God Made a Farmer. Oh Really?

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].

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91 thoughts on “God Made a Farmer. Oh Really?

  1. Lynn

    this is great. love it. i was thinking some of the same thoughts as i watched this commercial yesterday and no, i am not compelled to watch it again. Although i don’t mind the voice of Paul Harvey, the simplicity, and some of the beautiful images, i’m still not “buying” the Dodge Ram truck. ever. Thanks for the entertaining perspective.

    Reply
  2. Marianne

    As the daughter and sister of farmers, I loved the ad – not least because it made my farmer brother-in-law laugh out loud (his favorite line was the one about working a 40 hour week by Tuesday, which as it turns out applies equally to my film editor boyfriend and my restaurant-owning self and is really nothing to be proud of for any of us)

    Reply
  3. B

    Your points are all spot on. It was an AD and refreshingly simple. Yeah,most of us know that most of it was fantasy perfect, but gosh it was sweet and simple. Sometimes not everything has to be torn apart and beat up.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Beth,

      Thanks for you comment. Yes it was sweet and simple. And what worried me was that although it was so appealing, it was designed to appeal to non-farmers reinforcing an image that I don’t think helps today’s farmers.

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      1. Nora

        I agree that the image was sweet and refreshing, but what rubbed me immediately the wrong way when I was watching that ad is that no way any small-time farmer who’s on their own like the one pictured can afford the very item that is being sold. I mean, the farmer in that ad would have a beat up old pickup, not a shiny new monstrosity that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          It’s really hard being a small time farmer. I’d be interested in knowing what you think is necessary to make a go of it in farming. And many thanks for taking the time to comment.

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    1. KB

      … farming is now a global enterprise requiring factory farms that search the globe for countries with cheap land, labor, taxes and non-existent or poorly enforced environmental standards. Small-scale pig farmers are often forced into coercive contracts with vertically integrated factory contractors. Much of the start up costs for these small scale pig farming operations are covered by the farmer, and drives them into dept and a dependence on pork prices dictated by the livestock factories and volatile interest rates. Permanent dept and bankruptcy is common place.

      Reply
      1. Rachel Laudan Post author

        Thanks for writing KB. Yes, farming is global. It’s actually rarely been local. The Romans took grain from Carthage, the Spanish had sugar plantations across the Americas, the Brits were largely responsible for the development of the Argentine prairies. The idea that agriculture is immune from the global forces working for thousands of years just doesn’t wash. And it is rough. No doubt about it. that’s why farmers have to be smart.

        Reply
  4. Stan Martin

    Ms. Laudan typifies the neurotic coastal whiners that can find something wrong in everything. For many decades Paul Harvey spoke the truth but comforted at the same time. That you need to find fault in this commercial speaks volumes more about you than the ad. Just because you CAN write about your innermost annoyances doesn’t mean you HAVE to share them.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Stan, thanks for your remarks. I have lived on the US coast for two years out of my nearly seventy so I don’t think I quite count as a coastal whiner. And may I add that the fact that you CAN read my blog does not mean you HAVE to read my blog.

      Reply
  5. Ken Albala

    Wow, what bizarre acrid people left messages here. Rachel grew up on a farm by the way. But I really wonder, was this so romanticized? It seemed pretty gritty to me, trying to show a measure of truth about how tough this life is. Tractors and all. They certainly didn’t try to make it all seem happy.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Yes, bizarre. It’s not really happiness or grittiness that is the question, though, Ken, but forward or backward looking.

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      1. Ken Albala

        Hmm, You read this as nostalgic? I’ve certainly seen prettier and much smaller farms that would hit that note. The huge straight rows certainly suggested to me very modern farming. Wealthy farmers who can afford a Dodge!

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Why does having a Dodge truck make you rich? A quick check suggests they come in at about 20-22,000. Given car prices, that is hardly Midas level.

          Reply
          1. Ian Stewart

            Price out a diesel dually and/or 4×4, a truck that’s likely going to last longer and be useful in more situations. You’ll see the price climbs a lot more quickly than your basic “it’s got a Hemi!” 1500 model. (Speaking of backward-looking, the Hemi gas engine is an attempt to appeal to muscle cars of the 70s…) 5-year-old used diesel Rams can approach the 20-22k mark easily; my farmer boss drives one that’s more like 15 years old.

