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Frozen or fresh dinner?

11/12/2012 @ 11:03am

When was the last time you ate a frozen TV dinner?  If you've had one lately, you're probably well aware of how convenient they are -- just place in the oven or microwave.  Separate compartments house different components of the entrée, and after a few minutes, these nuked delicacies are ready to savor. The tray holds everything from corn to beef roast to a brownie for dessert. Delicious! Or so some folks say.

The frozen dinner can be a metaphor for the lives of agricultural producers.  For convenience and efficiency, producers with many management responsibilities will often compartmentalize duties in their lives: The production goes in one compartment of the tray. Put the animal wellness in another. Machinery maintenance in another. Oftentimes, I would argue, marketing is relegated to the dessert compartment--the smallest one in the tray that gets attention for a small amount of time, only after everything else is complete.  

One of my favorite frozen meals does not come in the separate containers, but rather as one nice circular piece of deliciousness - chicken pot pie.  The "pot pie" is a more realistic image for today's agricultural producers. Why?

Inside the flaky crust is a combination of food groups--it's nearly impossible to separate the different parts of the pie from each other. Every day a producer must fork over time for production, machinery, management, and marketing issues, and the marketing portion of this meal must not be compartmentalized, but rather, brought into every day dealings as we make decisions about our inputs, our old crop, next year's crop, cash flow, and so-on. 

Your marketing will work best when you stop making it a nice little add-on to your farming operation--something that is nice to have but not necessary for sustenance. Actually, some of the world's best-managed businesses make risk and opportunity management an integral part of the business mix, essential to building a long-term sustainability and competitive advantage. They know that volatility is not going away any time soon, and so price risk management has to be a part of everything business decision they make.

Managing through volatile markets is a little like sauce in a pot pie, touching every aspect of your operation.  Not as convenient as a frozen dinner, but much better results.

In that spirit, to spice up this column a little, here's a recipe I developed awhile back. It's not exactly chicken pot pie, but it's seasonal and the blend of ingredients is fantastic.

Fresh Pheasant Phenom!

Courtesy of Naomi Blohm

1 Pheasant
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes (I prefer the onion & garlic variety)
2 packages of creamy tomato sauce mix (not canned sauce!)
2 cups white zinfandel
1 package linguine (or your favorite pasta)
1 cup shredded mozzarella

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