Who or what makes a farmer?

Yesterday, while rounding up the cows, Zoe announced: “When I grow up, I want to be a farmer and have two children.”.

“True? How come?”

“So I can be like you, Mama.”

It gets into the blood of farm kids early. Much earlier, I suspect, than the children of, say, accountants or writers. At six, our little girl knows when a paddock is ready to graze and has that sixth sense for when a cow seems not her normal self. Because she’s already a farmer.

Since I don’t have religious faith, I don’t believe any of this is God’s doing. Take a look at this ad, which just made its debut during the Superbowl.

This evangelical message has got farmers around the world twittering with delight. It’s nice to get a pat on the back once in a while. But I have a confession: it simultaneously makes me proud and embarrassed.

Why must we farmers talk so much about how hard we work? Yes, it is a farming fact of life but, no, it does not make us saints or martyrs. We do it because we want to.

And when I asked Zoe what she thought would be great about being just like me, it came down to this: “I can have fun with the cows every day!”. Perfect!

22 thoughts on “Who or what makes a farmer?

  1. Thanks Marian – every now and again I forget how different the US is to Australia. This sums up the difference perfectly…probably the most cringe-worthy, soppy religious crap I have seen in a loooong time. Trying to powder farmers’ agates like this is just embarrassing.

  2. Marian, finally watched the ad through your blog, after all the tweets!

    I loved it. The religious overtones didn’t worry me – I felt they were there to convey a story. I have seen/heard many things start off with “On the eight day, god created….. ” mostly in comedy. Or Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy where God is vanquished in an argument of logic – religion is used to give depth to a story but not it’s punchline (I could use Monty Python as well). I hate to point this out as well, but in my travels and where I live, farming communities are more religiously minded then their city counterparts.
    It seems to me they know their customer and must have got the vibe that their customers don’t feel good about themselves at the moment. It probably won’t entice any Ford customers to jump ship – but they are publicly showing empathy and understanding during tough times (plus celebrating the industry). In my opinion that is one of the best Ag ads out there (possibly ever), and I wish we could replicate it in Australia as soon as possible. I guess the question is what company could do this that is inextricably linked to Agriculture outside of vehicle manufacturers that everyone would recognize? Coles or Woolies??!! Banks ?!?!!!(Laughing due to irony!) Answer this and we might get somewhere.

    • I think you’re right, John. The people at Dodge know how to beguile their market: people who are feeling unappreciated for their hard work will certainly be grateful for such a display of gratitude. Equally, it’s important that we farmers ‘talk’ to non-farming Aussies in a way that resonates with them (rather than just with us).

      • I’m sure it would resonate with non-farming Americans as it plays to much of their conservative and ag-appreciative culture. Here, we would have to change it, only a little. I wouldn’t mind a little inter-farming love anyway, even if the non-farmers don’t ‘get’ it. That ad shows remarkable respect across all ag industries and does it in a humble and respectful way. I would say it darkness of it also sums up the mood of the entire sector.
        I don’t believe it is beguiling, as in my book that is trying to trick people into purchasing something. If it were Coles or Woolies who (in my book) deceptively manipulate markets and consumer’s choices against the will of farmers & suppliers, that would be beguiling (which, to a large part their ads are!). Dodge supply trucks/utes to farmers and others. They aren’t looking to make a profit from on selling farmers produce or take ridiculous amounts of interest off them (might be wrong on that one). They are talking straight to their customers. To show pride being involved in our industry is great – more of it. To use it purely as a cynical marketing ploy – to get the non-farmers all gushy, I will ignore it (and it will probably irk me somewhat).

        • How romantic of you, John!

          Seriously, the people at Dodge didn’t spend a fortune on this ad to make farmers feel good – it was first and foremost to make sales – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (I have to come clean and confess here that my off-farm income is in copywriting for businesses trying to sell stuff). It’s wonderful that they were able to lift farmer spirits at the same time. But let me ask you this: if their farmers are really making harnesses out of hayband and sacks then don’t you think a little beguiling might just be in order to prise their dusty wallets open far enough to purchase a shiny new Dodge?

