Monday, February 4th, 2013

So God Made a Farmer

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn and call his state senator to complain about expensive new slurry pit legislation, spend all day with his ag lobby board strategizing about more laws against private raw milk sales, take that state senator out for steak and wine at dinner, and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board at the school he wants to eliminate with a voucher program." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody that can tell an employee to go shape an ax handle, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, make a harness out of hay wire, and not report dangerous working conditions involved in doing those things. And, who, at planting time and harvest season, can get together with his Tea Party friends and complain about unchecked government spending while cashing Farm Bill subsidy and crop insurance checks. Then, painin' from 'golf cart back,' put in another 72 minutes penning an op-ed to the local paper about socialism ruining the invisible hand of the market.

"I need somebody with strong, undocumented laborers. Strong enough to rustle a calf, yet gentle enough to understand the economic need to ignore minimum wage and overtime laws." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to count on an underfunded FDA and castrated EPA, to heave their stomachs out of their SUVs and yet gentle enough to be reactionary about inevitable demographic changes to 'the heartland'… and who will stop his mower for an hour to paint a sign, to be placed in his field by the highway, reading 'Show me the birth certificate.'" So God made a farmer.

It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed and breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who'd laugh and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life "not doing what dad does." So God made an undocumented farm worker.

Abe Sauer is the author of How to be: NORTH DAKOTA.

42 Comments / Post A Comment

Sean Lai (#14,158)

I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking this while that ad was running.

Moxie (#81,363)

Watching this in the bar with some people I didn't really know, an argument erupted about what truck brand this was an ad for. I was pushing for Dodge. Obviously.

At least now we all have an example to refer to when describing the horror that is (non-judicious use of)HDR.

BadUncle (#153)

God said he needed a group of men to fly their government-subsidized private jets to Pebble Beach every year, work on their handicaps at Cypress.

saythatscool (#101)

Abe, this is now maybe the tenth post in a row from you where my reaction is "I get it, but give me a fucking break."

Go write something angry about the Koch brothers and knock off this penny ante bullshit.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

@saythatscool Well at least he's not painting with a broad brush or anything…

I just found it funny that they air this ad whilst when we've so abandoned our agricultural heritage. What is it… fewer than 2 percent of Americans live on a farm today?

sox (#652)

@happymisanthrope None of whom can even think about buying a brand new big giant dodge pickup.

@sox Yeah… let's just say that being a small farmer is a precarious financial state.

sox (#652)

@happymisanthrope As a child of farmers (albeit small hippy homesteading farmers), I am all too aware of the precariousness of that financial state. Now I am a big ole grown up, working in the sustainability industry and everyone wants to focus on energy- not water or food.
My best friends own and operate a small organic farm for which we are trying to develop children's programs that drum up career interest but figuring out how they will one day be profitable with it is tough.

So yeah I find both the ad and Abe's take on it totally off the mark. But did you see that chipotle commercial with Willy Nelson singing? So great!

Moxie (#81,363)

@happymisanthrope Note that the ad is targeted at "the farmer in all of us." It's a reward for feeling like you work hard. And wanting to be the hard/soft cowboy.

@sox Grandparents were farmers, and two uncles are in the industry (one's a farm hand, one owns a farm) so I hear you about how both the ad and Abe's take are off the mark. Do you work on sustainability issues with water or food? I know that energy is the big ticket item, but you're so correct that those are going to be big problems sooner rather than later as well. Totally missed the chipotle ad, but loved the Budweiser foal commercial!

@moxie I know that the ad is targeted to "the farmer in all of us." It just happened to hit my righteous ire button rather than wax nostalgia button. Cynicism overload.

deepomega (#1,720)

If there's one thing America needs more of, it's white dudes who run farms out of a sense of nostalgia rather than because we need more crops grown.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@deepomega To be fair, they did show one photo of a black guy. Progress!

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

Ugh. I used to do inspection work with a guy who listened to Paul Harvey in the truck. It's like right-wing Garrison Keillor. I was secretly pleased when I heard Paul Harvey had died.

John Wright@twitter (#241,385)

Well you did it you got me to take the bait congratulations.

I was going to take the time to make counter arguments to your statements but this piece is essentially the same as any gun not job report.

rshewmaker@twitter (#241,386)

I could care less about the dodge but this was well written. I think Abe nailed it. To all those who disagree with it, please continue enjoying the spoils of Wal-Mart's meat and produce department.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

But Satan made FarmVille.

