Oct. 28 2021 06:37 AM

Abby Bauer, Managing Editor

We all know that what’s on the inside is what really counts. Still, presentation and packaging often make a big difference in how something is perceived and accepted. And sometimes, packaging impacts quality, too.

A few weeks into the school year, I received a note from my child’s pre-kindergarten teacher. She explained that my daughter did not want to drink milk at snack time. I was surprised to hear this, as my daughter is a good milk drinker at home. Plus, with personal connections to the dairy industry, I certainly am an advocate of milk.

I asked my daughter why she did not drink milk with her snack at school, and she simply said she did not like how it tasted from the carton. At just 4 years old, she already noticed the different taste between types of packaging and was making a consumption choice.

Milk packaging has been a topic of conversation for years, yet in many schools, cardboard cartons are still the standard. Milk consumption in children has been on a decline for decades, and one can’t help but wonder if milk served in plastic jugs could help reverse the trend by providing this nutritious beverage in a more desirable way.

The debate about milk, or any food packaging for that matter, is a discussion for another time and for the pages of another magazine. Still, there are parallels when it comes to how we “package” and promote manure.

Good marketers are able to dress up an item that isn’t all that exciting in a way that makes people want to buy it. Farmers in general are not marketers, and at times, our industry struggles to promote our products and the practices that are done on farms.

In its purest form, manure is not that appealing to the eyes or the nose, especially to someone outside of agriculture. However, this by-product is extremely valuable. We just need to package it in ways that provide the most benefit for the farmer and help non-farmers understand its worth.

Great strides have been made to develop products and technologies that help farms reduce manure volume, gas emissions, and odor. The continuous goal is to find ways to make manure easier to handle yet still be cost effective.

One technology example highlighted in this issue is pelletizing manure, which condenses the nutrients in a form that is easier to transport. This is an expensive process that won’t work on every farm, but it is one opportunity to make manure more palatable for both the end user and the casual observer. Learn more on page 8.

Of course, not all packaging comes in the form of pretty wrapping paper and fancy bows. Sometimes, packaging is more conceptual and involves building a product or brand’s image.

Farmers can say they are using sustainable practices, but those words may ring hollow if the public doesn’t know what that means or if the results aren’t tangible. That is why helping the public understand general farming practices is a goal of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA), a farmer-led conservation group featured on page 12.

The organization’s leader, Jim Winn, said that the group has made an impact locally in the four year’s since its inception. More recently, LASA’s collaboration with food processors Grande Cheese Company and Nestle has opened doors so the benefits of conservation practices and environmental stewardship reaches consumers, too. Who knows, maybe someday it will be commonplace for shoppers to pick up a candy bar with a label that indicates its ingredients came from a farm committed to sustainable agricultural efforts.

As this year comes to a close, thank you for your readership of the Journal of Nutrient Management. We hope the pages of our magazine have brought worthwhile insights to your farm. We send our best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Until next time,

Abby Bauer

This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of Journal of Nutrient Management on page 4.
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