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Forests, Trees and Paul Harvey

Forests, Trees and Paul Harvey

The following post was written by Holly Spangler, writer at Prairie Farmer, sister publication to Corn & Soybean Digest. Read Holly's blog on The Farmer website.


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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