Every other year, young ag people gather for a huge leadership, development, and social event - the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference. This year it was in Kansas City, Missouri.
Fellow USFRA Face of Farming rep Jay Hill and I were on a panel talking about our experience in this role and about how we are reaching out to our real life and online communities. People asked lots of questions and it was really enjoyable!
We were also judges for the collegiate discussion meet, which is a competition where the students discuss issues in agriculture. We judged the sweet 16 round, and we were impressed by the students' talents.
After a breakout session, a woman approached me and said she was originally from Michigan but now she and her husband farmed in Missouri. I asked how they happened to move there, and she said that she met him online.
"What site did you use?" I asked ... because I always do. (I have my own personal survey going and like to share the results with my single friends.)
"We met on Farmers Only," she said.
"Hooray!" I practically squealed. "You're only the second married couple I know that met that way!"
"Really?" she said. "I know a few!"
She told her romantic story of them meeting, talking on the phone for hours, driving to see each other and meet their families, and getting married within four months. She finished, "And now we've been married nine years!"
After we left, my friend Alex (who is also married but likes to help friends) said, "We should coordinate a YF&R singles event!" A group of us started discussing the possibilities. A girl offered, "We could have nametags that designate you as married or single. A guy offered, "Or add 'dating but willing to upgrade!'"
I sat down for lunch with different friends and relayed the Farmers Only love story. A girl said, "One of my friends asked if I was on there, and I said I would never be on there! I hate their commercials! They make farmers look like a bunch of hicks. My friend threatened to sing it and I got mad."
Jay said, "But I bet every person in America knows that jingle."
I told them I think their commercials are hilarious. Good marketing, memorable ... And apparently it works.
She said, "Yes, but the way they reinforce stereotypes? And the way they talk? They make it seem like we're a bunch a rednecks!"
We discussed it for awhile. Some of their commercials definitely go for the stereotype, but some are just goofy. (You can see the first Farmers Only commercial here. I remember seeing it for the first time and laughing so hard. Not so horrible ones exist like this, and there are some that celebrate riding horses, fishing, and country attire.)
I brought up Alex's singles event idea and everyone thought it was great .... the married people could organize it for the singles, and it'd be way better than Farmers Only. These were real farmers in real life!
Later at the awards banquet, the farmer speaking said that we have chosen "the greatest responsibility" - we need to feed everyone. He went on to say that the future of farming and ranching was in that room of 1100 people, and that we all take it seriously.
I looked around. There were college students, young people just starting out, people taking over after generations of their families doing the same thing.
The farmer asked who was a first generation farmer, and out of the entire room, four people raised their hands. I looked to the back of the room where there were - as always during these events - tons of moms and dads standing and holding babies. Tiny babies, fat babies, happy babies. It's hard to start a farm from scratch. It's way more common to pass down the work and land you love. If Farmers Only is helping people find each other, despite their stereotyping farmers, it seemed their marketing was doing more good than harm.
The next day, I was chatting with my Algerian electrical engineering student taxi driver. I asked him, "Have you ever seen a commercial for Farmers Only?"
"Yes," he said. "I've seen that." He half sang, "You don't have to be lonely, at FarmersOnly.com ..."
"So, we were talking about those commercials," I said. "Do you think they portray farmers in a negative light?"
He said, "Farmers are busy. They word hard. They are on their farms, and how do you meet anybody of you don't work somewhere else? It makes sense."
Singles events, conferences, blind dates ... no matter what, people are managing to meet, marry, have kids, and run farms together. The people in the Farmers Only commercials don't represent the farmers I know, (Kris has never even ridden a horse!), but the marketing seems to be working.
Maybe a suggestion? Show farmers actually farming - but keep the jingle. If every farmer, Algerian student, and baby knows it ... you know you've got a hit.
Thank you for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, Michigan Farm Bureau, and the YF&R team! Want to know more about the farm? Like the page on Facebook, on Twitter @carlashelley, or sign up to get the blog by email - the form is on the right side of the page.
|There was a casino night too ... here we are with Meghan Grebner of Brownfield Ag News after our interview|
|The Marriott decorated for Valentine's Day|
|Fun USFRA friends Paul Spooner and Jill Mantey|
|My Michigan people - Mark Daniels, Alex Schnabelrauch, Ricky Southward, Darcy Lipskey, and Calby Garrison|
|Michigan out on the town|
|Jay Hill farms in New Mexico, thus the cowboy hat!|