Jeff Semler: And now, 'the rest of the story'

February 26, 2013|By JEFF SEMLER |

As you might imagine, I received many compliments on my last article about the Dodge/Paul Harvey commercial “So God Made a Farmer.”

Probably because we live in a conservative agrarian area of the world, what I often refer to as “God’s Country.” I know it isn’t really “God’s Country,” but I think it is a pretty good place to live, work and raise a family.

However, folks outside of the area and more specifically in major metropolitan areas had less kind things to say about the commercial. There were the milder critics that described the commercial as quaint or nostalgic. Well, of course it was; they were selling trucks, not farms. Obviously, these folks are either naïve or have never seen a commercial. Attempting to paint your product in the most favorable light, who knew?

Even if some of the images were outdated in an age of big, high-tech farms, agriculturists could hardly contain their joy over such a positive portrayal before an estimated 108.4 million television viewers. By late afternoon on the Monday after the game, the ad had also collected 4.6 million YouTube viewings.

It was rewarding to see so many news outlets taking note of the ad like NPR, Slate and The Atlantic. The Business Insider shared, “agriculture has become defensive in part because of its dwindling numbers. About 2 percent of Americans farm today, versus 25 percent 75 years ago.”

Even Tom Vilsack, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, got into the act stating, “This ad was a good example of how we can inspire new audiences with a proactive message about the significant contributions of rural America.”

Just last month, he pointed to the failure of Congress to pass a new farm bill as evidence that rural America was in danger of becoming politically irrelevant.

Vilsack went on to say, “Some of my speeches through this next year will be to help reiterate the importance of rural America to the rest of the country, and I plan to carry this message to audiences who normally wouldn’t understand or appreciate rural America.”

Adverblog, self-proclaimed as the digital advertising and marketing blog where only the best ideas worldwide, since 2003.

The silent winner of the Super Bowl commercials crazy challenge is a Farmer. Nothing flashy, no multi-million special effect, just the purity and the intensity of beautiful color saturated photos. More than 8 million views and counting for a montage of farmers’ portraits and still images picturing the hard life on the fields. It’s a full emotional immersion in the life of the farmers, powerfully narrated by the voice of Paul Harvey and the speech that he gave in 1978 at the National Future Farmers of America Convention.

National Geographic master William Albert Allard and Kurt Markus are among the 10 photographers that RAM commissioned for images.

My last share comes from America’s heartland, authored by Katie Pinke, a blogging, North Dakota farm girl and publicist who works with family farmers and agriculture organizations.

“Maybe we can come together to build an America that is still rooted in the land, in growing our food and marketing the abundance to a growing, global population.”

I couldn’t agree more. So with spring just around the corner, our farms and fields will soon be a buzz doing their part.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by email at

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