          2. Rachel Laudan Post author

            OK, but this is a work vehicle, right? For hauling bales, the odd calf, some farm equipment. Even if it comes in at 40,000 that’s not a huge business investment amortized over fifteen years.

  6. Jackie Nagel

    I appreciate your thoughts about the modern farmer although having grown up on a farm, I find that few farmers can afford many of the modern technologies. That’s probably why so many of the smaller farmers have been bought out by larger conglomerates….they can’t afford to stay in ‘business’. All in all, I loved the ad for what memories it brought to mind (none included a Dodge Ram).

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Jackie, having grown up on a farm, I too have seen constant consolidation. It’s really sad. But it’s not peculiar to farming. Capitalism is rough that way but the alternatives don’t seem any better. And I’m glad the ad brought happy memories.

      Reply
  7. Jason Johnson

    You have touted yourself as both a historian and an authority on the subject of agriculture. Yet for all of your so called “credentials,” you really have idea what you are talking about. It is apparent to me that you have not spent a substantial amount of time working in agricultural industry because if you had you would not make such gross over assumptions of the ease of farming as it is today. While there are many large scale farming operations that have streamlined crop production in order to appease the masses; there are many more smaller operation farms that continue work the land by the sweat of their brows. They may not be employ the traditional horse and plow method as is romanticized by artists and writers, but these men and women continue to rise early in the morning and end the day when the sun has retired. Would you have farmers harvest wheat grains by sickle and stacking them in bushels in order to fit your conceptualization of a farmer? In that case you may have to sacrifice your morning bowl of raisin bran. I dare you go ahead and attempt to make a go of a farm (outside of the organic and other popular niche markets) using only tradition farming techniques, and still manage to make a profit and meet demand. Just because a farmer uses G.P.S. to make sure he is harvesting straight rows does not mean he isn’t above using the old spade shovel to dig out a busted irrigation line. Most intelligent people understand that farming practices today are light years ahead of the the farming practices of seventy years ago. Part of farming is the acceptance of new and modernized methods of cultivation, crop maintenance, and harvesting. What are unchanging are the values that are passed on from generation to generation of farmers, the knowledge and history of those that came before, and ingrained sense of pride that comes from being able to work the land and reap it’s bounty. This is the “sentiment,” and wholesomeness that we draw from as Americans that instills pride in us. Because we know from what type of stock we are born of, and even though the methods have changed the idea is still the same.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Jason, Thanks for writing. I do not tout myself as an expert on agriculture. I just google. And I am not sure what precisely your point is. I don not think farming is easy. It never was and I don’t see that it is likely to become so. I do think farmers are smart and innovative. Isn’t that a good thing? And I certainly would never want to go back to harvesting by sickle. Even with a combine it’s hard work.

      And did I criticize the values of farmers? I don’t think so. I simply said that they needed to be able to stay in business. Without that, they cannot adhere to those values.

