Mark Jackson traded the black soil of his Mahaska County farm for the concrete streets of New York City this week. The trip that carried him from Iowa to Manhattan was to raise awareness of his livelihood and how farmers strive to be sustainable in a changing food system.
Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill and a director with the Iowa Soybean Association, was invited to take part in a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk this week in the big apple. His speech titled "Hands Across Generations" will focus on his family's passion for agriculture dating back to the 1800's on the rolling prairie of southern Iowa.
TED Talks are a series of speeches that are given to a live audience and shared through social media. For many connected to social media TED is a place to listen and learn.
“TED is a community with global reach,” Ronda Carnegie, head of Global Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at TED, said. “There are over 1,800 Talks on TED.com, which have been viewed nearly 2.5 billion times. What's more, we have over 11,000 volunteer translators from around the world translating TED Talks into 105 languages.”
The talks are recorded and broadcasted on the TED website and then shared through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The result is millions of people around the world can see the conversations that were initially presented to several hundred people.For Jackson sharing his family's history and more importantly the work he has done to make his farm sustainable while increasing yields is a chance of a lifetime.
"The importance of having TED as a platform to tell my story is a unique opportunity. Stepping outside of our normal avenues to relate the importance of modern agriculture is critical to defend the sustainability efforts that farmers have achieved," Jackson said. "The Ted-Unilever collaboration is a first of its kind for the "TED Institute" and being selected to share the Iowa farmer's story is a major accomplishment within itself as Unilever realizes the value modern agriculture has brought to the sustainability conversation."
Mark’s work with the Unilever soy sustainability program made his story a natural fit for the TED presentation. Last year Jackson hosted top executives from Unilever on his farm to help them better understand modern agriculture practices and how soybeans move through the supply chain before being used as ingredients in Unilever products like Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.
“This TED event is about bringing the outside in, in the area of sustainability. Across many platforms, with many voices, many nationalities and many topic areas,” Jonathan Atwood, national vice president of sustainable living and corporate communications for Unilever, said.
He went on to say that Jackson brings a voice to the Iowa soybean story that in partnership with Unilever is creating a conversation about sustainability and how the worlds of business and agriculture can come together to make a difference.
“We reached out to Mark and others in the Iowa farming community to say come on a journey with us,” Atwood said. “We are thrilled that Mark is here to say ‘this is who we are, and this is what we stand for’ and that’s exciting.”
This week has been busy or Mark. He attended rehearsals, met with other presenters and learned more about the TED organization. All the preparations are leading up to his moment on the stage and the ability to tell his story of hands across generations.