Farmers at the Super Bowl.

So you watched the Super Bowl. You saw the game, you saw Beyonce shake it, you saw the lights go out and, among the flashy messages, the advertisements for M&Ms and beer and phones and underwear and cologne, you saw this:

Another ad for another product, yes. But one that had a message attached to it that has sent my world into a humming since it aired.

Now it’s possible you missed it. It’s possible you didn’t hear it tucked in there among the baby Clydesdale and the elderly escaping the nursing home for a night at Taco Bell.  It didn’t make the top ten commercials and didn’t get nearly as much buzz in other parts of the country, but it sure is buzzing here.

I don’t usually comment on pop culture or what ‘s happening on T.V. or in sports here because I’ve made it my mission to talk about different things: the way the sun shines on the back of a horse, how the wind blows snow across the prairie and what it’s like to be a woman connected to a place, but as a girl who grew up feeding cattle alongside her father in the coldest winter nights, someone who watched him doctor horses, bring new-born and frozen calves into the basement of the house and nurse them back to life, as a former FFA president and the 4th generation on my family’s ranch, I have to talk about this.

I have to tell you why people like me have been so inclined to share this advertisement, to watch it over and over again, to shout its praises from the rooftops and, well, post it on every social media networking site they can link up to out here in the boonies.

Because finally, among the hype of sports, the glitzy glam of pop culture, the humor and the ruckus and the fight to be the winner, right there in the most prime real-estate of prime-time television someone out there felt it might be important enough to slow it down and tell our story.

Now, I wasn’t at every Super Bowl party in middle America during the 2.5 minutes Paul Harvey’s message was pumped into millions of homes across the country, but I was at one, and as soon as that familiar voice spoke the first word, the room fell silent.

We held our breath in that moment we were certain we were looking at an image from our backyards: a black baldie cow near a barbed wire fence in a barren, snow-covered prairie.

We were quiet because we saw our church standing tall and worn beside a country road,

we saw our grandfather with callused hands and a face wrinkled and weathered from the long days spent in the elements.

We shushed our voices and choked back a tear for the colt our father couldn’t save, laughed a little because we’ve ridden a horse using a head stall made out of hay wire and smiled at the memory of our father’s stopping the tractor to move a nest of newborn rabbits out of harm’s way.

We saw ourselves standing in those fields, our grandmother’s eyes under that hat, our mother holding our hand, our father holding on hope.

We saw our children in the steady cadence of comforting words and a familiar voice that we’ve heard coming through the static on our old tractor radio for years.

The rest of the story.

Our story.

Some days I feel like we’re moving further and further from our connection to the land and the understanding of the dirt from which that potato was plowed. Farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists are not known to stand at the pulpit and tell their stories to the masses. No. Many spend long days working alone in the combine, on the back of a horse checking cattle or working fencing pliers in the deep brush.We share our stories by living them alongside our elders, hoping to learn something, dreaming that one day we might be fortunate enough to try our hand at tending the land.

I know my grandfather’s story. I see the old equipment that couldn’t be repaired breaking the wind from the hilltops on this place. I find little pieces of wire, old engines, scraps of leather, worn coveralls and other little pieces of a life spent scraping and saving and getting by in the old out buildings, in the 100 year old barn, in the fences that need to be repaired. My father keeps the same collection, adding to it at will in case he might need to patch something up.

I know my father’ s story. I know that on Sunday mornings he will knock on the door of my house like he does every weekend for a cup of coffee and a chat between chores.  I know he will take off his boots, un-do his silk scarf and leave his wool cap on his head. I know he will keep his Carhart jacket on because he won’t stay long, just long enough to wonder out loud what might be wrong with the old tractor this time and discuss some plans about buying cattle, fixing the corrals in the spring and making things work better out here.

I know that tractor’s story. It’s been on this place for decades, bought used when my father left for college in the 70s. I know the only thing wrong with that tractor is that you can’t stop time, and we could not afford to buy a new one.

Each day my father has been the caretaker of the family’s ranch it has been an adventure to get that tractor up and running.

Every day it has been worth it.

Somewhere along the line a company like Dodge took notice of the kinds of people buying those trucks they were selling, not for the paint job or the heated seat, but for the horsepower and the muscle that it takes to haul a trailer full of bulls to the sale barn, a couple of priceless horses and a teenage daughter to her first high school rodeo, or through a snowy trail as your grandfather scoops grain for the cattle in the winter.