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      1. Jason Johnson

        Dear Rachel,

        First of all, I appreciate your response to the individual named “Jake.” I also want to say that I really appreciate your response to what I had written. I prefer your response to me far more than the article itself.
        I am someone who spent much of his young life working in the agricultural industry. My grandfather owned close to eighty acres of land on which he use to farm apples and alfalfa in the Okanogan Valley of Washington State.
        I began working a “full day’s work,” at the age of nine, and I continued to work on his farm until graduating from college. Now while my experience may not mirror a Norman Rockwell depiction of farming, but it was very similar to the portrayal that was represented by the Dodge commercial. Granted, my grandfather did not drive a brand new Dodge pick-up around his farm. His automotive companion was a 1970’s era Chevrolet pick-up truck in the most ugliest patchy barf green color and dented on all sides from the years of abuse. He did buy a brand new Ford F-150 right before I went to college though.
        We did use tractors and other mechanical equipment on a daily basis, but much of the work was just good old fashioned hands on labor. I can remember picking up hundreds of rocks to clear a field in preparation for planting some Granny Smith apple trees. I remember having to go between those baby trees with a hoe to control the weeds. I remember having to paint those baby trees by hand, and then as they got older thin them out in the spring time by hand. The spreaders that we used for the limbs were cracked and warped and I couldn’t even tell you how old they were. Usually we did all of this in between 90-100 degree weather in jeans, t-shirts, and ball caps. I can’t complain too much though because my grandfather paid me well for my work.
        I really hope that your basis for writing this article is not based in the opinions you formulated from seeing that Dodge commercial and from research you did on Google. Yes, the large scale farming operations have almost gotten agriculture down to a matter of science, but there are still small scale farmers that either can’t afford or choose not to purchase the most cutting edge technology out there for agriculture. Just as an example, I myself have used a large metal pry bar that was given to my grandfather by his grandfather to dislodge rocks from the ground on many occasion.
        From your article it sounds to me as though you believe that the Dodge’s commercial is a gross misrepresentation of farming practices today. Let me just tell you that my grandfather was the principle of the high school that I attended for twenty-five years before he retired, and he owned his orchard and alfalfa during his entire tenure as a principle. He may not have been on the school board but he definitely answered to them. He may not have shod horses with bits of car tires or made harnesses out of wire, but I do remember him jury rigging an old car engine to supply power to an irrigation pump. I have also seen him fabricate a hydraulic squeeze for his hay harvest from some old square iron he had in a pile behind his shop. Every time I work with my granddad I am amazed by the things that he is able to do.
        I know that he is part of a dying generation. He is from the generation that used to save everything with the mindset that nothing should go to waste, and it can all be used later. I know that more and more farming practices have become mechanized. I know that Dodge is romanticizing the whole farming lifestyle a bit, but the images that are presented with in the commercial are accurate.
        I will tell you also that I am a Christian and I believe very strongly in the idea that God has created not only farmers but every person. Many of the important talks about faith, morals, and values happened while my grandfather and I were working together on the farm. So for me, farming isn’t just some sentimentalized view of rural Americana. It is part of the foundation of my beliefs, work ethic, knowledge base, and has shaped many other parts of my life.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Dear Jason,

          Yours is another of the really thoughtful replies that I have been trying to absorb over the last 24 hours. Stone picking, which we did a lot of on our stony farm in England (bad term, more like heaving room-size rocks) is one of my memories. A barf green pick up, though, is not! Hand weeding wild oats out of a wheat field, yes. I really look forward to continuing this conversation.

          Reply
      2. Lori

        Maybe you should have gotten your facts a lot straighter too. There is NO JD tractor in this commercial that you quoted prices for!!!! Really we “farmers” should take your “essay” seriously??? I am a farmer. My farmer family, friends, and all in my network….LOVED this commercial. Do I own a dodge? No…but I might! Dodge nailed us farmers! What Paul Harvey says is true for us…these are our values. We still work hard no matter today’s technology! So unless you walk our every day life you should keep your opinions and essays to yourself! Can all of us afford to send our kids to college? Can all of us afford the newest equipment? Can all of us afford a new or used Dodge truck? What does it matter? Those images and our values were spot on.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Thanks for the note, Lori. I’ve already addressed the tractor issue several times, explaining that I was sloppy.

          And I have to say that I would disagree with you that only farmers can talk about farmers. I understand that it’s a common belief that only members of a group are entitled to talk about that group, particularly where ethnic groups are concerned. They all make your argument that you can only understand from the inside. I think that an outsider’s perspective can be valuable too. And I especially think that dialogue is important.

          BTW, if you want to pursue a conversation with Locharren, please do so directly. I am not going to post your response.

          Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks for writing Lochcarren. Yes, the rugged self-made farmer may be a myth. But the skill and expertise needed to farm is not and most are not just loafing off on government subsidies.

