What does baseball, America’s favorite past-time, have in common with agriculture, the backbone of this country?
The answer: more than you may initially be led to believe.
In light of the Kansas City Royals winning their first World Series championship since 1985, we thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to celebrate nine similarities between the two underdogs.
1. Teamwork builds the industry’s foundation: Watching the Royals was a case study in selfless teamwork to achieve the ultimate goal. While agriculture doesn’t necessarily walk away with a massive trophy, it does require an impressive patchwork of teamwork. Whether it’s the workers in the farrowing barn or the team of harvesters in fields, we all need each other to achieve our ultimate goal of feeding the nation. Each position, much like in baseball, has a crucial part to play.
2. Outsiders have little respect for your industry: Any long-term Royals fan will be the first to explain the reaction most other teams have long held for the often last placed team. Even going into the World Series Championship, few outside of the Midwest gave the team a winning shot. Agriculture faces similar issues. Those living in urban locations, such as New York City, struggle to connect with the efforts farmers and ranchers go through to grow crops and raise livestock. This disconnect leads to an incredible lack of respect for the industry as a whole.
3. Adversaries will keep the hits coming: Almost all of the Royals’ wins came after the seventh inning, meaning for more than two hours of playing time, they generally were losing. Their opponents kept the heat on, and though the odds were stacked against them, the Royals team refused to give up. In agriculture, groups such as the Humane Society of the United States lead the charge to defeat the industry. While their attacks and hits may prove overwhelming at times, the industry refuses to back down.
4. Don’t come without your game face: The Royals put their best foot forward in nearly every play, and though mistakes were made, the players made the decision to be on their “A” game. Agriculture is no different – it’s often a struggle, whether against Mother Nature, markets or activists, but it is a career that requires a constant best effort.
5. Strong leadership is key: Any sports movie, regardless of reviews or budget, always tends to include one aspect of team building – a strong leader to bring the team to victory. Agriculture is no different. From farm-level leaders to industry organization presidents and CEOs, the difference between success and failure can come with just the matter of the wrong leader.
6. Outsiders are quick to criticize: To put it simply and borrow from Taylor Swift, haters are going to hate. Especially in the world of online outlets, it’s especially easy for armchair “experts” to call out every bad play made on (and off) the field. These vicious trolls take joy in putting down teams and putting players under the microscopes. For those in agriculture that may sound too familiar. It’s not just activist groups that are watching closely. Consumers are also quick to question practices, especially when the influence of activists and retail marketing tactics that pit practices against the other. Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”
7. There will always be a team with more money: If there’s one thing about the Royals that has always been consistent – each year the team goes up against teams with a larger payroll, better players and bigger names. In the end, that didn’t stop them from being crowned the league’s best team. Whether it’s for a crop producer or rancher, there will always be an organization with more money, better lobbyists and a stronger messaging. As an industry, we must power through to reach our hypothetical home base. United as an industry, there is nothing we can’t defeat.
8. Sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty: Quick – glance at your boots or shoes, sitting slumped by your door. Chances are they are dotted with a bit of dirt, manure with a hint of blood. Whether they spent the day checking on the sows in the gestation barn or in a saddle, you worked them hard like you do every single day from dawn to dusk. Baseball players are no different. As Rickey Henderson once said, “If my uniform doesn't get dirty, I haven't done anything in the baseball game.”
9. In the end, both are classic hometown heroes: On Halloween, thousands of children roamed the streets of Kansas City and its suburbs proudly dressed like their favorite Royals player. To them, these men were true hometown heroes. While there will be no schools closed to celebrate your victories or parades thrown in your honor, farmers and ranchers deserve every bit of praise and honor.
Here’s to you, agriculture! We raise our hats to an incredible industry filled by an amazing group of dedicated men and women.