Somewhere in their marketing plan Dodge thought it  might be a good idea to mention those farmers and ranchers out there throwing bales and feeding the country, because quite frankly, they have helped keep them in business.

So they declared it the “Year of the Farmer” and are working their marketing plan so that spreading the word means supporting the FFA.

That moment a company like Dodge took to tell our story while they had the world’s attention gave us–the farmers, the ranchers, the corn growers, bottle feeders, chicken-coop cleaners, post-hole-diggers, pig-sloppers, 5 a.m. cow milkers, –a little reminder that ours might not be a glamorous story, but it is one worth living.

Click here to watch an interview with the Montana ranchers featured in the commercial.

23 thoughts on “Farmers at the Super Bowl.

  1. P.S. I’m so happy to hear you were president of Future Farmers. When I was in high school, only boys could join FFA — girls were welcome to join FHA – Future Homemakers of America.

  2. Steven and I were in Kansas City, MO in 1978 at the National FFA Convention when Paul Harvey did this speech for the first time. We still remember it. On the news tonight (KX) they said Dodge will give the FFA a dollar for every like on U tube for the add. It was a great commercial!

  3. you just made me cry. That was the best commercial I have ever seen and I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that thought that way. I’ve never been a farmer or a rancher, but we had a few acres and I grew up with horses, cattle and sheep, and the folks that farmed for a living weren’t very far back in our family. You’ve really struck a chord, hell you struck the whole symphony. Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2013 03:52:22 +0000 To:

  4. The Dodge, God made a Farmer, advertisment brought tears to my eyes as it did so many others who know what a farmer is and what a farmer does. It was a great tribute and well deserved. I don’t think it was lost on those who aren’t perhaps as close to the land; I heard Micheal Strahan(Kelly and Micheal TV show)mention that was his favorite commercial too. Love your words.

  5. Your take on Paul Harvey’s “God Made A Farmer” was just as good as his. Thank you for sharing it. Yes, I’ll click on the U Tube commercial to help FFA. Go Dodge!

  6. Just gorgeous. Beautifully expressed… I am from the big city and it is a reminder of how important the American farmer/rancher is to the country we call home. I am a documentary filmmaker, working on a project about cowgirls… please contact me, Jesse, you are a treasure!

  7. Wonderful write up Jessie. I have to say when I saw the commercial I remembered my North Dakota roots and especially the story you share from your ranch. Well deserved. 🙂

  8. Love this. We in western Pennsylvania are buzzing over this commercial as well, and while I’m no longer a part of that life, that life will always be a part of me. I saw my daddy’s hands in that commercial, heard his story and his father’s before him. Flashed back to the flinging of hay bails (and my husband’s horrified reaction the first time he saw me perched on top of the highest stack on the wagon, pulling and pushing the hay that probably weighed as much as me), and bottle feeding calves, looking forward to our son having the opportunity to learn from his Gramps as I did. Beautifully said, beautifully supported by your breathtaking photos. Thank you.

  9. Faith, truth and life are in your words–if only the “big guys” on the coasts and in the cities had open eyes and hearts to understand the depth and truth of the words in the ad and in your reply. Thank you

  10. Both that commercial and your amazing words brought tears to my eyes! I wouldn’t trade my Ag roots or the blessing of farming by my husbands side for anything. The appreciation and passion for what we and other farmers and ranchers do isnt easy to put into words but you nailed it! Cheers to being a former FFA president, also! I even had the privilege of passing the gavel on to my little sister 😉

  11. I think that this is one of the best pieces you have written. It speaks to me, more so than the commercial, for I was descended from and raised by that hardy group called farmers and ranchers. (not in the same way you were). My mother’s people still plow the fields of Nebraska and Wyoming and they’ve never given up on the hardest job in the world. Kudos to you and your family for “sticking it out” and feeding the rest of us.

  12. Love Paul Harvey – everyone listened when he came on the radio at my house – you could set your clock to it.My dad listened to him faithfully. Great words Jessie – Love you too!!!

  13. That commercial was my favorite! My grandfather worked on a farm with Gerry Ford. He and my father taught me everything I know about planting tomatoes (our specialty) and many other home garden crops. I love everything about this post, so inspiring.


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