After our snow day a couple of weeks ago, I sent a photo of our heifers walking along the lake to my manager at my off-farm engineering job. He included it in his weekly email to our department. A week later as I was getting ready to leave my office, filling up my water bottle before I headed home, a manager of a different department passed me and said “I saw a picture of your cows”.
He took a few steps, then stopped and asked me about the cows. He told me the story of his dad who used to haul milk, back when it was stored in cans. When he was a baby, his mother would ride along to open gates, and he would go too. He finished with something like “anyway, they love to tell that story.”
I’m really glad that he took the time to stop and tell me, and for some reason it really got me thinking. This isn’t the type of conversation that I normally encounter at work, and I have a lot of time to think during my 50 mile commute. Maybe this is something that should have been obvious, but finally it hit me: Farming is nostalgic to people who aren’t farmers.
There are some who felt the much-discussed Dodge Super Bowl ad didn’t accurately portray modern farming or modern farmers. However, most farmers I know loved it. Yes, farming has changed since Paul Harvey gave that speech in 1978, but maybe farmers aren’t so different. When the speech was given, farming innovation wasn’t new.
Bulk tank storage and the milk machine were already commonplace at that time. In fact, the milk barn we use today was already standing. Farmers have been looking for ways to improve efficiency, to do more with less, since long before 1978. However, I think many of us still cling to the values of our predecessors: honesty, integrity, and hard work. Farmers are nostalgic about farming, too.
When we’re looking for the link between food and farm, maybe the nostalgia is where we connect. Maybe these farm stories are our common bond with those who left their farming roots behind. Just because we’re moving forward doesn’t mean we can’t look back.
The last time I watched social media “blow up” over a commercial was roughly a year ago over a Chipotle ad that aired during the Grammy’s. Many farmers, including us, felt that advertisement portrayed modern agriculture with an unfair negative bias. Last night during the Super Bowl, Dodge Ram ran an ad showing farmers in a different, more complimentary light. I shared the YouTube version on our Facebook page, and both my twitter and Facebook feeds were going crazy with comments about this ad. I do have a lot of farmer friends, but still this morning the general consensus seemed to be that Dodge did a great job, and people love Paul Harvey.
In 1978 Paul Harvey gave a speech to the national FFA convention. This speech has been used with various images on YouTube, and a portion of it was used for the Dodge Ram ad. His words ring true today. Here is the full text of the speech:
And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said “I need a caretaker” – So God made a Farmer
God said “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk the cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board” – So God made a Farmer
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to await lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon, and mean it” – So God made a Farmer
God said “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with and newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say maybe next year. I need somebody who can shape an axe handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe straps, who at planting time and harvest season will finish his forty hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from tractor back, will put in another 72 hours” – So God made a Farmer
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain, and yet stop in midfield and race to help when he sees first smoke from a neighbor’s place – So God made a Farmer
God said “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to wean lambs and pigs and tend to pink-combed pullets; who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and rake and disk and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church. Somebody who would bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing; who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says he want to spend his life doing what dad does” – So God made a Farmer
I have agricultural heritage on both sides of my family, as does David. Although I never intended to become a farmer, I have always been proud of that heritage. I am proud of the work done by generations that came before us, and I hope that those generations are proud of the work we are doing today.
Farming is not a job, it’s a life. And it is a life that many today are not willing to lead. Sunday afternoon while most people were icing their drinks and heating up their queso, we were setting up the barn for milking. We finished feeding our calves around 8:30 and headed inside. We sat down to dinner shortly before the advertisement aired. When we heard Paul Harvey’s voice, we both stopped eating and watched and listened.
We choose this life, and we feel blessed to lead it. However, sometimes when you’re cold and sore and tired, it’s nice to be reminded that someone respects or appreciates what you did today. But Dodge is doing a lot more than a one-time show of support for farmers like us. The “Year of the Farmer” campaign, kicked off with this ad, supports Future Farmers of a America (FFA). You may remember that we hosted our local FFA dairy judging team for some practice judging classes last fall. FFA is a great organization helping to introduce a new generation of Americans to agcriculture.
Paul Harvey’s words from 1978 say it all, and last night many people heard them for the first time. Thank you, Paul Harvey. Thank you, Dodge. And thank you, God, for making us farmers.
If you’d like to see what other farmers thought of this ad, CNN eatocracy posted about it today with links to several posts, many from friends of ours.