      Reply
  8. Don

    Rachel, When I first read this I thought, wow what an ignorant reply, then I thought about it and would like to relay the following:

    I am over 55. I grew up on the farms I now live on. In the early 70, I hated farming so much I went to a little country overseas to fight a war compliments of Uncle Sam, Got multiple Computer degrees, learned 5 languages, and traveled a fair amount to places well off the beaten path. Then in the 1990’s moved back to the family farm to help father and grandfathers before they passed. I now run the last farm in our family. McMansions have been built around our property and every smell, tractor, or anything resembling work offends one of our Neighbors. We farm with the same organic plus farming methods that was used on the farm since we got the original Vellum land deed on this property. My newest tractor is a 1952 Oliver and Yes, Indians used to be just off of our land on the Columbia River. Family farms are dying, and attitudes like yours and your commenters are why this will continue. God did make a farmer, we just have less now.

    Thanks for playing.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Don, thanks for taking the trouble to write and tell the story of your family farm. Smells are hard. We lived way out of town and even so there were complaints all the time when we cut silage or spread dung.

      I am not sure, though, why you think I will kill the farmer and the family farm. I want to give them their due as smart, resourceful, and utterly essential contributors to not just America but the world. Sorry that the message did not get across.

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  9. Quinn Fisher

    If you are going to rip apart the commercial, its message, and come off as an expert in modern farming then at least get the facts straight. There is not one single piece of equipment in that comercial that is made by John Deere. Dodge/Chrysler is owed by Fiat, Fiat owns Case/New Holland, Case equipment is red, John Deere is green. Any five year old at the county fair knows that.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks for writing, Quinn. Yup, I admit I go that wrong. I grew up with grey Massey Fergusons. But I don’t think the essential point that tractors are a big investment is affected by my sloppy error.

      Reply
  10. David Kragnes

    I am a farmer. I am proud to help feed America even though I have no horse to shoe with a car tire.
    There are many missconceptions about modern farmers. We are not all alike except for the fact we like to grow something from just dirt and seeds. I have a friend in California who is very successfull and uses horses on his cattle ranch. I have a friend that grows only mint. I have a friend who grows only vegetables and several that grow a diversity of crops.
    All of the pictures in the Dodge commercial could be real present day farmers but there is more complexity to farming than can be depicted in a TV spot.
    The talk of long hours plus community and family responsibility are not unique to farming or even America. That being said, living in rural America brings on responsibilities with the opportunities that come as a result of less people around.
    I liked the commercial. I drive a 1994 Dodge. Let me point out John Deeres are green. There were no green tractors in the spot.
    That was a comment on the ease of missunderstanding farmers when you aren’t one.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      David, thanks for commenting. I can’t imagine anything I would be prouder of than helping America or the world to eat. And I couldn’t agree more that farmers are diverse. In fact, one thing that irritates me is that so often this is not recognized. And, let me say again, I was sloppy about the tractor. But the point is, tractors are a big investment.

      And I think you have to allow other people to try to understand farming. I’m not a farmer. And I shudder at many of the misunderstandings. But what I want is to increase their prestige not to resort to images of farming that are so very out of date.

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      1. Jack

        I find this piece to be very contradictory. You point out that the farmer in the ad is using $300,000 tractor, then claim the ad portrays 1930’s technology, and that farmers aren’t too smart. As a farmer, I don’t think you know very much about farming at all, and you piece certainly does nothing to increase our prestige. It seems very much like an attack by someone who has never set foot on a farm

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Hi Jack, thanks for the thoughts. I think the tension is in the ad and that’s what I was trying to point out. I was also trying to point out that the ad neglects the sheer smarts that farmers have brought to innovating on their farms. And as I said to another commentator, I wonder why you assume I have never set foot on a farm?

          Reply
          1. Rachel Laudan Post author

            Ah, Jack. An understandable inference. But a wrong one because it’s American tractors that I’m ignorant of. But not of farming. Thanks again for commenting.

  11. Mike

    No reason that we can’t celebrate the idea of what tohe farmer used to be and no reason Dodge marketing can’t use our “sentiment that likes the idea of farming more than actual farming” to sell a few trucks. It is true that there are plenty of farmers swallowed up by larger conglomerates but also plenty struggling to make it that can’t afford all the modern technologies you mention. Also, all the equipment shown in the commercial is either Dodge or Case IH, not John Deere. Dodge and Case are both powered by Cummins.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks for writing, Mike. But I think there is a reason why we don’t want to celebrate this image of the farmer. Farmers are just too important to be sentimentalized this way. And struggling farmers are no different from other struggling business people. It is hard for them to compete. Granted on the equipment. Sloppy of me there.

