As you can see, I don't often do blog posts. I save them for when I have something to say that is more than 40 characters or a short sentence. Today though the topic is the Superbowl. Seems in my world, it wasn't the final score, the referees, the plays on the field, or the teams that has everyone riled up but rather the commercials. Two commercials in particular.
If you aren't in North Dakota you most likely didn't even see one of the commercials that is being discussed but the other, the 6 for 6 Pack Commercial by Michelob, can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANarZ_113Xc. Although I have searched for a link to the CHS commercial that aired locally I can't seem to find one - would love it if someone had a link they could share. But the impression I got from it and what I remember as the message was "We're not going to let anyone tell us what to do". Please be aware I am NOT referring to the new CHS series of commercials about family roadtrips and the like - those are FUNNY! This one had a more serious tone.
So here goes my viewpoint rant - going to try and keep the word count here just under that of 'War and Peace'.
Business 101 - Every advertisement and marketing piece created by a company is meant to do one thing - get consumers/customers to agree that their product is the best or better than their competitors. It is intended to invoke action, to get customers or stakeholders to buy, donate, participate or in some way become involved with their product. In this respect I believe both commercials did what they were intended to do.
CHS's customers are its stakeholders. The majority of those that deal most heavily with CHS are farmers. Yes, yes, they have convenience stores and the average consumer shops there and buys gas there but being a cooperative the ones that REALLY matter are their shareholders and those people are farmers. The CHS ad in question sent a very direct message to farmers about independence, strength, and perseverance. All qualities that farmers and all those in agriculture pride themselves in and once in a while it's nice to hear that someone notices. Good job CHS!
However, from a strictly consumer standpoint, I believe this commercial failed. In a consumer climate where shoppers want more transparency in their food, where they want better labeling, in a time when fake news and sensationalized media bombard consumers until they don't know what to think about their Cheerios; I believe the message of "We're not going to let anyone tell us what to do" is a dangerous one. This message alone could widen the drift between the farmer and the American consumer.
If we want American Agriculture, specifically conventional agriculture to be viewed in a positive light by consumers, giving them this closed minded message "We're not going to let anyone tell us what to do" isn't really in my opinion the way to go about starting an open dialogue. Most businesses count on their customers TO tell them what to do - so they can improve their products and services.
Let me very clearly state that I wish I could find a link to this ad so I could view it again and maybe see it in a different light, but so far have not been able to do so.
Let's move on to the Michelob 6 for 6 pack commercial. This seems to be the one that is raising the most voices on Facebook and other outlets where my peeps hang out and voice their opinions. The folks that are commenting I believe are open minded folks that say they want all types of farming to be viewed equally, yet, they viewed this commercial and somehow got the message that Michelob was saying organic is better. I've watched the commercial several times and tried to wear my various hats: Consumer, Organic Farmer, Conventional Farmer, Educator - and no where in the words or the images did I get that same take away. If you did, I urge you to use the link above and watch it again - this time take off the goggles...
The commercial does say that organic farming is hard. And it is. So is conventional farming. But when you look at it from a business standpoint - which I believe is the message here - transitioning to organic can be a financial business burden. During the transition time the farmer either does not have a crop to sell or has an organically raised crop that she cannot sell for organic prices because it is not certified. This is especially true for row crops such as wheat. The commercial does not say you should drink organic beer because it's better. It merely says that if all those people represented did drink the organic beer the company would be able to incentivize more acres of organic land and thus ease the transition period for organic farmers. Not better - just more.
On the thought of incentives - this commercial hits another high note. It sends out an incentive for both farmers thinking of transitioning and consumers by laying out an incentive. Statistics and research show that young consumers are sending a message with their money. They purchase items that help a 'cause' and it is always a cause that this particular consumer believes in. They are in a sense voting with their money. They shop at Whole Foods, they buy Bombas socks and wear Rothy's shoes. This commercial gives them a reason to buy this beer if they choose to support this cause - organic acres. It also gives an incentive to the farmers who may feel they are supported in their transition to organic acres or their increase in number of organic acres because someone out there is building a market for their product. Good incentives on both sides - good job Mich!
While I'm not great at math and I still doubt that the math on this commercial adds up (really? 6 square feet? - how big of a difference can this make?) I do get the overall message. If more people chose this beer, more acres could or would be planted. They are targeting a specific market from both supply and demand side. Good business.
Now before all of my conventional Ag friends get all crazy on me - keep in mind that the percent of American consumers that specifically seek out solely organic products is very small - but on the rise. Seems to me that if you are trying to find that very small percentage of people who truly want only organic - that you would want to advertise for them. How many people do you know that go to the grocery store and ONLY purchase organic? Those that do so are making that choice - which I believe we as consumers should have choices but that's a whole different blog post - because they have specific beliefs about organic product and right or wrong those are THEIR beliefs and here in America they can have their own beliefs. They can be different from mine or yours but they are still welcome to have their own beliefs. It takes all kinds to make a world.
