I’ve been getting quite a few emails from producers who are upset with me for discussing our TK Ranch program publicly. What many people outside of agriculture don’t realize is that there is an unspoken code of conduct that exists in farming and ranching communities that forbids individual producers like us from representing our products in any way that might imply, infer or suggest a benefit over mainstream agriculture. Such marketing behavior is considered very rude at the least and unethical at the worst. You can banter with your neighbour about what breed of cattle is better, whether John Deere tractors out-perform Case IH, what kind of pick-up truck you prefer or a broad range of other topics. But as soon you publicly compare what you do with any other production system you have broken the code. By simply stating that we do not spray chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers on our land, or that we don’t use feed antibiotics, hormone implants, chemical insecticides, animal by-products or GMOs in our production, we are drawing attention to issues that are supposed to be kept quiet and most certainly not discussed in public. This is because mainstream industry organizations and many producers strongly feel that they should be trusted to make the right decisions for everyone involved, regardless of their production practices.
By openly discussing our program and offering consumers a choice we are considered traitorous to “hard-working producers simply trying to make a living”. What is dumbfounding is that these hard-working producers are defending a commodity based system that is entirely responsible for keeping them struggling. Most livestock and grain producers sell whatever they grow into a system that is wholly driven by corporate margins. They have absolutely no control over what they are paid and they are beholden to an industry that doesn’t really care about them, just the bottom line. This is why 74% of farm families have one or both spouses working off the farm to make ends meet. We started direct marketing in the 1990s because we faced the same adversity as everyone else in agriculture. By taking responsibility for our own marketing we have been able to protect ourselves from the extreme volatility of the commodity marketplace. This required offering something different to consumers and for this we are considered turncoats? But isn’t that what every successful business does? Do you prefer an iPhone or an android? GM or Ford? Samsung or LG? Monsanto or Syngenta? They all market their products based on specific consumer needs, so why can’t we? Consumers want more choices in the marketplace and this creates opportunities in agriculture. Who doesn’t want more choices when it comes to marketing their products? We genuinely look forward to the day that farmers and ranchers join the 21st century and realize that there is nothing traitorous or unethical about direct marketing a differentiated product.