These days we agriculture advocates wake up with a sense of urgency to be present online in order to counter the constant barrage of misinformation offered by a variety of groups and individuals who think they know how to farm. For many of us, the picture of the John Deere garment tag and the text included was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Newsfeeds lit up. I shared the picture, so stunned that a stalwart supporter of all kinds of agriculture could stand by the this type of colorful marketing.
When John Deere offered no response to the viral post, tempers rose. Then late Wednesday afternoon John Deere tweeted: “Branded merchandise tags concerning cotton production reflect the vendor’s opinion. We serve all methods of cotton production.”
It was this denial of responsibility that threw fuel on the #downwithdeere tirades. It’s what got me ranting to My Farmer late in the evening. He recommended I put my thoughts on paper and I did: “How A Farmer Reads A Label.”
I felt betrayed by a friend. Maybe that’s too fluffy for some to relate too. Sure, we drive green on our farm. We have a good relationship with our local dealership and the folks who work there are neighbors and friends. A farmer who drives red might tell you the same about his dealership. But, I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting and working with employees of John Deere through events related to the National FFA Organization and 4-H. I view John Deere more as partner in agriculture than a company to which we write big checks.
Today, I received an email followed by a phone call. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear John Deere say, ‘We are sorry.’
Here’s the other side of the story, which was shared with others who reached out to the company in the past few days:
It wasn’t until the post sharing frenzy that many Deere employees of note saw the garment tag and as was speculated got to work tracking down the licensee. It was a European company and as of tonight the tag has been or is in the process of being removed from all warehoused inventory as well as clothing on store shelves. In addition, the company is taking a second look at their licensing process to ensure that where a person sees the John Deere logo they will also see the company’s core values and commitments.
Those values and commitments are what Deere customers and fans have always known. John Deere supports choice for farmers and ranchers as well as for consumers. Their customer base is as diverse as agriculture is itself and just as committed to sustainably raising food, fuel and fiber regardless of the process chosen for their farms or ranches.
Probably the piece I most appreciate and really needed to hear was an acknowledgment that their initial response was inadequate and did not reflect their commitment to the agriculture community.
Lesson learned, I hope. For all of us. Social media provides an easy outlet for immediate reaction and too often, judgment. That’s what happened Tuesday night. I was apart of it and looking back a bit disappointed in myself that I was so quick to jump to conclusions. Everyone makes mistakes, even John Deere, even me. Society has forgotten that. It might do us some good to remember it.