The Radke Report: Steaks, Flowers and Buzz Words
What do steaks and flowers have in common? Turns out, quite a bit! I recently had the chance to sit down with my friend, Liz Fiedler, a flower farmer from Minnesota, on her podcast, Sunny Mary Meadow. On the show, we address buzz words like “sustainability” and debunk some of the common misconceptions and claimed being made.
You can listen to the entire podcast at sunnymarymeadow.com, but here is a snippet that conversation:
Liz: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Sunny Mary Meadow Podcast. Today, I have a very fun friend from back in the days of college joining me on the podcast – her name is Amanda Radke. When I was brainstorming topics to talk about for this podcast or what I felt would be beneficial to my listeners, I really started thinking about the word “sustainable.” When I look at other flower farmers, it seems like every single one of them on their Instagram bio says “sustainable,” and I just want to dig a little bit deeper into what that actually means. I called in one of my friends, who happens to be a very informative and motivational professional speaker.
Amanda: Thanks for having me! This is a topic that definitely gets me fired up, so I’m excited to dispel some myths and misconceptions and really shed some light on what real production practices are that people have been doing for generations. It’s not a trending new thing because it’s been something we’ve done forever.
Liz: When I think of the word sustainable, I think, well, of course, I’m trying to be sustainable. I want to have a business in one year, five years, twenty years! Therefore, in every single decision I make, I ask, “Is this sustainable?” Can I keep this up? Can my ground continue to kick out this number of flowers? Do I need to feed it with compost? What nutrients do I need? I’m a little bit confused by people acting like growing sustainably and caring for the land is like this new thing.
Amanda: Well, it’s funny you say that if you’re around in five years, you were sustainably running your business. That is really what it should mean. Land stewardship and environmental stewardship, and profitability go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t make sense to shortcut and deplete your soil health in order to grow more flowers this year because you’re going to have the worst time in the subsequent years. I think it’s really important for people to understand where this all starts from. This isn’t just some buzzword that came out of nowhere that feels good and sounds good. This starts from the top with big corporations who are greenwashing the general public. They’re trying to offset their own emissions on the backs of farmers and ranchers. To me, it really is a manipulation of human emotions.
Liz: Amanda lives in the middle of South Dakota. I’m not going to say “the middle of nowhere” because I have so many friends and family there, and it is a little slice of heaven. But it is a very different location than where I live. I am on a farm in Central Minnesota, and ultimately in any 10-mile direction, I have a Sam’s Club and a Costco and Walmart. I grow for a very suburban population, and the majority of my listeners are not rural. Amanda, can you tell us a bit more about the word “greenwashing” that you used?”
Amanda: Well, if someone goes to the grocery store and they want beef, you can go down the meat case, and there are so many claims and so many labels from organic to natural to grass-fed to sustainable and carbon neutral. All of these buzzwords. Yes, you need to go through certifications, or might be some steps that that person had to take to put that stamp on that label. However, at the end of the day, what I think it causes is just massive confusion and guilt. People think that if buying food with those labels is the only safe and healthy way to go, and if they can’t afford it, it’s like they are letting down their kids. At the end of the day, find a farmer and get to know now the family, and ask questions. Don’t get caught up in the jargon because a lot of it really is marketing.
And this is in every industry — not just flowers and steaks. If you are talking about buying a cleaner laundry detergent or soaps for your kids or whatever it might be, there are people that are going to “greenwash” you. They are going to slap a label on it to get a return on their investment. I’m not saying that it’s a blanket “they’re lying,” but it’s important to do your research. Before you pay an extra dollar for a product just because it makes you feel good, ask if it’s really delivering what they are promising
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.