If you watched February’s Super Bowl, you were likely as heartened as you were surprised to see a two-minute commercial from Ram® Trucks and sister company IH Case featuring the late Paul Harvey narrating his poem, “So God Made a Farmer.”
I heard Harvey deliver it some 30 years ago at the National FFA Convention in Kansas City. If you haven’t seen the commercial, you need to. Plus, if you watch it at the official site, Ram Trucks makes a donation to National FFA’s local hunger and education programs, a key focus of the organization this year.
For my money, the two-minute Super Bowl message does more to share the heart of agriculture with the generations removed from it than anything I’ve seen.
That’s not disparaging the ongoing necessary and herculean efforts of individuals, companies and organizations over time to promote, educate and advocate. But, there’s something about Harvey’s voice, his words, and the still shots – rather than video images – depicting livestock producers, their farms, their stock and their land.
There’s something about ubiquitous national consumer and agricultural brands investing millions of dollars to launch a program they proclaim, “The Year of the Farmer.”
There’s something about an estimated 108 million viewers having the chance to see the commercial during the game, never mind how many others have watched it since, drawn by the buzz it created.
This kind of positive mainstream publicity has eluded agriculture in a society that assumes safe, plentiful, affordable food is a birthright.
At the Cattle Industry Convention in Florida last month, a hotel worker came up to me and said, “Thanks for what you folks do to help feed us.” Far as my memory stretches, that’s a first.
As welcome as the ad’s positive pat on the back is for the industry, I think a more valuable lesson and opportunity emerge.
Stockmanship, animal husbandry – whatever term you use – is so ingrained in the industry ethos that it rarely occurs to producers to stress the lengths they go to in order to meet the needs of the stock in their care. That’s just a given; it’s what you do.
Too often, though necessary, the industry responds to demagogues, activists, politicians and regulatory agencies with facts and science substantiating why one particular production practice or another is used.
Based on the extraordinarily broad-based, positive reaction to the commercial, however, what really resonates with consumers is that there are still folks in this country who pursue a livelihood that’s a way of life, one that represents all the best of what the nation was, is and can be.
There are detractors, of course. From the outside, critics rail against agriculture and even the fact that Harvey’s poem refers to God. Good grief. And, from within the industry, some decried the use of Harvey and his message because of his later-year affiliation with animal rights groups. Others have suggested that the agriculture suggested by the words and images no longer exists.
As for the first criticism, there’s no accounting for us humans’ squirrelly notions, no matter how sound our logic and motives may be otherwise. As to the latter, they must travel different roads than I do and miss the point besides.
There is no way to pinpoint a watershed moment, but that’s what Ram Trucks’ Super Bowl commercial feels like to me. A bridge has been unveiled, a door wedged open to re-engage the American public in the agricultural conversation, beginning with why producers are producers, rather than why they do the things they do as producers.
I hope the commercial and the subsequent campaign accomplish what Ram Trucks and IH Case hoped for. I hope National FFA raises all it hoped for and more to fund its hunger programs.
And I hope all of the rest of us take advantage of the opportunity that’s been provided.
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