March 2017 Newsletter

A Message from J.J. Jones

jj jones headshot

While we usually kick-off our newsletter with a message from Executive Director Terry Fleck, this month the communications team is letting me share a few thoughts and ideas as one of the “new-ish” members of the CFI team. Prior to joining CFI two and a half years ago, I worked with Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses at both the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Beef Council. I may be biased because I work with CFI now, but over the past couple of years there have been a few occasions where I’ve said to myself, “Boy! This would have been nice to know back when …”

What would have been nice to know?

First of all, the power of values-based communication – a model developed from CFI’s foundational research that found shared values are three to five times more important in earning trust than sharing scientific and economic facts alone. As the son of a chemistry and physics teacher and an animal science major, I, like many agriculture and food professionals, tend to think in scientific and economic terms. When I received a question about the use of “hormones” in beef production while working for the beef council, I shared countless research studies and scientific data demonstrating why ranchers can use growth promoters safely.

However, to my dismay, many times the person I was speaking with still didn’t believe me. In fact, one grandmother once told me, “Those may be your facts but they’re not mine. I’m not feeding my grandchildren beef.”

Ouch. As a farm kid and scientist, that hurt.

If I could jump into Doc Brown’s DeLorean, I would and visit that grandmother again. This time, I would connect first with her via values. As I recall our conversation, she gave me several glimpses into why she was asking about beef – the safety of her grandchildren, potential nutritional implications, the difference in the way cattle are raised today versus when she was a child and there were several others. If I knew then what I know now, I would have first sought to better understand her concerns, where she was getting information and what values we had in common.

If I had followed the Engage model of Listen – Ask – Share, I am sure our conversation would have been much more enjoyable -for both of us, and much more meaningful and productive in earning trust in safety and nutrition of beef.

Another “I wish I would have known …” is keeping in mind that all consumers are not the same. Consumers have different philosophies about food and agriculture. Consumers have different questions, different interests and trusted sources. As I dive into CFI’s research each year and review previous research, I always learn something new. With every speech I give or workshop I facilitate to introduce CFI research to the food system, I learn new and more effective ways of earning consumer trust. Our 2016 is research is fascinating and if you haven’t looked at it yet, DO!

Again, I know I am biased but I invite each of you as agricultural and food system leaders to explore how our team can assist you as, together, we earn consumer trust in today’s food system. It is a pleasure to work on behalf of the industry I grew up in and I look forward to helping your organization put CFI research and programs to work. Please feel free to let our team know how we can support you.


Contact J.J. Jones.