Thanks for this. This ad was inane propaganda and it made me sick to my stomach. I guess they were appealing to the Depends undergarment demographic with the use of Paul Harvey who fantasize that every farmer is a salt of the earth American, honorable, noble, with no guile, greed, or avarice. They all pray to the same God and buy American trucks – as far as Fiat is considered an "American" truck

farmer fin (#7,544)

Wow, I'm really surprised at how stupid this all is, both Abe's thing and all the comments. Farming is not all Big Ag, especially outside of those big terrible square-shaped states. To characterize farmers as geriatric Tea Party wing nuts is like saying website commenters are all a bunch of hipster douchebags. Oh wait ….

And anyway, I drive a Chevy.

@farmer fin It's not that – it's that the fastest growing sector of small to mid size farmers are women, did you see any? And that the vast majority of people who grow our food are latino migrant workers, did you see any? I am embedded in a farming community in New England by virtue of my female farm manager roommate, and this commercial was not about them. Nor was it about the reality of big farming. It was pandering BS for rich white guys and gross. Literally zero food production in our country looks like that.

kenkmooo (#241,395)

I think its going to be rather interesting to see how that all turns out.

MrJM@twitter (#18,073)


– MrJM

s. (#775)

If you've farmed today, thank a taxpayer.

farmer fin (#7,544)

@s. If you've eaten today, thank a farmer. Asshole.

The advert was kind of stupid. This article takes it a step further by taking a stupid advert this seriously. Oh, and the Toyota Tundra is one the most used trucks on farms today. Those damn things take some punishment!

eloise (#241,399)

I think this would be a much more effective piece if each statement (or even some) linked to a supporting article or story. I agree with most of it and it still feels like hostile generalizing.

farmer fin that's exactly the point. farming is not ALL anything. it's not ALL big and its not ALL homespun, noble farmers "workin' the land" with their bare hands and a Dodge truck. It's a fantasy that is made even more vulgar by its invocation of God over and over. There are plenty of noble, honorable god-fearin' farmers. Just as there are non god-fearin' farmers. Just as there are farmers that work the soil with their own two hands there are farmers who use slave labor to line their pockets. This nauseating ad wants you to believe in a mythology that's not even remotely close to true, all in the name of selling more stuff

farmer fin (#7,544)

@Douglas Smith@facebook I agree that the ad is a bit nauseating, but no more than the mindless invective of this post. I expect more of The Awl readers, and I certainly expect more of Abe.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@farmer fin That's too bad. I guess I expect more of farmers (and, in general, Midwest, flyover residents) who get so often upset by coastal stereotyping to realize that ad is just another form of stereotyping farmers that generally irks "farmers" and to which my intended overreaction was just another layer. The "oh, god bless farmers" and "Farmers are now all just government mooches" is all the same side of a one-dimensional way of defining farmers that they themselves so often claim to lament. I mean, jesus, the ad was made by the Richards agency in Dallas whose clients include, no kidding, The Atlanta Falcons, discount supermarket Grocery Outlet AND Anderson Erickson Dairy "One of the largest independent dairies in the country" and 16,000-head Shamrock Farms which was busted in 2011 by the USDA for wrongfully labeling organic milk. The day after that ad cleared, Richards was strategizing on a way to make giant corporate farms sound just like that farmer at the school board meeting. The whole thing was engineered to capitalize on red-blue state social strife and vile.

Of course, the son of a cop, the ultimate irony is that Harvey lived in Chicago and never farmed a day, which made romanticizing the whole thing from afar that much easier.

txoutback (#241,404)

I'm a farmer, and like farmer_fin, I agree that its a dangerous practice to go about lumping us into the Tea Party.

I believe the small farmer is the hope for our future. Local, sustainable production of seasonal food.

Smart farming by progressive, educated folks is a key part of the Health, Water, and Energy issues that are symptomatic of our nation in decline.

Please Abe, don't spend your time and talent creating a divisive rift between people who grow things and people who dont, based on silly party lines… put that energy and talent into educating the tea-party farmers about how important it is that they can help save our country by opening their minds and embracing a future that is more like their predecessors, but without so much agony.

@txoutback Hey Farmer, I live with a farmer. She's half-cuban and a woman! So funny that we didn't see any of those folks in this ad, don't you think? Women run around 15% of America's farms and are also more likely to be growing livestock and organic vegetables than huge mono-culture – the local sustainable production you're talking about. I think Abe is right to skewer the myth of these dudes. Especially when 70% of farm labor in our country is done by non-whites. The old white men depicted in this ad really do represent the aggressively protected Big Ag, and invoking them as divinely created super-humans that it's un-American to criticize won't help us get to more sustainable food sourcing in the future.

