It didn’t take long for this picture and post to make the rounds on social media:
The text of the post reads:
“I am all for choices. Food choices, the choice to do what is best for your farm and your family.
I was however disappointed to see John Deere market their product in such a way. Seems as though the marketing department forgot who the majority of their customers are as well as the equipment they sell. Seems as though a brand new John Deere sprayer just might cost more than an infant outfit.
Photo courtesy of The Wright Place LLC a fellow farm family awaiting the arrival of their baby.”
And this is what the label says:
“This delightful garment contains 50% organic cotton. Organic cotton is cotton from non-genetically modified plants, that was grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
Organic cotton is produced according to strict environmental and social standards.
Thanks to the earth-friendly growing of organic cotton, groundwater and rivers are kept free of synthetic chemicals. Organic cotton production ensures as well, that soil fertility is maintained or upgraded and the health of farmer families is improved.
The organic cotton production is based on long-term partnerships between all the stakeholders in the value chain, strengthening the farmer’s economic security.”
Let’s begin with one solid fact . . . the issue at hand is not about organic vs. conventional farming. I’ve said it a thousand times and will say it again, choice is choice is choice and what works for one farm family does not work for another. The Farmer’s Wifee stated the same thing on the original post.
I could spend time countering every statement made on this label, sharing how conventional farmers are just as concerned about environmental sustainability, soil fertility, water quality and family health as organic farmers are. We are people . . . with families . . . running a business . . . to support our families. Partnerships, economic security . . . every. single. farmer wants those things.
However, this is not an organic vs. conventional farming discussion.
This is about an agriculture company, John Deere, with DEEP roots in the literal process of growing food, fuel and fiber. A company with incredibly modest beginnings in Grand Detour, Illinois (just a 15 minute drive from my farm) that revolutionized how we farm and continues to offer farmers new and innovative ways to manage the crop. This is about an agriculture company that garners the loyalty of a family spanning generations. Green vs. Red tractor jokes are abundant in rural America. The color of a tractor is to a farmer like the color of a jersey is to a sports fan.
So, when My Farmer (a die-hard Deere fan and customer) and I saw this picture and read the label, we didn’t read organic is great. We read, “John Deere just picked sides and threw all of us conventional farmers under the bus.”
But as was suspected by many posters this label didn’t come from the John Deere Co., per say, but a licensed vendor. John Deere said so itself in this tweet. “Branded merchandise tags concerning cotton production reflect the vendor’s opinion. We serve all methods of cotton production.”
As you can see, that is the story and they are sticking to it. This two sentence response is the same response given to anyone who posted regarding the tag. And that is outrageous! Pushing this lapse in marketing judgement off on a vendor is an excuse. It’s your logo, John Deere. It’s your history, your principals, your corporate values and your legacy. This is on you, not a vendor.
Agricultural companies like John Deere, who are consistent supporters of agriculture, agriculture education, farm safety programs, FFA, 4-H and more get respect in rural America. I’ve toured John Deere’s historical site and its manufacturing plants. I’ve seen the pride John Deere employees take in their jobs. When My Farmer and his brother and father went to see their tractor roll off the assembly line – they met the people, they talked to the engineers – that was something. That was building loyalty to a brand. In turn, we are loyal to our local dealer because the mechanic who comes out to the farm, he’s our neighbor. And the guys at the counter know my name.
We are farmers first. Before bloggers, before social media gurus, before spokespersons for agriculture, we are farmers. So when we have to sit down and pen a post to fight the misleading label baring the logo of one of our own . . . well . . . disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling.
Everyday, farmers and ranchers are sharing their stories and battling internet trolls, animal welfare activists and GMO-free crazed folks. The fact that we can not rely on the support from an agricultural company that does business with all kinds of kinds of farmers is disheartening.
John Deere isn’t the only company at fault. I snapped this photo in our local Tractor Supply Co. store.
Why?! Why can’t our own folks, the companies who fund the training farmers attend to learn how to share their stories with non-farmers, the companies who support youth organizations and food security efforts in both city and country . . . Why must they jump on the ridiculous label bandwagon?!
Putting this in your stores or on a label with your logo hurts, but denying your responsibility to the agriculture community in its entirety – that is insulting. And it isn’t how we do business on the farm.