      Reply
      1. Mike

        No worries on the equipment issue just wanted your facts to be correct. Your point about the cost of the equipment, whether it is red or green, still stands. I think what’s at issue here is personal interpretation of the message. I take the commercial to be a celebration of the values and fortitude of a “farmer” not a defenition of the current state of farming. Of course this is based on my knowledge and my personal experiences, a global audience may interpret the message as American farmers are doing great with all their expensive equipment and new trucks when the reality is the family farm personified in the commercial is dissapearing.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Thanks Mike. I think that the values of the farmer were the message. And that’s what I took exception to. It seems to me that the agrarian view (which as I am sure you know goes back to antiquity, was pushed by Jefferson, and is associated now with Wendell Berry) is not the only way to look at farming. As the daughter of a farmer who prided himself on hard work, yes, but who also found it both necessary, interesting, and economically crucial to be absolutely abreast of the latest information and technology, I would like to see those values also represented. I’m taking a day off blogging but will get back to this.

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          1. Mike

            Well there’s the rub: the reality of the current state of farming-its dwindling numbers and its use of modern technology-doesn’t tug at hearstrings so it doesn’t sell trucks. Enjoy your day off.

          2. Rachel Laudan Post author

            So, I would argue, time to re-work the image and not let it be held hostage to Dodge. How would you start on this? I’d love to know.

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Well, this was for the Superbowl, Nick, and is about a very specifically American set of issues. And I hope one day all those other farmers will have machines to help with their labor.

      Reply
  12. Christine Faith

    I grew up on small “farm” in Oregon. Just for the record, making horseshoes out of old tires is not at all far fetched. They are called (literally) “rubber shoes” and they are glued to a horses hooves after the hooves have been trimmed and filed. Theses types of shoes keep the horses hooves from wearing down and becoming tender. Just wanted to throw that out there as you seemed to take real exception to that comment and one other (making harnesses from old feed bags and bits of wire). I did like your post, and I think the essence of this argument falls somewhere in the balance.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Christine, Thanks for the comment and the information on horse shoes. I just used rubber slipovers in my youth but this sounds good too. I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to learning a lot.

      Reply
      1. Christine Faith

        Speaking of learning a lot, I have learned a lot from reading the comments under this post. My real take-away here is from reading your responses to rude and inflammatory remarks. You demonstrate repeatedly how to keep it classy on-line. Thanks for that. :)

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Thank you for that, Christine. Much appreciated. I have some thoughts on the whole matter that I will blog about soon.

          Reply
  13. Marie

    I don’t disagree with you that today’s farmer is a business man and we have many tools that work to make our jobs more efficient as farmers.

    However, I would say it’s not necessarily easier. I also think your view is rather narrowly focused on what today’s farming is.

    I have been on many ranches that need horses rather than 4 wheelers to gather cows because of the terrain.

    I have sweated my fair share while exerting physical labor in the field weather chasing bales to check moisture, fixing a broken section on my swather and even tarping a truck that is fille to the brim with seed. I have also had to re-sack seed on our farm because the mice had gotten into it…talk about a disgusting job.

    Our tractors newer and advanced in technology, but that in no way makes the Dodge commercial less accurate. The ad just played more to the emotion because if we put up pictures of yield maps and spray rates the point of the farmer would be lost. Not everyone can be a farmer, it does take a special breed.

    As for the meeting part of the poem, so very accurate…I have as little as 5 meetings a month I go to. The majority about agriculture & farming, that’s on top of trying to figure out this farming thing so one day my dad can retire and I can continue on as the 5th generation.

    I do appreciate your thoughts though, definitely provokes thought.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Marie, I was very pleased to hear from you. I don’t think farming is necessarily easier and there are lots of time when physical strength is still required. I wonder about the technology though. Steve Jobs could hold people spell bound with new technology. Are there any farmers out there would can do that and re-vamp this image? Thanks again for the thoughts and I am now subscribed to your wonderful and informative blog. I am hoping to put up a list of farmer’s blogs so that even more people can follow you and learn what one farmer is doing.

