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My Generation

How We Wound Up On a Billboard

One ambitious and forward-thinking county Farm Bureau reaches out to Chicagoland with a family farm message.

A couple weeks ago, John came home from his monthly board meeting for our county Farm Bureau. It seems they had some publicity money and the board talked about putting up a billboard, promoting Illinois agriculture in the Chicago area. He mentioned something about Elaine, our county manager, wanting to put a picture of our family on it. We had a chuckle about it and moved on. By the next week, I'd forgotten about it, until Elaine called and said the Farm Bureau photographer couldn't make it out and could we take it ourselves? Wow. So this was, like, for real.

So on a lovely Thursday evening, we cleaned everyone up, put on some nice clothes that sort of went together, and headed outside, armed with little more than a camera, a tripod and a remote trigger.

We took 300 photos that night and against all odds (bugs, three small children and a dog), we got a few keepers.

These, however, were not them.

Exhibit A, Bugs.

Exhibit B, Small Children.

Exhibit C, Small Children, again. (Note how their father no longer looks amused.)

And finally, a real-live, genuinely decent shot.

So the next morning, I sent it off to the billboard company. Unbelievably, this was in my inbox by the end of the day:

So it appears, in fact, we will actually be on a billboard, on I-80 at the primary exit for downtown Joliet and the Chicagoland Speedway for three months beginning on July 1. I cannot overstate how excited our kids are about this. Most certainly, a road trip is in order. Because if they can't see themselves on a 20'x60' billboard now, when will they?

Of course, the exciting part about all this is that it's an excellent opportunity to promote agriculture and to show what a real Illinois farm family looks like. I love that we're standing in corn, too, especially when there are so many misperceptions about this amazing crop. There are, of course, dozens of other facts I'd love to share (like how family farms can be more than a thousand acres, can be corporations and can have employees, just to name a few), but it is a billboard and at 65 mph, we only have time to make one point. But I'm thrilled that the website will be on the billboard, and maybe folks will get a chance to check it out and pick up some of that information there.

And that's the whole point, isn't it? One point at a time, one consumer at a time, one chance to tell our story. We're chipping away at this thing.

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