Addressing that farming commercial

My inbox was flooded - OK, more like, three or four e-mails - from friends asking if I saw the commercial. You know, "the farm one!" I promptly played it, and here it is (again) for your viewing pleasure:


I'll admit, I was moved. The voice of the late broadcaster Paul Harvey pronounces, 
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
I mean, come on! It celebrates the farmer, his rugged, weathered exterior, how he (notice the dominance of males...) hauls hay, drives combines, works countless hours, and is the master of his land. For a Super Bowl commercial and a car company, not bad; thanks for drawing attention to an iconic American hero and profession.

But, that's where my elation stops. The commercial is just that - antiquated, emotion-driven imagery of the farmer. Before you call me a buzzkill, here's my reasoning in brief:

Farmers are not quite the masters of their own destinies, or at least operations. Considerable consolidation of the livestock and commodities market in recent decades make farms bigger and place farmers under contract with large processors and companies. They must continue to produce and expand to stay viable and avoid succumbing to debt. Independence is not quite a part of the mainstream farming vernacular. Further, farms are no longer quaint family establishments or passed down generationally. According to a recent NPR report, the future of farms may not include many families.

I know, I know - commercials involve suspension of disbelief; yet, I am a farmer and am also in the midst of getting my graduate degree in sustainable food systems. This commercial was ripe for scrutiny! And just so you know, I'm not cynical. I have the utmost respect for fellow farmers; it's a lifestyle that constantly tests you and you have to truly love it. I just want people to be aware of what it really means to be a farmer today, including magnifying some sad statistics. I strongly believe that reform of the food and farm system is possible, if it's not already occurring; this new food paradigm, among other features, will truly celebrate and respect the farmer. Perhaps next year we can see a few greenhorns, women and other individuals that reflect the wider landscape of American farming. (Hmmm, but what company will use this in its advertisement?)

I'll end on a hopeful note and give a shout-out to that other thing people were watching yesterday - Downton Abbey. Daisy gets it: "No farmer's his own boss. He takes his orders from the sun, the wind, the snow and the rain."