      Reply
      1. Marie

        I would LOVE to re-vamp the image. I 100% agree we NEED & MUST talk about our technology more. I think the problem is we get caught up in science & tech talk & lose our audience that doesn’t appeal to the emotional side and then the masses do not know how to connect.

        We must find how to show the amazing advancements we have made in agriculture in “sexy” light somehow. My two cents. Appreciate the conversation.

        Reply
  14. Brian

    Your article makes some pretty good points, but sometimes I think we tend to analyze things until they no longer take on the original sentiment. I’m a farmer myself and I really loved that ad. I have large equipment (definitely a big investment), use my smarthphone constantly, employ GPS to drive my tractors for me and other awesome things, and carry around digital maps of yield, seeding rates, elevation, etc on my iPad. While I think the tools have changed, the farmer has remained the same.

    I agree with you that farms of today have to somewhat debunk the thought that we are still living in the 1950s, but at the same time show people we aren’t faceless, careless organizations and that progress and technology can be a good thing for everyone.

    Here’s a link to a post by a friend of mine on CNN that highlights a few of the changes we’ve seen in farming since Paul Harvey spoke those words in 1978. http://bit.ly/11pTh62

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      I love your blog and I am going to learn so much from it. It is a huge contribution to trying to update the image of farming. And thanks for sending the CNN link. I agree the farmer has remained the same but was this simple image of the Dodge ad ever more than an over-simplification. I really look forward (with any luck) to talking with you more about this (though i know you are very busy).

      Reply
  15. Jennifer

    I appreciate the point in your article that most farms today do not look exactly like they did in 1960. However, I worry that you are quick to assert that a farm must operate any one way. My husband and I own and operate a 100 cow dairy in Northeast Kansas. We raise crops with tractors built in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Also, we’ve only been using Artificial Insemination for the last 5 years, and sold our last breeding bull only a year ago. We do use computers to track our finances and our herd records, but much of our operation does not feature the “latest and greatest” technology. Our neighbors farms are much like ours, families working hard together and making improvements when they can afford to.

    There are farms of many shapes and sizes in this country. Many, like ours, really are run mainly by family members. We don’t own a Dodge truck, and we don’t plan on buying one, or any new truck for that matter. But after missing most of the Super Bowl while milking our cows and feeding our calves, I appreciated the sentiment shown in the “So God Made a Farmer” advertisement. I even wrote a blog post about it.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Love your blog which is now on my feeder.I hope lots of other people read it. Just a question, and it is just a question. Don’t you and your husband find it fun and rewarding to find new wrinkles in running the dairy? My dad, who had the same size dairy, was always experimenting with new floors for housing, new ways of dealing with dung and urine, different feeds. May be he was just odd.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer

        To answer your question, absolutely. If we didn’t enjoy a challenge, we wouldn’t own a dairy. We are always looking for ways to improve. I agree with Brian’s point above that while farming has changed, farmers have not. As your article points out, farmers have been innovating for generations, but I think at the same time we have held onto the values emphasized in the Dodge ad. At least I hope so.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Hi Jennifer, Thanks for the response. And I’m delighted that you agree that besides being hard work, farming also has its fun, challenging and stimulating side. My goodness, where would the food supply be if farmers had not taken up these challenges.

          Reply
  16. Brad Wilson

    You can watch various versions on YouTube without the ad, but the new point is that the deep drama is powerful enough for the SuperBowl, which contrasts sharply with people who, like farmers, oppose cheap food, but who, unlike the Family Farm Movement, doesn’t know how the Farm Bill has caused cheap food (transfats, hfcs, CAFOs, export dumping), and who therefore unknowingly oppose their own values. So this is a refreshing change from the massive, uninformed farmer bashing of today (477 mainstream media pieces, EWG). (Read: “Subsidy Narratives: How Foodies Unknowingly Bash Family Farmers”)

    Yes, Paul Harvey is a conservative, and left out the whole part about the fight for Farm Justice.