If we truly ARE going to treat all types of farming equally and see that ALL methods of production have value - both conventional and organic, then we MUST prepare ourselves for advertisements and commercials that tout one or the other as BEST or BETTER because that is Business 101 and the purpose of marketing.
Do you think Tide gets angry every time a Gain commercial comes on?
I'd invite you over for a beer and a talk about this, but all I have in the fridge right now is Michelob.
Somehow winter seems to be slipping away and a true sense of urgency has entered our lives. There's classes to be scheduled, the Farm To Table Dinner to plan, speaking engagements to finalize, new products, plants, and varieties to market and plan for and updates and maintenance to think about.
We're really excited to be looking forward to our 5th Farm to Table Dinner on the farm and all totaled we will have put on 9 dinners! Each year it is a treasure hunt to figure out the beverages and dishes we can serve to showcase all of the great agricultural products in our state and region. This year's dinner will be held August 8th and tickets should go on sale in June. Be sure to watch our Facebook page and this website for actual ticket sales date because as you know, they sell out really, really, fast!
We've also been having some fun with a few surprises for the Heart of America Wellness Fair to be held at Dakota Farms in Rugby on March 23rd. This will be a VERY FUN event - and if you play along with our game your name will be entered into a drawing for your very own private 'cooking with herbs' class here at the farm for you and some of your friends! Please come out and play with us for a chance to win!
Our schedule is also filling up with speaking engagements in Manitoba, Grand Forks, and at the International Peace Gardens. Whew! What a summer it will be.
The most fun (and maybe the most stress) comes from planning new events and products here at the farm. It's a little early to announce them but believe me - it's going to be FUN! As soon as we can finalize the plans, we'll be sure to include you in the plans.
Stop by this summer to check out our youngest (Mable, seen below) and Millie (our Employee of the Month) and say hello to the gardendwellers RANCH sheep that may still be hanging around when the weather gets good. We'd love to see you!
I've been a plant person all my life. I began growing my first garden at the age of 6. I've been doing it ever since and loving it. But, as a parent, you'll do anything for your kids so when our son Adam said he wanted to go into the grass finished meat business, of course we supported his decision.
Little did we know what we were getting into. It started small, just a couple of bottle lambs. The came three ewes which of course led to a ram, then another nicer ram. Then came the first lambs. This was all fine and well as Adam was here on the farm to tend to them. Then the big MOVE happened and Adam moved to Grand Forks for the opportunity to learn more from yet another rancher and to be closer to a larger market for his eventual meat sales.
The sheep of course stayed here on gardendwellers FARM as living in the city Adam had no place for bred ewes or new babies or stalwart rams. The cattle that Adam had worked so hard for went to a neighboring farm to winter and calve and all was well. Being a young and beginning rancher in North Dakota is tough. Land is hard to come by and expensive. Funding is harder to come by and even more expensive without collateral or down payments. So we do what we can to assist our new rancher in starting and growing his business and it's a slow and steady process.
Jump ahead to several months later - now to be exact - and here we are on a FARM but looking very much like a RANCH. My days are filled with the calling of momma sheep to their little lambs, the sounds of rams who would much rather be cavorting with the ewes and a bottle calf named Hellboy wandering my yard and acting very much like another dog.
Let me explain Hellboy first. He was born premature on a very cold day two months ago and then stepped on by his momma. We really didn't think he was going to live past his first few days. After staying at the neighboring farm for a couple days he was brought here to gardendwellers FARM to either take his last breath or survive. Our farm dog and mother of all things alive on the farm immediately took him under her wing and bonded with the poor baby. I never thought he was going to walk, let alone become more than a meal or two of veal. Somehow, with Millie the farm dog to guide him, he has flourished but now sees himself as a dog. He follows his unconventional babysitter AKA Mom around the farmyard. Goes where she goes, eats what she eats and even has tried to sneak up on a few gophers like she does. I've found him peering in my living room window and wandering my orchard in search of something to nibble on. Can't find him? Just call the dog and the two of them come running.
Then there's the sheep. I love the girls. Each with their own personality. Bubbles the party girl, Brownie the middle child in every way, Blossom the kind of neurotic and a little needy but pretty one, and finally Buttercup the most gently and kind soul I know. Between the four of them they birthed 7 of the most delightful babies you've ever seen. One single lamb and three sets of twins now grace our fenced in area behind the barn and give us daily lamb rodeos to laugh at.
