Curiosity Matters: Planning, Strategy And Farming

Curiosity Matters: Planning, Strategy And Farming

Molly Aaker talks to Rupert Newton, who shares ideas and gives advice based on his 20 years of experience in communications planning and creative strategy.

Dan Gould
  • 20 april 2011

Rupert Newton has worked as a creative strategist, with an expertise in communications planning in the marketing and advertising industry for nearly 20 years. After developing his career in the UK, Rupert brought Michaelides & Bednash’s pioneering communications strategy approach to America. He co-founded a marketing strategy company called The Joneses, pairing brand and communication strategists to work with HBO, NBC Universal, Diageo, Virgin Atlantic, and a plethora of other notable clients. Most recently he has focused his energy on facilitating a different kind of growth, that which comes out of the ground, as part of an organic farm cooperative, Newton Farms, in the Catskills.

You’ve worked as a planner both on the media and brand side for almost two decades, bringing breakthrough ways of thinking and planning. How do you see young planners doing that today?

I think the role of young planners is to challenge conventions, rules and any formulaic process they are handed. Strategy is a creative exercise, it should be about open free-thinking while you immerse yourself in the topic, bring new cognitive models in when you’ve noodled around for a while. Read books on recent advances in psychology and neuroscience. Cultivate creative interests outside of work. I think if I’d really focused on articulating an insight, and the subsequent idea, very clearly and simply, it would have helped me earlier on. It’s a fantastic discipline. The worst thing any planner can do is complicate things. Think practically about how to bring the creative strategy to life in the real world. Whatever it is would you participate in it? If not, it’s probably crap.

What planners, agencies, blogs or activities inspire you?

Oh, hmmm, I was just reading Caught by the River, I think Fact Mag is great, I just read Infinite Realities which was fascinating, the other day I went to see Douglas Rushkoff speak, last weekend was Unsound in Brooklyn so lots of deep sub-bass action, I’ve read the Guardian for over twenty years, amazing to think it used to circulate less than 400k copies in the UK as a newspaper, and now has nearly 40 million readers digitally …I started as a media buyer and used to take the piss out them for only being read by teachers and social workers (obviously I didn’t say I was a loyal reader), so all I’ll say is there are 40 million sandal-and-socks wearers in the world, (myself excluded).

I recently read Homage to Catalonia, there is a funny moment where the Fascists and the leftists are entrenched opposite each other on a steep gorge, just too far for anyone to shoot accurately. So for weeks they resorted to hurling insults back and forth, except for one enterprising leftist who would use a megaphone to soothingly say things like, “Buttered toast…we are sitting down to delicious slices of buttered toast”. Of course they were not, they barely had any rations or firewood, Orwell archly credits this man with persuading conscripted Facists to desert. Probably went on to be Spain’s top PR man…

You recently started a farm cooperative in upstate New York that grows organic vegetables. What made you decide to open the farm?

I grew up in rural England, my Dad was a forester, conservationist and musician. I also worked on dairy farms as a teenager, so I’ve “got form” as the British cops say in reference to a suspect’s previous convictions. Then in 2010 I reached a point in my life where a few things fell apart and a few other things just fell into place. Overall I’d say it was just seizing an opportunity that presented itself and running with it. I’ve become very interested in “biological farming” a system for farming with a deep understanding of the ecosystem, that restores soil health while producing the best quality crops. You can read about it here, Remineralize the Earth.

Planners like to talk about human truths. It’s a human truth that what we eat shapes our bodies, lives and culture. What insights about your own life have you discovered from organic farming?

Taken at face value most people think about rural life as a fantasy escape, as the anti-thesis of wired urban life. But the connectivity of nature is a metaphor for the internet, or vice versa, nature is electrically charged and vibrational, so more similarities than you might think. Nature was “connected” a long time before we were digitally, something the ancients used to understand very well. Did you know a single plant can move nutrients from up to 100′ away? Did you know you can measure the electrical conductivity of soil and this will tell you how efficiently nutrient transfer is operating between soil life, bacteria, fungi and plants? I know someone in the midwest who pipes ambient techno into his greenhouses and swears the plants are havin’ it. For me all this just confirmed what we always knew, that everything is just part of a larger whole.

As an organic farmer, you are going back to nature and essentially embracing simplicity, slow food and an older way of life. But as a planner in advertising, you are part of the fast moving cycle of consumerism. How do you balance these two worlds? Are they more alike than one would think?

Haha, I completely reject your first point, I think you’re stereotyping there. Naughty planner! Organic is problematic in that I think it conjures up fantasy imagery of bucolic Thomas Hardy-esque farms, and, I think the organic movement plays up to it as a persuasive sales technique. Personally I question the smug middle class milieu of the farmers market, I find the organic food as luxury product/status symbol off putting and limiting. Long term I hope to be part of the change that makes quality, non-chemical, bionutrient-dense food sold in Walmart. I see this as progress, not “going back” or “an older way of life”, why would anyone want to do that? There was no health care and people died young, often in excruciating agony.

Yes, I was stereotyping. What is your ultimate goal for Newton Farm Cooperative? What change would you like to see? And what’s your strategy for trying to achieve it?

Well, it’s a cooperative so it’s a shared goal. If only I’d grown up reading the Daily Telegraph, it would be so different..

Finally, all this food talk is making me hungry. Where can we find the food grown at Newton Farm Cooperative and how can we get involved?

We’ll be supplying The Meatball Shop on the Lower East Side, and any new locations they open, Diner, Five Leaves, Dressler, Marlow and The Bedford in Williamsburg, Two Boots pizza’s downtown locations, there’ll be others too. We’ll get pretty busy with the Facebook and Twitter when the season starts so you can fan or follow for updates and contact us there.

We have a special deal this season, give us 5 hours of work and you get one free night’s stay at the farm. It’s a beautiful old farmhouse in a high mountain valley near Phonecia. We even have a recording studio in one of the barns, so you know, it might get loud.

Contributed by Molly Aaker – Originally published on Curiosity Matters


How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Home Yesterday

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive Yesterday

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home Yesterday

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Marcelo Coelho

Interactive Tech-infused Products & Spaces

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health Yesterday

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities Yesterday

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health Yesterday

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Culture Yesterday

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture Yesterday

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment Yesterday

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Advertising Yesterday

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia Yesterday

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

Retail Yesterday

Live Beacon Simplifies Cloud Sharing For Businesses

The battery-powered device and smartphone app allow anyone to send location-specific content without the hassle of code or hardware

No search results found.