All of us, particularly those in the feed industry, are living in uncertain times.

In general, the economy’s a mess, a question mark hangs over the 2012 presidential elections, and protesters are occupying Wall Street. Closer to home, Butterball is closing its Colorado turkey plant at the end of the year, citing “record high ingredient costs,” and for the first time in U.S. history more corn is being used for ethanol production than for food.

Pondering current events I find myself thinking of a quote by the author and organizational consultant Margaret J. Wheatley – “In these troubled, uncertain times, we don't need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone's intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.”

Perhaps a simpler way of saying this would have come from my grandfather, Herbert Hadley Jennison: “Everybody shut-up and think. There’s got to be a way to do this.” (Although my grandfather was a preacher, when he wasn’t in the pulpit he was a man of few words.)


In any case, it’s thinking like this that I reflected on during my drive home after visiting Scott Lovin, Doug Pittman and the Ag Partners LLC team in Ellsworth, Iowa. Such an odd thing they had done – create a joint venture with Cargill. In 1997! A courageous thing at best (many had less kind ways of describing the venture at the time).

In the end, what struck me was that Alceco, the co-op that partnered with Cargill, had a lot of faith in themselves. Faith and common sense. They realized they had a need, Cargill had a need, and that together they could accomplish more than they could individually, despite the difference in the two organizations’ sizes. Those things, put together, were more powerful than their uncertainty.

Ag Partners LLC is a success story. More than that, I believe it can teach us something. Perhaps during uncertain times the best thing to do is listen, use common sense, cooperate and have faith in ourselves.

In any case, I like the idea more than the alternative.