They reminds me of Dickens good vs evil–black vs white. Nevertheless, if I break down each paragraph in the Dodge add and its rebuttal as a character, I know every one of them.

sigerson (#179)

There is a large patch of Iowa – just outside Cedar Rapids – that was farmed by my great-great-grandfather starting from the 1870s. It is still farmed by his descendants. That said, he has around 700 descendants and most of them live in cities now…

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

*adds farmers to the list of citizens to be publicly fellated at sporting events*

"@farmer fin That's too bad. I guess I expect more of farmers (and, in general, Midwest, flyover residents) who get so often upset by coastal stereotyping to realize that ad is just another form of stereotyping farmers that generally irks "farmers" and to which my intended overreaction was just another layer."

That certainly wasn't clear to me.

Hey, Abe, I dare you to come work with us on our 125 acre farm for a month in Texas- preferably in July. We have no help; we can't afford it. I wish we had a golf cart. We have our hands and an old truck, and we have the tractor that my daughter-in-law has to work an extra job in town for us to afford. However, we help feed the nation. I can understand your perspective, because there's a bad apple in every bunch. However, I can honestly say that the majority of this bunch are hardworking families that make enough to pay the bills. We do it because we love it, not because we're rich.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Ruby Sherrill@facebook Thanks but no thanks. I did that until I went to college when my family–like so many others–could no longer sustain the costs/sacrifices with operating a single family dairy farm where I grew up.

Ag worker in Texas (#241,427)

I would like to ask if you where eating beef, pork, chicken, sun flower seeds, grain products, drinking milk, wearing cotton clothing, cooking with cotton seed oil (that's just the short list of products produced by farmers) on the day you wrote this? I bet you were. So how can you sit there and complain about an American Farmer when you are using the products from an Amaerican Farm? Have you ever stepped foot on a farm and put in a honest day's work?

ericdeamer (#945)

@Ag worker in Texas That's a bunch of nonsense. Just because someone is involved in some way in delivering a product or service that people use means that they should be immune from any criticism, mockery, or satire? That the ridiculous hagiography and reverence of the Paul Harvey thing/Dodge ad is the only acceptable attitude? By that logic, then no profession or institution could ever be criticized. How can you complain about the police/military when they're protecting you? How can you complain about teachers when they're educating our children? How can you complain about the conditions at a FoxConn factory when people like using Apple products? etc. etc. By that logic the only people left to criticize would be those who apparently have so much down time and are so useless that they have enough time to comment on blog posts. I'm from a midwestern state and currently live in one. I'm not a farmer but previous generations of my family were and I grew up among farmers and their children and Abe's take on the farming lifestyle, even if it is a bit over-stated, still seems a heck of a lot closer to reality than the ridiculous over-glorification of the Dodge Ad. That was just a bunch of nostalgic nonsense that completely ignores the reality of contemporary US agriculture which does involve all the stuff Abe talks about above including ridiculous farm subsidies, shady labor practices, the consolidation of the idealized "family farm" into big agri-business etc. Maybe it's wrong to assume that all farmers are right wing tea party types but it seems like a hell of a lot of them are. I took a drive through rural Northern Indiana AFTER the election and all kinds of farms had ridiculous anti-Obama signs on their property just as Abe references above.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Ag worker in Texas As I noted above, I put in many many "honest" days of work on a farm. In fact, about a dozen years of farm work more than Harvey ever did.

Ella Reff@twitter (#241,448)

My dad was a farmer of a small farm. He did drive a Dodge Ram. He was a Democrat, not a Tea Party man. He passed away but I still drive by the land to see how the crops are and I have special memories of being in the country rather than in town.

pizza girl (#241,585)

All i have to say is that, to those of you that do not realize this, our country can not function with out that 2 percent that does the farmering. How do you think we are fed? there is no other country that can support our massive eating habits. this post is ridciulously rude and insupportive of the people who make sure food is on our table every day.
Abe, if you really did any farming in your life you would know that most farmers hate the any government facilities that infere with thier work because it makes every thing they have to do next to impossible or causes thier animals and crops more damage than necessary. Foods from other countries often times carry diseases with them, enough of them do that there has been so many regulations places on the foods that come from over seas that we now cannot have many of these foods in come into our ports for fear of what will happen should any one contract the disease.
For those of you that are wondering, yes i have grown up on a farm and i am deeply offended by this twisted, rude statement. and by the way my father could afford to buy a brand new pickup truck, he chose not to because he didnt want it wrecked in two days time. he would have rather bought an older truck. Just so you know i am upset about the fact that this saying which was meant to help people understand that farming is no easy life is being turned into this.

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