Environment, Safety & Health
Sustainable yield – those two words didn’t have meaning or make much sense to me prior to 2007. That year, I began working at Monsanto as a communications specialist. I, a true city girl who had never visited a farm or ever planted anything – not even a flower.
So when I asked my manager for a project to help me learn more about what our company does, he placed me over communications for this new, developing concept – the Sustainable Yield Initiative.
At this point I learned two things: 1) Be careful what you ask for 2) Monsanto does more than sell seeds; we are committed to helping farmers feed, clothe and provide fuel for a growing population.
The development of the Sustainable Yield Initiative took months of conversations, meetings and research – both internal and external. As a company, we were committed to “getting it right.”
One of the first decisions was to change the name from an “initiative” to a “commitment.” After all, this wasn’t a short-term effort; this was our ongoing contribution to making agriculture more sustainable.
This meant not only focusing on increasing the amount of crops per acre, but also using fewer key inputs like water, land, and fertilizer, while positively impacting the lives of farmers and those within the communities where they live and work.
On June 4, 2008, we publicly announced our commitment to sustainable agriculture. We told the world we would work alongside farmers to produce more (double yields), conserve more (reduce inputs by one-third per unit of output), and improve lives between 2000 and 2030.
With our vision clearly defined, our first priority was to make sure employees understood it. We held special regional town halls focused on sustainable agriculture, flooded Monsanto Connection with sustainable ag stories and daily facts, and even launched a video contest that allowed employees to share what they were doing to make agriculture more sustainable. These are still stories and information that can be found today.
Internally, we were building momentum around our commitment, and externally we were partnering with organizations like the Chicago Climate Exchange, The Keystone Initiative, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Delta Wildlife, and the National Audubon Society.
I was fortunate to write about these partnerships, meet some of the key people involved, and even travel to Brazil to visit the Cerrados, a rain forest where we were working with farmers to conserve land.
For months, I read about sustainable ag. I wrote about sustainable ag. I breathed sustainable ag. However, sustainable ag didn’t become truly personal until I met a farmer named Steve.
Steve farms cotton and soybeans in Plainview, Texas. He’s been a Monsanto customer for more than 30 years. He let me visit his farm…well, not only visit it, but work on it. I drove tractors, rode in the crop duster (first and last time), and even built cotton modules. By opening his farm to me, Steve helped me realize how much hard work goes into farming and the true reach of what Monsanto does.
Steve also helped me realize how much farmers’ work impacts us. The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. If farmers aren’t able to produce enough, it impacts all of us. It impacts our purchases in the grocery store, in the mall, and even at the gas pump. Most importantly, it impacts how farmers are able to support themselves and their families.
That’s why sustainable agriculture is so critical. It’s more than a commitment; it’s a game-changer. It’s our effort to make sure there is enough for us, the next generation, and generations to follow.
So if you ask me, almost six years later, what Sustainable Yield means to me, I’d tell you it’s more than just a commitment. It’s a major part of the solution to feeding and clothing the world. And as a Monsanto employee, I’m proud to be a part of it.