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Every story has a name – except the one which describes our agriculture.

This, I argue, is one of the reasons we struggle to tell people around the world and in our cities about what exactly is and has been the basis of our farming’s comparative advantage for the past 130 years.

Let me provide an example.

We don’t start a story with: ‘This is about a wolf and a little girl and a grandmother who lives alone.”

No, we start, “This is the story of Little Red Riding Hood.”

From that basis the rest of the story can unfold. In a sense it doesn’t matter if some of the order, the details and nuances get a bit mixed up. Everything can hover under the banner of the name of the story.

At the same time, though there may be many variations on the story (does the wolf eat the grandmother, or does he lock her in a cupboard), it is still the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It is a story of good versus bad, and a girl with a red jacket that has an inbuilt hood.

Moving into the real world, we see countries that have earned a name for something they do extremely well.

Thus, no one has an argument about the idea of German engineering excellence, or Italian design flair or a Japanese minimalist Zen aesthetic.

Even though these are a generic name, built on the products and services which reinforce the truism of the name; they reinforce the story. The story is one of clever people, applied thinking, a certain style. It is part and parcel of those particular countries’ ethos.

However, we, NZ Inc, haven’t even managed such a generic name. The New Zealand method, or grass fed, or (the meaningless) natural don’t describe, don’t resonate, don’t provide consumers with a compelling shorthand that allows them to think “ah, I know what this is, where it comes from, what it represents”.

Instead, our wonderful products, the result of applied science to sunshine, soil and fresh air, are lumped with all the other commodity meats and fibres.

And all this because we have never given what we do a name or brand (which is merely shortand for the story).

This is why I argue that the moment we name our method is the instant we totally reposition ourselves in the minds of consumers, and give ourselves a strategic platform to upsell everything from animal genetics to electric fences (as well as the method itself) to other farmers around the world.

From that point on, we allow ourselves to play a completely different game.

But maybe I’m talking through the proverbial hole in my head. Or am I?

For want of a name our agriculture flounders

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