically trying to make things happen” (head nod to Robert S Tipton’s post on Transformational Change Leaders on this last quote)

What this means

It’s becoming clear that when the dust settles in this Wild West social scenario, the organizations emerging most successful will be those which best embrace, integrate, inspire and empower niche communities to convene and make real-world differences based upon shared values.

Social is a mindset…a culture…a behavior; it’s not a media channel. The first organizations to fully grasp this, put it to use in their spheres of influence and truly make a real-world difference will be a refreshing signal to those longing to find it amongst a heap of noise.

Dan Toland

Dan Toland is director of digital strategy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. He is passionate about integrating social technologies with collaborative environments for the betterment of communities they serve.

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One For All, All For One

3 Musketeers (chocolate bar)

Just as many individual ingredients come together to create the 3 Musketeers flavor they still keep their individual characteristics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the main points that we in Agriculture have come to convey to our peers is that “agriculture must speak with one voice” and in most cases this seems simple enough. If we are talking about the same things the same way it is easier to gain consensus whether with legislators, regulators or just our customers. However I fear we are losing the individuality that makes Farmers and Ranchers unique. I am not saying we need to move away from the concept of speaking with one voice rather I propose we “speak with many voices aligned together” and highlight the vibrant culture of Agriculture.

For example take a minute and think of what the following statements convey when heard by someone outside of Agriculture “We as Farmers and Ranchers need to speak with a unified voice” & “Farmers and Ranchers have their own individual management styles that work for their individual farms and ranches”.

Is it possible we are confusing those outside Ag because we talk of unity yet multiple management styles?  Are we just reaffirming their fears of the “faceless Big Ag” by speaking as one?  Is there a way to convey a unified message while preserving the individual identity of farmers and ranchers too?

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