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Observations from the road

Change is happening in all parts of agriculture.

My travel and engagement with audiences within and outside of the agriculture industry provides a unique vantage point for observing change. While some of these observations cannot be documented with scientific data, many anecdotal changes can be a foreteller of momentum shifts and trends.

Recently, a cancellation of my flight on Delta Airlines resulted in me rerouting on American Airlines through the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Hunger pains led me to a Burger King for a quick fish sandwich. While in line, an announcement over the loudspeaker sent shudders to the meat loving consumers. Due to higher than expected demand, the Impossible Burger was no longer available on the menu. Of the 20 people in line waiting to order, four individuals were noticeably distraught over the lack of this choice. The meat and milk alternatives are alive and well as competitors to the traditional livestock industry. I pointed out to those in line that the calorie comparison and the amount of sodium in the highly processed meat alternative was alarming. Leadership from the traditional livestock industries must be proactive and place this threat as a high priority.

A visit to a business growing hydroponic lettuce in North Carolina demonstrated outside the box production and marketing. The lettuce was sold as an intact plant to the consumer. The consumer could then place the lettuce plants into water and harvest fresh lettuce for an extended period. This business marketed transparency and personalization, but sold an experience.

A producer in Lincoln, Nebraska, indicated to me that he was disciplined enough to sell his corn for a solid profit during a market window in June. His peers held out for the hopes of a homerun spike in corn prices later in the year. This strategy could result in a strike out for his peers, depending on the marketplace this fall.

On farm tours in upstate New York, I observed a unique motivational tool from my seat on the bus: a soccer field on a dairy farm. The owner indicated that the soccer field was developed and used not only for employees, but managers and owners. They competed with other agribusinesses in the region, had playoffs, and championship finals. The bottom line is that employee benefits are not just about the monetary aspects, but also caring for the team beyond the business that led to this discretionary effort. The soccer field also allowed the employees, managers, and owners to bond over something other than the business.

The road is an evolving laboratory of best practices and, with a little observation, you might just find your competitive edge!

The opinions of Dr. David Kohl are not necessarily those of Corn and Soybean Digest or Farm Progress.

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