Forests, Trees and Paul Harvey

My Generation

"So God Made a Farmer" certainly caught our attention. Here's why what you've heard may not be true, and what two farm broadcasters had to do with it.

Published on: February 5, 2013

Unless you've been under a rock, you've likely seen - or at the very least, heard about - the Dodge Ram advertisement heralding farmers during Sunday night's Super Bowl.

It featured a powerful and nostalgic reading of the poem, "So God Made a Farmer," as delivered by Paul Harvey to the 1978 FFA Convention. Set to the backdrop of Harvey's familiar voice were a series of beautiful photographs, many by National Geographic Photographers, many of which were so beautifully poignant I could only hope to take anything like them. At the end of two minutes before an audience of 108.4 million viewers - the most-watched television event in history - the ad revealed it was produced by Dodge Ram, with a nod to the National FFA. Indeed, for every sharing or viewing of the video, Dodge will give $1 to National FFA and local hunger programs, up to $1 million.





Most excellent.

What's less excellent? Some of agriculture's response.

Indeed, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded Sunday night after the spot aired. Fellow aggies were thrilled to have their impassioned profession thrust into the national spotlight. By Monday morning, many news sources and pundits put the commercial in their top 10 list of favorites from the game. The collective excitement continued throughout the blogosphere; CNN's Eatocracy blog even recapped some of the early responses to the ad, both inside and outside agriculture.

Response to comments and links we shared on our Prairie Farmer Facebook page were 8 to 10 times greater than what we usually see. You could feel the collective excitement. People were on fire about this ad.

Then there came a quiet rumbling: that perhaps Paul Harvey was a poor choice as the voice of the commercial. That he was a "PETA supporter" who fought to end animal agriculture, and that every dollar his estate earned for the spot would be used to fight agriculture. (Harvey died in 2009.)

The rest of the story?

Farm Progress's own Max Armstrong - a venerable voice of agriculture who's shared truth with urban audiences for decades - says it's not so.

Max recalls, "Paul loved animals. Don't we all? He did make me a little uncomfortable once or twice because he started to veer a little, caught up in the popular sentiment and common misunderstandings of animal ag."

But this is where the story gets really good.

"Both Orion and I shared some input on that with his producer, his engineer and with Paul himself," Max recalls.

These radio guys, they're all good friends, and that includes producers and engineers and the rest of the folks they work around. They respected each other enough to share truth, and Paul Harvey listened. It was important to him to be accurate, and he would listen when Max and Orion offered guidance on a topic. He even quoted them on air occasionally, to some 600 U.S. radio stations and Armed Forces Radio around the world.

"Paul was not a PETA supporter," Max adds.

That? That's good stuff. That's a couple of ag guys with relationships and access to a major public influencer, sharing truth about agriculture. Want an inside story? There you go. It kinda makes me love Max and Orion and the work they do more than I already did, if that's possible.

And here's the thing, in my humble opinion: even if - even if - Paul Harvey was an animal rights activist, does it really matter? He didn't write the poem. He only read it. And with perfection. Those two minutes on television brought roomfuls of people to silence. It evoked tears. It reminded people of who we are - this 2% of the population that mostly attracts negative attention these days. Our story was told by people who aren't filing lawsuits against us. To 108 million people! One commenter even said it made him want to be a better person. And it didn't need to use sexual innuendo or scantily clad women to do so. Amen to that, and to anything I don't have to explain away to my kids.

Criticizing this commercial because of Paul Harvey is the very definition of missing the proverbial forest for the trees. For the love of all things holy, let's keep our eyes on the forest. And give thanks for people like Max and Orion.

 

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  1. friv of www.frivlink.com says:

    Excellent! I love Orion & Max, too, and am glad they were able share the truth with Paul, who had influence over so many people. I saw a comment that derided Ram for "using farmers to sell trucks." Well, I'd buy a Ram based on that commercial before I would use Go Daddy based on theirs!

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  2. Very well written. Really enjoy knowing more http://www.friv2friv3friv4.com/ about Paul Harvey and his relationship with Max and Orion. Kuddos to you for getting the rest of this story, and kuddos to Max and Orion for being agriculture advocates to someone as highly visible as Paul Harvey. You are right, we need to keep being advocates for agriculture while this positive message is still playing in consumer's minds. Thank you for this piece.

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  3. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along.I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this for future use.

  4. t. swift says:

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    Here is a video with bold quality humanities, thank you for sharing

  6. farmergolf says:

    If a tweet fell in the forest and only the twits heard it, did it really make a noise? For 99.99% of the viewers the message was clear. I liked the tagline best. There is some farmer in all of us.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad I took the time to read on past the first paragraph. You've got so much to say, so much to offer. I hope people realise this and look into your page. I Like music and I often entertained by playing games on frivmini.com

  8. Bud Forrer says:

    I was one of the young FFA members in the Convention center in 1978. The young men and women of the FFA were very quite that day as Mr. Harvey read the poem. I am proud to be the Grandson of Farmers.

  9. Mark says:

    I LOVED the commercial. Seems like some people just aren't happy unless they have something to complain about. Can't all of us in agriculture just sit back and be thankful that there was an ad positively portraying agriculture? Kudos to Dodge for an amazing commercial...

  10. Wendy FP says:

    Holly, thank you for providing the "rest of the story." The outliers among our ag communication colleagues are looking to gain some attention through less than admirable means in the midst of a positive whirlwind. Shame on them. The winner in all of this was the group of non-ag viewers who were exposed to the emotional ties that those of us blessed with our ag roots firmly planted already understand.

  11. Penny Bliler says:

    Thank you Holly! I was stunned that some in ag media would pick a fight after that brilliant, soft-sell, "make your heart burst with pride," tribute to the backbone of our nation. And to think they put FFA on the last scene! Wow. Proof that the ad was a smashing success is obvious in the article written by Rachel Campus-Duffy, www.today.com. Mother of six, disturbed with the message Beyonce sent out, and grateful for the message Chrysler sponsored. The ad accomplished in 2 minutes what agriculture has tried to do in two years. I may be driving a Dodge when you see me next!

  12. Wendy says:

    Very well written. Really enjoy knowing more about Paul Harvey and his relationship with Max and Orion. Kuddos to you for getting the rest of this story, and kuddos to Max and Orion for being agriculture advocates to someone as highly visible as Paul Harvey. You are right, we need to keep being advocates for agriculture while this positive message is still playing in consumer's minds. Thank you for this piece. Well done!

  13. Barb Determan says:

    Excellent Holly!!! As usual digging in and getting more information and then explaining it!

  14. Rhonda says:

    Excellent! I love Orion & Max, too, and am glad they were able share the truth with Paul, who had influence over so many people. I saw a comment that derided Ram for "using farmers to sell trucks." Well, I'd buy a Ram based on that commercial before I would use Go Daddy based on theirs!

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  15. Dan says:

    This is so typical of our modern culture. Any thing that is discussed becomes fodder for discrediting the source. It began with our Founding Fathers and continues on with every individual taking a stand. In a sense, we've all become highly influenced by the likes of Saul Alinski whose Rules for Radicals involved "demoninzing the source".

  16. Amen, Holly. You hit the nail on the head (as per usual) with this one. Thank you so much for putting words to a sentiment I've been nursing since the unrest began yesterday. Keep up the great work. I always enjoy reading your pieces!