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Transparency, Manipulation and Internet Games

September 12, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’ve been anywhere around social media the last 5 years you’ve heard buzzwords like transparency. And it’s met with reasons companies can’t do that, why farmers should and platforms of various sizes that sometimes work and sometimes, like Luke Bryan, results in stepping off the edge of the stage.

There has sprouted up a whole industry of experts willing to take your money and leave out one little detail so that, like that awesome recipe, it doesn’t turn out *quite* like the one you’re trying to produce. I don’t play games…what you see it what you get. And I see there’s an awful lot of people trying to look like me, but ‘better’ so hey…why settle. Except it’s not quite me. This is probably going to be a love it or hate it post. When some said there were groups using small farmers I thought the opportunity on that bigger platform was good. It is, if you’re honest. Unfortunately not all are.

I know a lot of farms out there telling their story that are what they are. No games, no fuss. Then there’s the political players that any industry has. The ones that suck the life out of everything because there’s another motive in play. “You’d be perfect for this” I guess to pad entries because the cynical part said done that once, went nowhere. More encouragement. OK so maybe there’s a chance…maybe there’s not as much interest and what I have to say actually matters…beeeep. Sucker. It only matters if it’s for free defending their interests, silly peon.

The large scale organizations don’t, really, want small farms. They might have a token person involved to say they encompass all but buying the small or mid range story detracts from the one they don’t want to show. Cynical? OK let’s say I am. Fair Oaks does a great job showing and telling what they do – dairy and hogs. They’re a destination with a restaurant open and a chance to put faces on agriculture as well as see a large scale operation work – doing things that here we can only dream of. It’s awesome.

How many others? Why aren’t they featured because for the most part that is what is feeding the masses, is it not? Volume. Nothing wrong with that – it’s demand. But you can’t be large scale and small scale at the same time. Selling at multiple locations in multiple places isn’t small scale to most.

What sticks in my bonnet is using a story like ours to represent that – because it’s not honest, it’s not transparent and it’s manipulation. It’s the same reaction I have with Chipotle using the images and cartoons of the small guy with a few pigs putting a few boxes in the truck to go sell in town…while at the same time demanding volume and not buying from the small guy they use to represent. Transparent would be following that imported beef from down under to the Chipotle warehouses then to restaurants. Maybe I missed that video release.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do believe in food choices, including those different from us. That drives farm choices, which I’ve long defended even when it’s not gone both ways. Even when it results in being dismissed. Do not mistake that acceptance of all choices in agriculture for passive doormat status…wipe your boots on that rug and it might leak the next time you step in water.

Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. I put things out there on social media and the blog and it’s what it is. Sometimes there’s a little poop in the corner of a cage (until it’s cleaned), sometimes a weed in the raised beds (before weeded), sometimes a stain or something that some would say don’t show…but it’s open…animals can get stained, they get dirty, they get sick, sometimes they die. Like many farms of all sizes, we show that because that’s reality.

I strive to communicate with others and don’t always do everything perfectly. I touch on things bigger ‘experts’ recoil and vow to never touch. Oh we can’t tell THAT! We can’t talk about THAT! Why not? Show anything but talk about it – isn’t that communication with openness? Isn’t that what many companies say they want to do?

So often it’s manipulation dressed as marketing – not transparency. Don’t confuse the things. There’s nothing wrong with marketing but be honest about what it is. I do this to communicate, to tell what we do and maybe by stroke of luck sell something now and again. I don’t take direction from anyone on what to say, or what to present because we have to make this topic look good. That’s not transparency that’s manipulation. If you can’t explain it and share it maybe it shouldn’t be done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATransparency is there’s a little poop in the corner sometimes. Manipulation is there’s lots of poop everywhere but we’ll show the one that’s clean. How much is that done? Not nearly as often as the public thinks. Is it done? If you look symbolically at the ‘poop’ companies don’t want to talk about while they’re trying to relate as small business that cares about that dollar you’re spending with them…what do you think? Will you see and hear $1,000 results here or at Ag-R-Us? Does it pass the sniff test?

Each farm, each business, each industry has a story. Remember when reading that’s one story of many – don’t let others apply it to their <non-transparent> story by default. Yes there are many things that can be taken and misunderstood – a clip of someone hitting a cow may be cruelty or may be to get her on her feet and save her life (without hitting her nearly as hard as it might appear!). Context does matter.

Most people wanting to know things aren’t looking for trade secrets. They want to know about spotted chickens or grey rabbits or what is <this>. Judge Judy coined a phrase and book don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. That’s pretty much what using someone else’s story does, or redefining what we do to be like all farms. They have their story – and after several years around the AgChat Foundation it’s more clear than ever that everyone has a story. Agribusiness, large scale has theirs. We’re a part of a bigger community but not the majority.

Some don’t even want us there on the edges of the platform unless it makes them look good. See…she said food choices for all. Yep, I did. And do. And will.

Don’t make me regret it. And don’t mistake it for a doormat.

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