To our readers,
The first time I saw the blue cow, I remember thinking, "It's a toy?"
A few years back, Director of Communications Adam Calaway and I were discussing how to generate interest in our booth at the upcoming National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) conference. He placed a fist-sized, resin figurine on my desk and said, "This is how."
He explained that the blue cow (the deep navy color represents the Noble Research Institute and the cow signifies the agriculture industry) would be hidden around the conference hall and people could return her to earn a prize.
I had my doubts, but I trust my people and their expertise. So, the blue cow was given the green light. Fast forward a few months, and I stood in the middle of our booth at NCBA watching an endless stream of people pour in, clutching their blue cows and praising the concept.
This year we marked our 70th anniversary, and again the blue cow served as a cornerstone of our online celebration. A herd of almost 1,000 cows moseyed around the world as employees and friends of the Noble Research Institute carried their blue cows while traveling. (We only lost a few to those cattle-rustling TSA agents.)
Soon, hundreds of photos began pouring into our Facebook page, including some celebrities, athletes and national politicians who took time out of their schedules to snap a photo with her.
To date, the blue cow has traveled to 33 states in the United States, 13 countries and six of seven continents. She's gone scuba diving, had an MRI and attended multiple universities. She's stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona (what a fine sight to see), mooed with Mozart at the Sydney Opera House and evolved into something even greater at the Galapagos Islands.
In July, thanks to her creator Shane Porter, principal investigator Elison Blancaflor, Ph.D., and our friends at NASA, the blue cow made a historic trek to the International Space Station, where she circled the planet 631 times.
The overwhelming response to the blue cow is more than just a gimmicky social media phenomenon. The blue cow underscores people's participation in community, their connection to the Noble Research Institute and in a larger sense their bond to agriculture. We are blessed to work in one of the few industries that impacts every single life on the planet. It's fundamental. It's commonality. It's life.
At its core, agriculture should be a rallying point from which we can all find agreement and unity. However, there are countless naysayers nibbling on the edges of our sector, attempting to cause discord by focusing on problems and not joining the search for solutions.
But founder Lloyd Noble addressed them in 1948: "I am convinced that these sirens who have been playing the dirge of despair have proved that their own minds are static, that the only degree to which we have reached the end of the road of opportunity is the degree to which we have exhausted the imaginative capacity of the human mind. If we can stir people's imagination as to the potentialities of the soil when conserved and built up, then the knowledge they would naturally acquire (would increase) confidence in themselves. As it is only when people have confidence or faith that they fight their greatest battles."
Lloyd Noble set a course for the Noble Research Institute, a grand vision dedicated to the singular cause of advancing agriculture. He knew that once this idea left his hands, the organization would change and grow, being shaped by each generation.
Today's employees understand our role. We serve as stewards of this great legacy for just a few moments in time. We did not see the beginning nor will we fully understand the fruits of our labors. But we know we are a part of something greater because we are a part of agriculture.
Sometimes we forget the profound nature of that calling and then something reminds us something like a little blue cow that has traveled around the world and into the stars spreading a simple message that we are a part of agriculture.
Not bad for a toy.