The Domino Effect of Reaching Out to Consumers

Published on: 14:51PM Aug 20, 2010

By Brad and Mark Crandall


Copy of BradandMarkCrandall[1]The Crandall brothers milk 260 cows on their fifth-generation farm near Battle Creek, Mich.

The jury may still be out on whether or not our economy is technically recovering from the housing crash and media condemnation/get-Obama-elected recession. Some areas of the economy have stayed strong and hopefully the debt burden of stimulus, health care and the possible cap-and-tax bill will not send all of us back to the Stone Age. 

If the economy is recovering or is going to, it is only going to result from a strong, private, small-business sector that includes most all of us in the dairy business.
The on-farm approach to the evolving consumer demand is a hard nut to crack. To meet the demands of the organic market, for instance, a farm has to totally commit to that approach and be able to meet the accepted requirements. It also needs to have a reliable consumer base that is willing to pay the added price for essentially the same product that the rest of the industry is offering in the marketplace.
The other options are processing your own or simply delivering your product to the market at market price through your co-op.
Unfortunately, other than being forced to produce rBST-free milk by processors, there aren’t many on-farm practices that one can make that directly affect consumer demand for your product. 
Our approach is to supply the highest quality milk possible with the best care possible for our animals. The result is essentially the best price we can attain -- and not a personal connection to the consumer we would like to have. That burden falls upon all of us as an industry to market a product that people respect for its quality and health benefits.
As individual dairymen and dairywomen, we think the most valuable impact we can make to consumers is to reach out to the public by being involved with local schools and being open to showing our farms to people in our community. Every person we make a positive connection with will have a domino effect in our communities and preserve our livelihood when negative news stories, special interest ads or fraudulent data is presented to the public. 
And lastly, the best approach we may have to meeting consumer demand is to actually meet it and not blow it out of the water. Even in the best times there is room for only "x" amount of production and no market tolerance for the excess. Over-supplying the market doesn’t meet evolving consumer demand and it doesn’t meet our bottom-line goals either.