          On the other hand, it is great to feel appreciated and a little more of that from big business and our politicians certainly wouldn’t go astray.

          I can, however, imagine citysiders who work their guts out in equally noble professions to keep us healthy, safe and in clothes quite justifiably rolling their eyes at this one. It’s frighteningly close to widening the divide rather than bringing us closer together.

  3. Yes, it is romantic to believe in people, and the industry they work for and I am one of those. I haven’t been around long enough to be permanently scarred with a deep cynicism. I also don’t give a rats what the hard working citysiders think if there is an Australian ad out there praising the work of farmers. For all the ones it puts off, it’ll bring along others along as they see a positive affirmation of an industry that knows it gets kicked in the guts regularly and gets back up and keeps going. Tell them to get their own industry to do the same, or come and work in ours. This whole appeasement of others when they are not the target audience annoys me. If the citysiders don’t like farmers giving themselves some well deserved praise (or being advertised to), I don’t care.This is not an us and them thing. I’ve done the city life and I worked damned hard. Mutual respect goes a long way – but in advertising you have a target, that has to be appreciated. Getting others attention by doing this is even better.

    To me it’s worth a try, get Todd Sampson or someone of his ilk to put something together similarly in an Australian way. Get it out there and see the reaction – you never know it may be positive! Above all I’d trade all this just to see all farmers get paid what they’re worth – maybe it’s worth our while putting a few noses out joint (squeaky wheel?)!!

    • I reckon it helps for a farmer to be a bit of a romantic, John, so no disrespect meant.

      What I’d like to see is something that emphasises what we farmers have in common with other Aussies rather than our differences. We are all (the cows, the farmers, milk drinkers) in this together – we all want great food/fibre at a fair price while protecting our animals, land and families. The sooner we realise we are on the same side, the better!

  4. Gawd, I must really be watching the wrong ad…

    Maybe we could see an ad showing the dairy program subsidies in the United States that totaled $4.9 billion from 1995-2011? “And on the 8th day, God created the US Congress to unfairly subsidise the caretakers…”

  5. I’m not a farmer, and I liked the ad. It was a bit cheesy, American but I appreciated the sentiment it was trying to convey. I’m not sure that it would make me buy a dodge which is what the advertisements ultimate goal was but it terms of making me think what it was like to be a farmer it certainly did that. I know it portrays a somewhat romanticised version and doesn’t consider the realities such as subsidies or the issues surrounding supermarkets but it made me feel a connection with a farming life and surely that’s a good thing. There are lots of people in all walks of life who work hard but I didn’t see it as a them and us – a rural versus urban thing. Maybe I’m naive but on face value I thought it told a good story in an appealing way and judging by twitter/facebook/you tube lots of other people thought so to. You need to create an emotional connection and I think the ad did that. An Australia version sounds like a great idea.

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  7. Two questions that I don’t think have been answered:
    – why do farmers, ahead of anyone else, need someone to tell them that they work hard? The data says ALL Australians work harder than most in the world- and I for one don’t think that’s necessarily something to be proud of.
    – where’s the evidence that so-called urban Australians have a negative view of farmers? In my experience they may be naive to what farming life is like but they’re almost invariably positive and admire farmers.
    My view of the ad- its jingoistic rubbish that the farming community should reject out of hand, not least because it diminishes their professionalism.

    • Both good questions, Shayne. To be fair, this is an American ad designed to sell trucks to US farmers but it appealed to lots of Aussie farmers (as you can see by my blog, I’m not one of them).

  8. Thanks Milkmaid Marian for sharing those great videos. Hmmm concern over MG add – although good a small war that could start between milk and soy! sometimes leveraging off another product in a negative way to gain market can get nasty. I like soy and milk. Cheers Louise

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