Farmers are people, too

Seth Teter


It seems it’s becoming more fashionable to eschew the slew of slogans that heap praise onto farmers. The thinking goes something like this: slapping a “Thank a Farmer” sticker on your truck bumper condescends to nonfarmers, does little to improve agriculture’s image, and it’s kinda like a lead singer that wears his own band’s t-shirt – it’s just not rock n’ roll.

But my beef with this and similar image campaigns is that they treat “the American farmer” as something, not someones.  And farmers are much more interesting as individuals than as an institution. Like 2 million times more.

So, would the real farmers please stand up?  All you ordinary people scattered among the rest of us Americans in our individual pursuits of happiness.

I don’t mean that as a slight.  Rather, I see it as Mr. Chesterton did:

“We should always endeavor to wonder at the permanent thing, not at the mere exception. We should be startled by the sun, and not by the eclipse. We should wonder less at the earthquake, and wonder more at the earth.”

That is to say the mythical Marlboro Man is decidedly less wonderful than a real story of a rancher named Jeff and his son who likes to talk about dinosaurs and other important things.

And while we respond to a hungry world with the triumphant call of progress, we see that agriculture’s endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth has always been miraculous in its monotony. To get caught up in the heroics of feeding the masses is to forget that each sprouted seed offers a sufficient marvel.

How much more wonderful to think that this intimate involvement in the process of life is not reserved for a special class of God’s chosen caretakers, but is work chosen by mere human beings.

And then to see a that a farmer’s stewardship of land mirrors a teacher’s stewardship of knowledge or a musician’s stewardship of culture or a nurse’s’ stewardship of health is to see we share something in our humanity.

So in all this clamoring over the right image, I’ve come to learn that any particular farm is simply an extension of its particular farmer. If you hope to understand anything about agriculture, you’ll first need to know something about its people.  Particular people – with names, and faces, and passions and perspectives.

You know, people like you and me.

Seth Teter is an agricultural communicator at the Ohio Farm Bureau working to facilitate conversations at the intersection of food, agriculture and community.


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  1. Darrell Rubel says:

    Bravo, Seth!

  2. Bill Bakan says:

    At one time the "farmer" had but one "image" replicated over and over in children's story books as the kindly gentleman in bibs and straw hat chewing on a reed of grass. It was a "Brand" almost a "logo" before Nike, Under Armor, or McD's had meaning. It represented those images flashed upon the national stage before us in a 2 minute montage' this past Sunday, during the "Big Game".

    Farming was simple when the brand was cast, it is not so much today. Back in the Day the virtues of a farmer extended not much farther than a person whom ensured the absence of hunger and a pillar within the community their families helped to build. No bumper stickers needed you saw them every day and the worlds were intertwined.

    Today I'm a "farmer" on a family farm that walks in many worlds from "commercial" to "organic" Maybe I am too "Old School" anymore but a "Lasting Image" can no more be created or destroyed by "campaigns" unless there are supporting actions and facts to back it up.

    Remember money talks and B.S. walks (yea I still say stuff like that) and despite all the perceived problems some of us think we have in agriculture about our image a multi-national company just spent millions of dollars to try and extend their brand to encompass our image. No matter your opinion or perception of the Dodge ad the fact it happened at all along with the "Year of the Farmer" says a great deal. That was money talking.

    The permanent thing I endeavor to is guided by where I see my competitive advantage related to agriculture align with emerging opportunities I perceive and then I try to adapt to evolving environment all the while staying true to my core principles. What does that mean? I DO NOT purposely "Agvocate" (I hate that word) rather I "Project Image by Doing" (sound familiar?). I engage with what I do not understand and attempt to learn. I ask "foodies" questions like "Why is Monsanto so bad?" I listen to their responses and attempt to learn based upon my experiences and agricultural knowledge if they have a point and if so or not how can we continue to have a mutually positive interaction.

    We are not "chosen" we just have greater opportunities to interact along a timeline than most ways of life that is associated with more romantic images or our countries heritage. Hence we get the call more often and may find people interested in learning about agriculture and thereby its "people". Along that path may we be wise enough to relive their worries, because that's what's it all about!

    Hakuna Matata

    • Ray Prock says:

      Bill if you want to put this into a blog piece we have the platform.

    • Bill Bakan says:

      Hey Ray Prock hope all is well in Sunny Ca. Despite my tech-savy appearance I may have a challenge or two doing that. I just stumbled upon this page as I caught it off a bump Dan Toland gave Seth's work. This winter I have needed to catch up on my tech-work but farm-work keeps getting in the way, darn that content we create. If you think it is worthy and would like to help (show me the way) post as a blog piece please let me know, I'm cool with that. I've hardly even posted on my blog forever, but it is on the to do list. I see bits and pieces from all you guys who are so much better at staying active in communicating than I, but have difficulty following on a consistent basis. Take care, keep em' milking. I do reference you guys a lot when I talk in my wine world when they start carrying on about how much work a vineyard is and a winery, I just say you have no idea what work is till you nestle in next to a cow on a 90+ degree day in August!

  3. Well said, I like that there seems to be pushback from the "farmers" on the word and idea of "image". :)

  4. […] Greetings from Bill Bakan, Farmer Bill the “Fun TSAR” at Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery.  I was encouraged to comment on a post on Just Farmers by a friend of mine.  Seth Teter with the Ohio Farm Bureau had just put up a blog post on February 9th entitled “Farmers are People too”.  He made some excellent points and also asked for input.  I did so and a few of the folks who follow and read the blog suggested I offer it as a blog post itself.  Recently the “pot was stirred” a bit you might say on with the Dodge Ram commercial.  The wake was almost as impressive as the splash itself.  I’ll put a few words about me at the bottom if you are still interested in learning a little more about me but I’m really “Just a Farmer”!  The following is my post in the comment section: […]

  5. […] Farmers are people, too Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogleRedditEmailMoreTumblrStumbleUponLinkedInDiggPrint […]

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