By Matt Reese
Imagine for a moment you and I are sitting at your local coffee shop enjoying some delicious brunch back in February of 2020. I am just enjoying a bite of my hash browns and you get really serious and look at me across the table.
“Matt, I have a couple of things I have got to tell you. You may not believe me at first, but I promise they are going to happen,” you say.
“Alright, what’s up?” I reply in between sips of coffee.
“Well, first, in the next couple of months, every church in this country is going to shut its doors to visitors,” you tell me leaning in and lowering your voice a bit.
I’d guess that my eyebrows would rise with surprise and skepticism at your statement.
“But that’s not all Matt. You may not believe this, but I’m telling the truth when I say that essential food items and things like toilet paper are going to disappear from store shelves within just a few weeks,” you tell me in a hushed tone.
At this point I would definitely be looking for a way out of the clearly delusional conversation.
“Waitress, check please,” I say with alarm.
“Oh, just wait Matt, it gets even crazier than that,” you say leaning further in with your voice at a whisper barely audible amid the chatter of the diner. “You, Matt Reese, in the next couple of months are going to wear a mask when you go to the hardware store!”
In response, I would surely get up to leave and pull out my cell phone to call the authorities, certain you had completely lost your mind. After all, there is no way I would ever, under any circumstances ever, wear a mask to the hardware store. That simply could never happen.
Well, now it is 2022 and pretty much everything has changed in the last 2 years. Have you and your farm business changed with it?
Steve Lerch served as the keynote speaker at the recent Ohio Pork Congress held in Lima. He is a former Google executive who now travels the country sharing tips on thriving in a world of changing digital strategy, consumer behavior, and innovation.
“There has never been a worse time to run a business the way it has always been run simply because that’s the way you’ve always done things. That has never been as harmful as it is today, because technology and the innovations we have are demanding a new degree, a new pace and a new speed of change. We have never had a world or business climate in which businesses fail so quickly and which industries rise and fall so quickly,” Lerch said. “It is a scary time to be doing something the way you did it 5 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It is a scary world if you are doing things the same way your parents did it or your grandparents did it. Technology has demanded that we evolve and innovate.”
Cheryl Day, executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Council, was excited for OPC members to hear Lerch’s message, gain insights from a wide array of educational speakers and celebrate the success of recent months in a new location for the event.
“We are really excited about coming to Lima. If you’re part of the pork industry, there was something for you to learn,” she said. “Our industry is diverse in Ohio still but we are changing. We are supplying pork to a different customer base and we have to change with the times. COVID changed how we are operating and how we are selling pork. We need to stay up to date with that and maybe look outside the agricultural world to teach us about that.”
Even with the massive global difficulties since February of 2020 (and our imaginary coffee shop talk), Ohio pork had plenty to celebrate at Ohio Pork Congress.
“I think we need to celebrate the fact that, despite the challenges of the last two years, pork demand is extremely high right now. We are still selling pork and the consumer is still buying it,” Day said. “When we really tested the consumer on plant-based versus meat and animal protein, they left the plant-based products on the shelf. They left it in the meat case, just sitting there while we were still having some supply chain issues. That is something to celebrate. People are constantly voting with their consumer dollars, buying pork and preparing it at home.”
As Ohio agriculture returns to more in-person meetings this winter, every segment of the industry is talking about the massive changes taking place and how they are being addressed from the federal government on down to the farm level. It is 2022, and just about everything is different, though I know the spirit of innovation on Ohio farms is alive and well and it will continue to be demonstrated moving forward into an exciting future.