They are sexy and don't know it
By Trent Loos
I just returned from another fantastic trip to Australia. This time I spent a whole week getting to the core of wool and lamb production in Victoria. I truly enjoyed my time and learned quite a bit about a segment of agriculture that I have little involvement with. However, something I said did get the attention of quite a few of the sheep enthusiasts Down Under. I told them we didn't need to spend millions to tell the story of food and fiber production, we just needed to do it.
Ironically, the absolute best example of that happened here in the states while I was attending the convention in Bendigo, Victoria.
Unless you live in a cave, you know that the Peterson Brothers--Greg, 21; Nathan, 18; and Kendall, 15--from Saline County, Kan., produced a video that was placed on YouTube on June 25. It went viral immediately. In the first 7 days, more than 2.7 million people viewed their video called "I'm farming and I grow it."
If you have not seen this 3 minute and 30 second video, you absolutely must take the time to watch it. It is passionate. It is genuine and it is sexy. Yes, today everybody is talking about making modern farming sexy and these three young farmers did it. I am told that they spent about 3 weeks filming and Greg must have spent countless hours producing. Undoubtedly he had a vision and simply put the vision together in the form of a video.
Actors, professionals, hired spokespeople and millions of dollars couldn't have put together this masterpiece of modern media. The sad, sad irony is that four days prior to its release, in Hollywood the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance attempted to pull off something that cost you and me far more. Yes, producers are putting money in a $30 million dollar campaign and that money will not generate 1/10 of the success this 3 1/2-minute piece has already accomplished.
I was irate when I learned that the organizing agency behind the USFRA held an extremely expensive show in Hollywood and had only farmers in the audience. Yes, the venue might have been right but instead of getting people that may not understand food production or might even work against the modern methods of food production, they flew in 50 farmers from the commodity organizations responsible for dumping money into this cesspool simply so they can get them to refill their coffers.
Enough about that waste. I want to focus on the real opportunity the Peterson trio has accomplished. Only someone who eats, breathes and sleeps the business can put together the fine details that Greg Peterson did and really tell a genuine story. That is what consumers want--they want to meet the people that produce their food, not some slick, overpaid spokesperson!
An Australian sheep farmer, native to South Africa but currently ranching in Queensland, came up to me all excited when I finished speaking. He said, "Your message is so timely because we have all just decided that we need to tell our story but everyone was telling us we need to spend millions of dollars with professional agencies to get it done properly. You are telling us 'just do it because we are the experts.'"
Yes, in fact for 13 years my message has been consistent: the people who get their hands dirty every day converting our God-given natural resources into the essentials of life are the real experts. You simply need to start having conversations. That is how we were reaching consumers for years until recently when commodity organizations decided it was a good idea to use a big checkbook and invite the agency folks to the party rather than letting producers tell the story for fear that they might speak out of turn. It removes all legitimacy from the effort to re-connect consumers and producers and makes it seem like we have something to hide because we can't be seen in public.
In closing, I know what needs to be done and every day I try to fine one more angle from which to tell the real story. My hat is off to the Peterson Bros. for pulling off the win of the century. I hope that the video provides inspiration for every single one of us to think about being creative in finding our own personal way to remind the nation and the world that "I'm farming and I grow it."
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the video here.