I have always enjoyed western art of the masters Remington and Russell. Each painting or sculpture depicts day-to-day activities, traditions and lifestyles of those who explored, ranched and settled the West. To me these wonderful works of art are messages of history describing the heritage given to each of us who are farming and ranching today.
My intent is to use three of these familiar and historic paintings to help describe the struggles and opportunities that we as Farm Bureau members have as we share the “Miracle of Agriculture” with our friends and neighbors.
The first painting entitled, “At the water hole” by Remington describes our all too common Farm Bureau strategy of defensively waiting for the next attack on our farming and ranching operations or the proverbial “poke in the eye” when it comes to the food and fiber that we produce.
When (not if) the challenge comes from either an environmental, social, or economic differing viewpoint, our response is best depicted by the second by Remington, “Stampede by Lightning”. Like the desperate cowboy racing his horse to get ahead of the lightning spooked cattle and turn them from disaster, we also scramble to turn the stampede of public opinion and regulatory policy.
The third painting, “The Trail Boss” by Russell depicts leadership and proactive strategy. Getting away from the dust of the trail, and the noise of the cattle, the portrayed trail boss is sitting on his horse on a bluff that gives a panoramic view of where the cattle have been and where they need to go to find the next water hole and green grass. He can see everything that is going on with the herd’s direction of travel and desired destiny.
As players in today’s production agriculture we are more than just farmers and ranchers. We have to see ourselves as professional and proactive managers of nature’s resources. We must also be able to recognize and manage the associated risks of owning and using those resources.
Just like the “Trail Boss” who is sitting on that high bluff we can see that we are in the GIGANTIC FOOD BUSINESS, working to fill the plates of families around the world. Everything that we grow and harvest on our farms or ranches will eventually end up on someone’s plate or in someone’s glass in one form or another. Every food entrée on every plate has a connection to the “Good Earth” where all things begin. It is the responsibility, opportunity and challenge for everyone in the food business to create that image on every plate.
Many of us in the food business point to over-production as a chronic problem and the cause of perpetually low market prices. Perhaps we should redefine our problem as a lack of innovative marketing that is not keeping up with our production prowess. To that end, Utah Farm Bureau has recently been exploring the world of food innovation. We have retained the professional services and vision of Jeff Manning, a food marketer who has opened a whole new paradigm of food innovation opportunities. Working with other players in the food industry, the concept of a “Utah Food Innovation Center – A Faster, Smarter Way to Market” is showing great potential. A “Utah Food Innovation Summit” will be the the latest effort in this endeavor.
Like that trail boss sitting on his horse and scouting out the future for his cattle, we too in Farm Bureau as part of the food industry can have a terrific view and role in filling each and every plate at every meal.