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Finding success through... Mistakes?

Good afternoon innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.


This newsletter and podcast feature stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world.  They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic.  The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.


One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is John Deere, the historic agricultural entrepreneur. Deere’s fame and fortune resulted from his work innovating the plow over decades, that most ancient of agricultural tools.


There are seven parts of The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. Deere’s work exemplifies Ethic 6: Enjoy the Edge. This is the truth-seeking-orientation of entrepreneurship.

Deere’s fame and fortune resulted from his work innovating the plow over decades, that most ancient of agricultural tools. Agricultural entrepreneur Harry Stine has worked over his decades on another core agricultural technology, the seed, at Stine Seed Company.

He started breeding soybeans before there was intellectual property protection for open-pollinated crops like soybeans. Today, his business is the largest independent seed company in the U.S.


My discussion with Harry covered his entrepreneurial journey, the value of making mistakes, the importance of finding something you love to work on, and how dyslexia shaped how he views the world differently. I enjoyed this conversation with Harry and know you will too.


Good Reads


Who Learns Fastest, Wins – Rich Karlgaard





Three Things I Think (I Think)


The evening after my interview with Harry Stine, I read the following in George Gilder’s latest book, Life after Capitalism: The Meaning of Wealth, the Future of the Economy, and the Time Theory of Money:


Cornpreneurs Save Us from Davos Elites – The Davos crowd is now obsessed with convincing us that our survival depends on changing our diets from beef, chicken, and pork to worms, insects, and bugs. “Sustainability” is the new pretext for shutting down our Texas Roadhouses and Outback Steakhouses. Are we really running out of these tasty protein products? Corn is a basic foodstuff for growing these delicious meat dinners. Corn yields in the 1930s were around 26 bushels an acre. Today, it’s closer to 175 bushels, with the top-yielding farm coming in at an astonishing 477 bushels. Corn abundance has increased by 573.1 percent in the last 85 years. One acre of land today produces as much corn as 6.73 acres in 1936. We get 5.73 acres to grow something else or build a park or return to nature. Corn entrepreneurs have been improving corn yields around 1.75 bushels per acre, or 2.27 percent a year. At this rate, corn yields per acre double every 31.3 years or so.


Cornpreneurs! I wish I’d thought of that.

I think the story of corn abundance (or soybeans, beef, chicken, pork, etc.) is important because:


1.     It’s an indicator of prosperity – They note corn yields in the 1930s around 26 bushels per acre. If we flip from the farm to the consumer perspective, the average American household at that time spend 25 to 30 percent of disposable income on food. Today that number is below 10 percent for many families. Is there a more basic indicator of prosperity than being able to feed your family using less of your resources?

2.     It underlies a complex system – As became vividly clear during the pandemic, supply chains that deliver products like meat to consumers are complex. A variety of inputs, production systems, processing systems, distribution steps are involved an any part of agrifood. Harry and I spoke about corn and soybeans, two prominent crops. A laying hen requires about one bushel of corn and the equivalent of one-third bushel soybeans for one year’s feed and produces about 240 eggs. U.S. per capita egg consumption is just a little above that so you can think about your yearly eggs as one bushel corn and one-third bushel soybeans, the two most important inputs for laying hens.

3.     Innovation, when done right, is pervasive – The story of corn and soybean yields is one where historic entrepreneurs like Henry Wallace and more recent ones like Harry Stine played a role along with scientists, plant breeders, and many others. But so did other industries such as farm equipment. Corn was harvested when Henry Wallace developed the first corn hybrids by hand. If there’s something worse than harvesting 26 bushel per acre corn by hand it would be doing it for 260 bushel per acre corn. But, of course, that’s not the way it works. Harvesting corn, along with everything else it takes to produce it, has been improved through innovation.


Farm to My Table

It’s the season for our grill and smoker to work overtime. I’ve always thought that pork loin, no matter the source, is a great value.


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