    The claims here, however, are often false, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In fact: 1. These are not simple moral values. It’s full of dilemmas creating drama. 2. You think they are actors age 50? There are many ages. Duh. 3. The part about expenses for tractors and land is a cheap shot, as it leaves out costs VS prices and income, which has been extremely unjust for decades (worse and worse) though that’s not even known in most of the food movement. From bad Farm Bills, US farmers have lost about $4 trillion (adjusted for inflation in 2010 values,), and then received only about 1/8 of that back in subsidies, while fighting against the subsidy system. Most have gone out of business. So the video, showing the sense of tragedy, really resonates. 4. And so, if you don’t accept these images, how will urban foodies ever “get a sensible grip on agriculture.” 5. I don’t see “good hearted chap(s)” as much as stern people, overworked, but presented with dignity. 6. you criticize it for both new AND old technology. 7. There’s nothing about being a business person and using a computer GPS etc. that takes away from the drama of work and life on a diversified family farm.

    For Food AND Farm Justice reforms, start with accurate understanding of history: “The Women of Farm Justice: Forgotten by Women Today?” “Missing Food Movement History: Highlights of Family Farm Justice: 1950-2000″

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Wow, Brad, you have lots of good points there. Give me a while to read up on Family Farm Justice and I will get back to you.

      Reply
      1. Brad Wilson

        You were also linked in Brooklyn Grange, “So New York Made a Farmer: Anastasia Weighs In,” and I made more historical points there, on traditonal family farming (the ad?) vs industrial but then morphing back/forward into post modern sustainability.

        Reply
  17. Matt Dean

    I read the article via the news, sounds like the ad was too folksy for you.

    “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?”

    If we didn’t have a sensible grip on agriculture we wouldn’t be able to grow 220 bushels/acre corn and 60 bushels/acre soybeans in central Indiana. I wouldn’t critique a farmer with my belly full. This was a speech at an FFA convention in 1978…without them we don’t grow, we import. Without american nostalgia and pride in farming we would not be inspired to innovate and develop the technology to produce these yields and that feed you and I. We would outsource to countries that would grow and import because of cheaper labor. Do you wish we would have had the nostalgia and pride to inspire us to innovate in manufacturing rather than outsource? It may seem corny (no pun intended), but we actually need this kind of inspiration even if it is to sell trucks to those who can afford it.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Whoops, Matt. I was not saying that farmers did not have a sensible grip on agriculture. What I wanted to convey was that this kind of ad does not convey a useful message about farming to the general population, or at least I don’t think so. Yes, Americans love nostalgia but they also love Steve Jobs. I think it’s important to point out that what farming has achieved is at least as impressive as what Apple has achieved.

      Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Dear Joe Bob, I appreciate the time you took to comment but why do you assume I have never worked on a farm?

      Reply
  18. Jason

    The ad has an interesting dichotomy to it — on the one hand, it’s a very nice tribute to farmers, who certainly deserve praise for their hard work and tireless commitment to their occupation. On the other hand, this tireless commitment and hard work is physically exhausting to the point of being injurious, and thus it’s not something that should be encouraged or required of anyone. One might look back on factory workers who worked 7 days a week from dawn until dusk in the 1800s with a certain sense of admiration and respect, but at the same time no one would seriously suggest that we should encourage people to live that kind of life — in fact, we have laws in place to prevent it.

    In short, while the sentiment is nice, the commercial is both naive and misguided.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      A very interesting comment, Jason, and one no one else has made. And it’s one reason why I cannot agree with nostalgia for earlier farming.

      Reply
      1. Cathy

        So should we recommend government intervention so farmers only work a 40 hour work week? Interesting comment but not practical for small operation dairy farmers. Isn’t this the point of the commercial, the standards farmers apply to themselves are unique, not something the rest of the world can really underststand.

        Reply
        1. Rachel Laudan Post author

          Thanks for the comment, Cathy. And animals wait for no one, so those who have dairies just have to get out there and milk. But I’m not sure government regulations at issue. Just, is it possible to find a way to make this less burdensome.

          Reply
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