Righting the Ship

ReachOut: Righting the Ship from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

Know why you can pull up to a McDonalds and order a sausage biscuit at 3:45 in the afternoon? Or slide up to a kiosk in an airport and order a Big Mac? Because last year, McDonalds opened its ears to the crowd and listened. And lo and behold: people wanted breakfast all day and the ability to order on the run between flights.

So in the fourth quarter of 2015, McD’s pulled in their highest profits in the past four years.

Now, McDonalds is about the biggest of ships, so their ability to turn with such agility is pretty freaking respectable, I’d say. And maybe even a little inspiring. Of course, this isn’t about McDonalds though, as you probably suspect. It’s about CVA. It’s about me. It’s about you. It’s about my disappointment with last year’s RD Summer Series.

How this is about McDonalds is that I want and need their ability to turn. CVA isn’t quite as big a ship as the Golden Arches, but our turning radius is large enough, yet like McD’s, we have to make that not matter.

Because I’d like to finish this year’s RD Summer Series feeling awesome instead.

I tried to go big with a substantial concept change last year, but it just didn’t land with y’all like I had hoped it would. It left me with a lot of questions for myself. A laundry list of questions, actually. Things like: Am I really as good as I think I am? Are my relationships as strong as I thought they were? How do you actually meet people where they are? Can we build the right platform? Can we sell it? Is it too late?_MAO2471

These have been the serious questions I’ve been asking myself (and other members of CVA leadership). But more important than questions for myself have been my questions for you.   It seems to me that if I’m going to pull off a McDonalds style turn, I’m going to have to use their playbook and open my ears to the crowd and listen.

The answers I’ve gathered over the past six months have been helpful. You want the series to be less of a sales space and more of a live lab. You want more flexibility from the series: a growing space to use as we (you and us) see fit. You want it all to be more localized. You want us to play small ball and bring it straight to your backyard.


It has been a good reminder to me that the best place the RD Series can be is as close to the growers as it can get. And this renewed understanding is going to drive a change in this summer’s series: we’ll be introducing Optimum Acre (the one part of last year’s concept that did seem to hit its mark) in every region to create spaces where we can meet you where you are with the message you want to hear. The Answer Plots will remain important hubs of training and demonstration, but the new Acres will be where we put together what we learn in the Answer Plots in service of your improved profitability and sustainability.

These two sites that I have chosen to be the Optimum acre sires weren’t just randomly picked out of a hat, they are two sites that we have a history with both the fields and the growers. One of them near Beaver Crossing is actually the first RD field from 5 years ago (amazingly enough that grower and I still talk to this day, well text mostly) and the other one is in southern Madison County. This puts them closer to the two Answer Plots we are going to focus on being Waco and Tilden.Untitled-2

What we are going to do here is focus on implementing all the technology and innovations that you hear me talk about together, in a system. The focus will be on target profitability and the Optimum Yield not Maximum yield. Both sites are going to be features in the ReachOut articles to talk about the situations and what decisions we are making and why we make the ones we did. In the Answer Plots you will get to see the pieces and the theory, but in the two Optimum Acre Sites you will get to see the application of those theories, we will live them not just talk about them. I hope that we have trimmed our sails correctly and are turning the ship to connect with you, because that is our real desitnation.