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Just Your Standard Bull...

published: June 14th 2019
by: Michael Sturgess

I recently looked up the definition of crowdfunding on Wikipedia. In the old days, I used to keep three books handy on my desk--a Webster’s dictionary, a Rogets Thesaurus and a Vox Spanish and English Dictionary. Those three volumes currently collect dust on a bookshelf in the corner of my office. These days, I’m just a key word search away from all kinds of information, both current and historic. But I digress.
    Wikipedia defines crowdfunding “is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet.” Perhaps you have seen some of these campaigns on social media outlets like Facebook or LinkedIn. New high-tech luggage or gadgets, belts or clothing manufacturers—all sorts of products ranging from cup holders to cookware, or from widgets to work boots—there is a start-up company out there that believes they can make something better!
    Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not coming to you with some new idea in need of funding. What I am focused on is what actually makes something like this possible. To get a “crowd” behind an idea, you have to get in front of the crowd. And to get in front of the crowd, you need the internet and social media. 30 years ago, before the advent of the internet took off, the only thing remotely close to crowdfunding was when someone took a private company public on the stock market, taking millions of dollars to do so.
    I know I harp on this all the time, but we as an industry do a poor job of product education and promotion. And I am not just talking about beef production. When you think about it, what about the efforts of corn or cotton producers, or even produce farming? US agriculture has the safest and best products in the world, and we do much too little to promote that fact.
    Instead, we are faced with disinformation on organic products, GMO or non-GMO products, the use of pesticides and antibiotics. We have health professionals, physical therapists, doctors, nurses—millennials-- all hearing from the “crowd” that we should all eat less red meat, go organic and avoid GMO products. Hearing too little from our side, these same professionals have joined in with promoting the same message as the “crowd.” Until US agriculture wakes up and saturates the internet and social media with truthful product education and promotion, we are fighting a battle we won’t win.
    Over the years, the Beef Checkoff has had some high-profile spokesmen for our product, starting out with Oklahoma native James Garner, to Robert Mitchum, Sam Elliott and Matthew McConaughey. Perhaps we need to worry less about who delivers the message and more about where the message is delivered. TV is sexy, but if your message isn’t fully exposed on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, well…
    In the words of singer Jim Croce, “you don’t spit into the wind.” In other words, I could still get some use out of my 35-year-old copies of Webster’s, Rogets and my Spanish to English translation dictionary. But I can do it all much faster and more efficiently on the internet. If you don’t believe me, just ask Alexa!

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