So God Made a Farmer
Maybe it was my antipathy for Ray Lewis, maybe I was already tired of Har-Bowl, maybe it was just that my team wasn’t in the game… For whatever reason my wife and I weren’t jazzed about the game this year. Last year we hosted a Super Bowl party, but with our first baby due to arrive in 22 days we decided to forgo the headache of hosting and just have a nice night in (we watched the Kirk Douglas classic Spartacus, in case you were wondering).
And then mid-way through the game my phone started buzzing as my social media feeds blew up over one of the commercials. While I’m a sucker for Clydesdales and think Terry Tate is still one of my favorite Super Bowl spots of all time, I was taken aback by the avalanche of immediate response to the spot from Dodge Trucks.
As you know, I grew up on a farm. It wasn’t the biggest farm in the country, but it was home. We raised cows and hay and corn and soybeans, and my Little Brother still farms with Dad’s help today, while I’m a restless suburbanite.
My connection to the farm today, aside from helping Little Brother with his grain marketing strategies, is through the written word. I write about farming, food production and agribusiness for a living, and I think I have the greatest job in the world. Even so, I was surprised Dodge would spend a record $4 million to more or less promote the American farmer.
I have a ton of respect for farmers. Spent my fair share of time working around them. They are among the hardest working people I’ve ever met.
Or this one:
I loved this ad, especially the photography and Paul Harvey. Grew up in Bowling Green, where your dad was probably a professor or a farmer. Future Farmers of America was a big club at BGHS. Guys proudly wore their FFA jackets. Wood County Fair was a big deal for the 4-Hers. Farm kids went to OSU as Ag majors. And farm kids worked their butts off on the family farm. I am assuming that the same pretty much holds true today.
But my favorite comment of all was this gem:
I didn’t grow up on a massive farm, I lived in the suburbs, but my grandparents had a 10 acre plot of land that they quite literally paid their mortgage off of. They scraped together every dime they could and built a house on that 10 acres. Both my grandparents worked, but they depended on the sales from the strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and beans they grew and sold to restaurants and stores every year. From the time I was 5 years old I was in the field with them and my parents working in the summer. At the early age, it was probably more me playing in the dirt but by the time I was 12 years old I was a pretty important part of the work force. We were hardly “farmers” but I have soft spot in my heart for farmers.
I also worked for a small family farm that was a produce farm. They had several thousand tomato and pepper plants, acres of potatoes, sweet potatoes sweet corn, pumpkins, and an apple and peach orchard. My grandparents and that job gave me the work ethic I have today.
There’s something very satisfying about seeing something transform from seed to crop. There’s also a pretty cool feeling eating a local pizza place and knowing that bell peppers I picked that morning are on the pizza I ordered that night!
There’s not a day that goes by in my desk jockey job where I don’t wish I was on a ladder in the apple orchard, or crawling through the tomato patch filling up baskets. There’s a freedom in doing that kind of work. It’s far more satisfying than answering the next call non stop for 8 hours per day.
Agriculture is often thought of within the industry as our nation’s most essential profession. We are, as a country, food self-sufficient, and are the most productive food-producing nation in the world. And yet farmers face unprecedented scrutiny. From animal rights activists to environmental extremists to the simple fact that more Americans have more questions about where their food comes from than ever before, farmers are under a magnifying glass, for better or for worse.
It was refreshing to see not only the recognition from Dodge, but also to see the overwhelmingly positive reaction to a spot that wasn’t clever, funny or overwrought. As an old radio guy and a farm boy at heart, I miss Paul Harvey, and I tip my hat to Dodge for tipping their hat to the American farmer.
And yet, I’m starting to see backlash from my friends and colleagues within agriculture. Here’s a dirty little secret: if you want to drive traffic today, say something controversial. As such, a couple of commentators looking to keep eyes on their own websites and Facebook pages quickly pointed out that Paul Harvey was beloved by farmers and animal rights activists alike. He was even *gasp* celebrated by The Humane Society of the United States!
Various folks within agriculture have complained that Dodge should have tasked a “real farmer” with narrating the spot, or that they should have avoided Paul Harvey because of some of his stances related to animal agriculture.
These folks, both my well-meaning friends and our own agricultural extremists alike, are missing the point entirely.
Paul Harvey is simply the voice to the ad. He is the most beloved personality in radio history, and for anyone older than 10 or 15 years of age, his voice is instantly recognizable. Most of us, in fact, have fond childhood memories of listening to Paul… In my case it was listening to him give the morning news while I was riding to school every morning on my Grandma’s school bus (yes, Grandma was my school bus driver).
What matters is that last night, during a record-setting television broadcast, tens of millions of Americans heard an iconic voice remind them of what it means to be a farmer, helping reconnect them to their own fond memories of our nation’s food producers.
What matters is that last night’s game scored a 48.1 rating and a 71 share in a select measurement of big cities, which would make it the most-watched television event in U.S. history. THE MOST WATCHED TV EVENT IN HISTORY – and farmers were celebrated in what some have suggested was the best advertisement of the night.
This is one of those times where you stop before you cut off your nose to spite your face, you take yes for an answer, and you stand up for what really matters.
Dodge has declared that 2013 is the Year of the Farmer, and I for one am going to say “Thank you very much” and help them raise $1 million for the National FFA Foundation. Feel free to criticize Paul Harvey; he is still one of my radio heroes, but no man is perfect. But while you’re simmering in your own self-righteousness, at least have the courtesy to thank Dodge for putting the biggest spotlight on the planet squarely on the farming men and women of this country.