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Grow Your Online Tribe

In 2014, Vance Crowe took a leap of faith and joined a company he never had any intention of working for. That June, he joined Monsanto as the company’s first-ever director of millennial engagement. 

The gist of that lofty job title is simple: Connect with consumers, including millennials, moms, and food-minded individuals. 

Crowe’s real objective is much more complex, however.

“The power of naming a generation is that we know there are all these ideas that develop into a pattern and rise into a wave. That wave will eventually crash onto the shore, into society,” explains Crowe. “My role is to get to the top of that wave to see the newest ideas.”

As Crowe has surfed that wave for the past three years, he’s discovered an important truth about engaging not only with millennials but also all generations. “Telling our stories about agriculture and farming isn’t enough,” he says. “Stories need to move through networks.”

We are all in networks, or tribes, as Crowe calls them. “Tribes share a culture and values,” he continues. 

Agriculture is a tribe, but we can’t just tell the story of modern agriculture to our own tribe. “Our tribe needs explorers to understand different tribes and to become true ambassadors,” says Crowe.

To do this, Crowe encourages farmers to embrace the concept of the novelty search. 

The theory behind a novelty search, developed by Kenneth Stanley and Joel Lehman, is that instead of working toward objectives, you should let your curiosity guide you. 

“Look around for the next thing that interests you and release the concept that you need to know where you are going. Your path should be guided by things that interest you outside of agriculture,” explains Crowe.

“In my view, Vance’s application of the idea to reach new audiences in agriculture is provocative and inspiring,” says Stanley. “We have been hoping to see someone apply this idea in a real-world setting.”

When you become part of another tribe, you are then there to be an expert when questions about agriculture arise. “The ag community often forgets that you are extremely rare and that people want to talk to you,” says Crowe. “They won’t care what you know about until they know you care.”

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