When the University of Wisconsin NISA team leads asked me to be a FieldRise founding partner I was surprised. I already knew Jed, Shawn and Paul though agency work I did for a soybean association, but the prospect of actually being on the team never crossed my mind.
FieldRise is a big career change, but it also fits well, because I’ve been passionate about agriculture sustainability since 1997. This is an opportunity to bring that work together in a new way.
I remember sitting in a meeting about 401K or something mundane at the agency where I worked, with the January issue of Harvard Business Review hidden in the folder I was supposed to be following along in. In his article “Beyond Greening; Strategies for a Sustainable World,” Dr. Stuart Hart shared a vision for sustainability strategy and how it could help create economic opportunity in the U.S. and in developing countries. He used Monsanto’s transition from herbicide to genetics as an example of sustainability progress.
I was enchanted, and saw potential for an exciting role for agrimarketers. I got to know Dr. Hart, and he helped me get an invitation to speak at the global Greening of Industry Network (GIN) conference his team hosted at the University of North Carolina in 1999. Parts of the abstract are facile in hindsight, but the experience helped me think through how marketing could help advance sustainability. I secretly hoped I would be swarmed with people eager to get work under way. However, there was little interest in ag sustainability marketing in that particular room, and some of the people looked at me with tense brows when I mentioned biotech. No one swarmed.
Today the sustainability scene bursts with marketers. Highly innovative sustainability promotions from Ag marketing agencies make a major positive difference. The same goes for the many progress-based campaigns from mainstream agencies throughout the food chain. Unfortunately, some marketing (and policy) comes from sources other than rigorous science, causing farm sustainability success to be under-appreciated or even blocked. Science alone isn’t the solution, but it helps.
I’m excited to be part of FieldRise because farmers working with their buyers, applying genuine science – and even some art – create a strong foundation for doing a lot of good throughout the food chain.