Together God and Dodge have brought us a farmer, in a video that’s going viral on the web. The pundits just can’t get enough of it. Ah, the simpler yet superior moral values of the rural life. Agrarianism strikes again.
Their composite farmer is the perfect husband for Michael Pollan’s famous grandmother. Like grandmother (who sometimes and confusingly morphs into great grandmother), his age floats. He shoes horses with bits of car tires (come on) and makes harnesses from wire (come on). He attends the school board. He stays up with new born colts, milks cows and cuddles chicks. Oh, and he’s weather beaten and good looking too.
Now here’s a bit of reality.
The actors shown look to be about 50. That is, this farmer was born in 1960, the grandson of the generation that picked up on hybrid corn, one of the fastest spreading technological innovations in United States history. He’s also a fourth generation tractor user. If he has a horse, it’s for pleasure.
The last farmer in the video is driving what appears to be a 9R John Deere tractor.* That comes in at about $250,000-380,000. If his land is good quality cropland in the Middle West, it’s likely to be about $5000 an acre. If he has a dairy, the family has been using artificial insemination for at least fifty years, tracking milk production with minute care.
He uses computer software to manage the farm. He has a global positioning system to help him manage crops. He follows the agricultural press (especially prices) carefully and goes on regular farm visits to see what new tricks he can learn.
He’s a business man. He has to stay on top of the market. He has a large capital investment, a big loan, and he worries about whether he can send his kid to college. And if he can’t, well then there’s no future as a farmer.
Look, if we continue to accept the kind of images promoted by this ad, images of the farmer as a good hearted chap, working with the technology of the late 1930s, and thus not frightfully smart, how are we ever going to get a sensible grip on agriculture?** As Gurgling Cod puts it:
All of which is to say that the Dodge Truck commercial taps into a deep vein of US sentiment that likes the idea of farming more than actual farming. It is, in its way, not that different from Marie Antoinette dressing up like a milkmaid, sexy Bo-Peep costumes, or dropping $1,300 on a chicken coop from Williams-Sonoma.
Gurgling Cod on agrarianism and the Dodge ad.
*[Edit. The equipment is Dodge or Case, powered by Cummins, and owned by Fiat. Thanks for Quinn Fisher and Mike Vetter for correcting me on this. The price remains comparable].
**[Sentence modified for clarity. Thanks Baylen Linnekin for pointing out the ambiguity in the earlier version].