*Editor’s Note: This article is part of the “Story Behind the Story” series featuring first place 2019 AAEA Communication award winners.
By Jennifer Latzke, 2019 AAEA First Place Economics and Management Category Winner
Click here to read Jennifer’s award winning article, “Trust Everyone, But Brand Your Data.“
I was sitting in a meeting of farmers when I first heard the phrase, “blockchain.” The middle-aged farmer sitting next to me just huffed and said something along the lines of, “just one more darn fool thing I have to worry about now.”
But, I’d heard enough to realize that there’s value in that data collection and our readers needed to capture it if they were to make the leap into the future of farming.
I hustled to learn what I could, so I could explain it to our readers as simply as if I was talking at the family dinner table with my own dad.
I called up a source in the venture capital sector and found an angel startup advisor and investor, Mike McRoberts, who could talk to me about the business angle of blockchain. I listened in on a webinar put on by AGree, which brought in more experts explaining this new technology for tracking all the data points gathered by farmers in the course of their production seasons. And, using my source in computer programming and app development I found other applications of the technology beyond what Walmart and McDonald’s were proposing.
Farmers and livestock producers are really good at collecting data and keeping records for their own decisions. But putting those records before a third party auditor that can verify that you’ve adhered to certain protocols in order to earn that premium for the product is a step that many won’t take because it costs too much time and energy. What I wanted to communicate is that blockchain technology solutions can take that time and energy out of the process and put money back in their pockets.
Rather than focus on one farmer, one blockchain, one system, I really wanted to provide a bird’s eye view of the technology to the reader. Dip their toes in the subject matter, so to speak. And then provide the reader with access to outlets for more answers as they do their own research. By comparing their intangible data to tangible cattle with the headline “Trust everyone, but brand your data,” I wanted the reader to connect the value of their data in a blockchain to a cow on the hoof in their pasture.
As we move further into this new realm of data-driven value-added marketing, farmers are going to need more and more simplified explanations of the technology and what it can do for them. Many of our readers don’t need to or don’t want to know the exact details a computer programmer would provide. Therefore, cutting through the jargon and geek-speak is our job. So, that’s why I still use my rule of thumb—can my own father understand what I’m trying to explain?
That’s really my approach for stories in the economics or technology sectors of agriculture, and it’s turned out to be pretty sound.