Now it's spring and the list of 'PLANT' things that needs to be done exceeds the length of the day. The orchard needs pruning and mulching, and weeding. The production lot needs cleaning and preparing for seed. The flowerbeds need cleaning and planing. New apple trees arrived by mail yesterday and about 60 more trees and shrubs will arrive soon and need planting and care. We have to turn the well on, water what's in the ground, and finish coppicing the west shelterbelt before the neighbors plant their soybeans. Find the moles and gophers and cut down on their numbers (read between the lines here - they must be eliminated) and fill in the holes they have left so they are not a hazard for visitors. There's a Farm To Table Dinner to plan and several bus tours and classes this summer to prepare for.
This plant person is learning to juggle animals and plants together. Plants are so much less demanding. They don't wander away when you're not looking. Plants do stare at you and call to you when they are hungry. If you don't get them weeded right now, plants will wait until you have time or energy to deal with them.
I love the sheep - they make me laugh, they give me peace. But they also demand my time in a way this plant person is not used to. Barry is especially fond of Hellboy and I'm sure would keep him as a pet if he knew he could. But we'll have to work with our new business off shoot gardendwellers RANCH to find a happy medium where the silent plants and the mobile animals all live in peace. I'm going to have to make peace with my own time schedule to be sure nothing and no one gets left behind in this new multi-species arrangement we have. I've learned a lot in assisting our new rancher - like what a good udder looks like, how long it takes to birth a set of twin lambs, what calf crunch is, and just how much milk replacer it takes to make a bottle calf happy. Good things to know, but I'm still much more comfortable with the plants.
Now, out to find Hellboy and Millie and make sure they are not assaulting any of my non-mobile and silent friends the plants!
2018 is going to be a great year. I can feel it.
I've just finished the 'books' for 2017 and I can see it was a great year too. This year, we're going to be one set of hands short as Adam has moved to Grand Forks for a new farming opportunity and to be closer to his Fiance' Katie. That leaves Barry and I to wonder and plan how to do all of the work with less people.
This means CHANGE people! And although I never used to be good at change, I've come to enjoy it over the years. Are we still going to grow herbs? OF COURSE! It's what we do and it's what we love.
Are we still going to have tours, classes, events, and fun? OF COURSE! We LOVE meeting with people and teaching them how to Live Life Well Seasoned.
So what does it mean then? Well, it may mean you will find our products in a new way, new places, and in exciting new tastes. It may mean you'll see more of us and less of our 'in the box' offerings. Any way you look at it, the changes will mean happier farmers and thus happier customers.
We're planning on more plants/trees in the orchard. We're also already planning for the 2018 Farm To Table Dinner - let the recipe testing and phone calls to producers begin!
The herb seeds have been ordered and the herb plants are peacefully resting until spring when we can begin again with new plans, new adventures, and maybe a few new and exciting customers! Watch here as the new details unfold for more information.
May your 2018 be as bright and full of opportunities as ours!
Barry and Holly Mawby
,I have been terribly remiss in writing a blog. We used to have a blog on blogspot and I USED TO do a pretty good job of occasionally writing. Then Google, a new computer, and life at large, turned things upside down and now I can't access the old blog to continue things.
That's a pretty good excuse, but truly, it's life at large that would have kept me from writing anyway. So I'm starting anew. Starting this new blog right here on our webpage in the hopes that by keeping things all in one spot my teeny tiny brain will only have to remember one password instead of two or three.
Truth is, it's time for new beginnings besides this.
This year has been a tough one for us. Extreme heat and pretty dry times, grasshoppers galore, rising costs of packaging, labeling, and boxing materials and a few health issues have made this season seem longer than most and have had Barry and I talking about how we want to spend our 'upper 50's' and into our 60's. People keep reminding us that we're not spring chickens anymore.
After several strong beverages of the alcoholic kind and some long discussion we both agreed that we LOVE our customers, we are still passionate about herbs, that we love tours, our farm to table dinner, holding classes, and even harvesting and sales - but things need to change.
Some things will remain the same. Never fear, at least right now, the new business plan includes a once a year farm to table dinner. The new plan includes us growing and selling herbs and holding classes and tours here at the farm. It even includes a customer component. We're just not sure what the final business and marketing plan product will look like.
What I do know is that it will mean more time for us to be creative. More time for us to have a little breathing room. Right now, it's seems we take a breath in May and don't breathe again until October. We'll introduce our new business plan in late winter, after we've had more time to think about it and breathe.
In other new beginnings, we're pleased to say our family is going to grow by one. Adam is now engaged to the greatest gal and we're so happy to be adding her to our family.
Additionally, we've added new customers this year like With Room Coffee, who has been making some awesome coffee with our spearmint and we're hoping to keep the creative juices flowing and look into new flavor combinations in the future.
We've also worked with Maple River Distillery this year. They're trying some new infused and distilled vodka's, like lemon basil, basil, fennel, and mint. MMMM, can't wait to try them!
So, with just a few more weeks in this season, we continue on...harvesting, delivering, planning, and dreaming. Looking forward to next year and some new beginnings.
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