“Use your head more than your hands.”
One of the farmers speaking at an event I attended in Nashville, Tennessee last week prior to Commodity Classic shared that nugget of wisdom. It reminds me of the phrase “Work smarter, not harder.”
Another great piece of wisdom I heard last week came from Arlene Cotie. Arelene is Communications Manager with Bayer CropScience, and a farm girl from Alberta, Canada. We were discussing the growing problem of herbicide resistance in weeds. Like many of us, Arlene spent time in the family fields (mine were soybean fields while hers were sugar beet fields) with a weed hook or a hoe. Preserving herbicide technologies is a passion for her.
“Go back to your basics,” Arlene said. “Use all the tools available to you. Abuse of any one product will destroy that tool.”
I picked up 4 or 5 corn knives for a song at a farm auction last year. I was not in the market for them, but wanted some hitch pins with which they were selling. If farmers aren’t proactive and use some preventative management, corn knives, hoes and weed hooks might start bringing a little more money at auctions.
Arlene said that some palmer amaranth and waterhemp plants can produce a minimum of one hundred thousand seeds to as many as a million seeds. . .per plant! What begins as one plant the first year can turn into a patch the second year. That single plant could take over an entire field and your crop in its third year.
There was a lot of talk about sustainability at Commodity Classic. Many companies have at least one person and sometimes an entire team whose role it is to find innovative ways to do more with less. That might mean using less water or fossil fuels, ramping up recycling programs or initiating programs to be more wildlife-friendly.
Nick Hamon, Head of Sustainability for Bayer CropScience said a classic definition of sustainability is “Living and doing business in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their own needs.”
That’s not a bad piece of advice socially, environmentally or economically.
The last nugget I’ll share came from Dennis Treacy, Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer with Smithfield Foods, Inc.
“Was the decision to transition from individual gestation stalls based on consumer demand or was it made because Smithfield believes this to be the best animal husbandry practice?” I asked.
Treacy said that was an easy one to answer. It was done because customers wanted it. Smithfield does not believe that one form of housing has any benefit over the other.
The nugget, and I’m paraphrasing, is “The customer is always right.”
I have to wonder if things might have been different if we as an agricultural industry had done a better job over these past 2 decades of communicating our story.
If we use our ears to listen to our customers, and our heads to educate them, perhaps the experts in animal husbandry and not the marketers for fast food restaurants will guide future decisions on how animals are raised in this country.