Markets Don't Lie

The answers to many growers’ questions are staring them in the face.

Published online: Feb 10, 2020 Articles Buzz Shahan, Chief Operating Officer, United Potato Growers of America
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This article appears in the January 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

Believe it or not, markets have a voice, and, believe it or not, markets don’t lie. In fact, markets more accurately describe the health of the supply/demand balance upon which most businesses depend than any database or individual analyst ever could. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling eggs, milk, SUVs or fresh potatoes; if you’re willing to listen to and react to the market’s message, it will guide you toward setting your business upon solid financial footing and keeping it there.

“In all my years growing and selling potatoes, the market has never once lied to me,” says Dick Okray, the chairman of United Potato Growers of America and principal manager of Okray Family Farms in Plover, Wis. “I may not always listen to the message the market is sending me—even shouting to me at times—but it always tells the truth. The market has never once lied to me.”

Who can disagree with Dick’s statement? Who do you know who no longer grows potatoes because they struggled due to a failure to listen to and react to the market’s message? The list is long and sad to see.

“I may not always listen to the message the market is sending me, but it always tells the truth. The market has never once lied to me.”

Here’s a metaphor, and a salient one: Suppose that every time you had a serious decision to make that a genie was waiting in the wings to give you the perfect answer. Before long, you would master the stock market because the genie would always tell you what to buy and sell and when to buy and sell it. Before long, your marriage, friendships and business relationships would soar because you would always know just the right thing to say and exactly when to say it. Before long, your inordinate success would make you famous. Before long, every corporate board in the world would demand your presence.

With unquestionable accuracy, the market genie tells potato growers exactly what to do to consistently assure fair returns for their potato-production businesses, but potato growers have a dilemma: No potato-producing operation is an independent island of supply. It is only one among many potato suppliers that must manage the single pile of potatoes that all growers produce together to assure consistent success. How do we know that potato growers working together to act upon the market’s message assures success?

Certainly, you are aware of entire regions of potato growers that now listen to the market genie, respond to its message together, and achieve great success year after year. To reach the same level of success in your region requires the same level of local collaboration that these regions employ. Whether you produce process potatoes, fresh potatoes or both, organizations are in place with the resources to eliminate the weakness of one farm standing alone, replacing that with the strength of many acting together. Such collaboration is a reality of being consistently successful in the potato production business, a collaboration facilitated by United.

Driving through potato-producing regions where growers listen to and react to the market genie together, rather than to their own isolated versions of things, and seeing shiny new equipment and gleaming new buildings feels great.

Life can be good, very good indeed.