Man, has it been a long time since I've done an Entropy edition, or any post for that matter. Way too long.
I've just spent the last 2.5 days at our company's Global Sustainable Ag Conference. There were 150 of us from every corner of the globe gathered together to talk about our vision for the next steps of our sustainable ag initiatives. Sustainability is not part of my direct job, but you know of my interests in the area, particularly with helping small farmers in Africa
. I was not on the radar for the meeting organizer, but I found out about it and invited myself. They gladly included me.
All I can say is that the last 2.5 days were amazing. We do a terrible job of telling about all of the cool things we do to help poor farmers all over the world. I think too often we get stuck in the mindset of the American Midwestern farmer - easy to understand as they're our biggest customers. But, the majority of the world's farmers do not farm 10,000 acres in Iowa. Most of the world's farmers tend less than 2 acres in the developing world. They don't have John Deere tractors or even access to technology we had 40 years ago. And so they spend almost all of their day just trying to eek out enough to feed the family. Many times the kids stay home and help in the field. But our employees in those parts of the world find ways to make a huge difference in the lives of those small farmers. And our colleagues in Brazil are doing amazing things to help safe forests from being converted to farmland. It was so inspiring to hear these people talk about how they kept working to help poor people even in the face of people saying it couldn't be done.
In more general terms, I couldn't help but notice how awesome it was to be surrounded by people not like me. I grew up in a segregated city, surrounded by people that were just like me. Yesterday, I shared a table with a gentleman from Brazil, one from Mexico, and a woman from India. It is so amazing to sit and talk with these people, learn about them, about their lives and homes. It made me feel blessed and a part of something larger. At the end of the day, I was in a working group for Africa and India. I was placed there because of my interest in Africa. In that group, I met a man from Kenya and a woman from South Africa. Of course, I fell in love. We talked a bit, but it was mostly about the task we were given. This morning, our assignment was to finish the task. But we had a little time to talk and the man asked "why Africa?" And so I started telling the story of the teenage boy who in 1984 saw the stories of the Ethiopian famine, the all-star Band Aid tribute "Do They Know It's Christmas" and how I felt that I was lucky to have been born a white guy in middle class America. I explained that I had a duty to help those less fortunate. After that, he said, "you must come to Kenya! We need you to come."
Now, I had discussions earlier in the year with a woman who said she could get me over there whenever I wanted to go. But today seemed different when the colleague from Kenya said, "you must come!" Shortly after that, we ran into this other woman and he told her, "he needs to come" and she asked, "when?" And so, it appears that barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be going to Africa next spring to visit Kenya, South Africa, and perhaps Malawi. I will be working with our sales people and also with African farmers. I'm sure it will mostly be an educational experience for me, but I hope to identify ways I can make a tangible difference between now and the time I go.
I'm incredibly excited about the opportunity and humbled by the possibilities. I can't imagine what it's going to be like. But I know it will be transformational.