Making Agriculture Cool

September 16, 2009 07:00 PM

Rachel Duff, Farm Journal intern

After Proposition 2, which is titled Standards for Confining Farm Animals and appeared on the November 2008 ballot in California, swept the state, Scott Vernon, professor at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, realized the tide for agriculture on the west coast was turning, and he knew something needed to be done. That something was the "I Love Farmers” campaign.
The "I Love Farmers. They Feed My Soul” campaign is an effort to create a conversation among this generation about the food, the farmers and the future of the U.S. The campaign is committed to getting connected. The goal is to get the word out about where food comes from and how it is produced.
Vernon watched young adults for ideas. He saw that the volume of texting was high, that the students were using their cell phones more and he watched fashion drive the daily lives of these young people. More than that, Vernon saw the popularity of tattoo-based t-shirts, even on the students in the agricultural programs at Cal Poly, he says. He decided the main image for the campaign would be based on tattoo art.
After seeing the idea for the "I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul” campaign, Annalisa Clarke, president of Aggressive Media Group, thought, "We have to do this.”
After Vernon presented the idea to Clarke, they joined forces to start the campaign. It's targeted at young adults who will be voting on agricultural issues in the future. The campaign is connecting agriculture and emotion, rather than agriculture's usual factual face. Plus, it's using social media, as well as traditional public relations methods to connect to the youth of today. They want to create a consciousness when consumers are thinking about food, Clarke says.
"The first step was to develop a plan on how to make agriculture cool,” Clarke says. "So many people don't understand the food equals agriculture.”
After launching in late April, the campaign has created a website, Facebook group, Myspace page and a Twitter account, as well as their clothing line, which has been a fundraiser for some university agricultural students. The goal is simply to get consumers factual information, and the response has been tremendous. Vernon says there are 10,000 fans on Facebook, and Clarke says they have had 20,000 hits on the website in a single day.
The campaign is meant to be a new take on an all-encompassing campaign for the American farmer and rancher to unite the whole industry. The images on the site aren't necessarily of farmers and ranchers, though. The site features a younger, edgier side of people that love agriculture that can connect with the younger generation Vernon says. It's certainly not the typical face for agriculture.
"If we always do what we've always done,” Vernon says. "Then we'll always get what we've always gotten.”
The future is looking hip. A copy of the logo is hanging in tattoo parlors, and if a person gets the "I Love Farmers” tattoo, the campaign will pay for it, Vernon says. They're putting agriculture in unexpected places. They're planning to have concerts, surfing and skating competitions, and they're looking for a celebrity spokesperson, he says. They hope to have billboards, TV and radio shows. 
"We have to change the way we're communicating about agriculture,” Vernon says.
This change isn't going to be a short-term project, Clarke says. It's a whole-hearted long-term project, and its successes will be shown when it comes time for an election. If the campaign can change votes in favor of agriculture and domestic food supply, then the campaign will be a success.
There is only one hiccup in the plan. "Our passion is deep, but our pockets are shallow,” says Clarke. "To grow the campaign, we'll need support. "
As it is now, the campaign has caught on and is starting to put agriculture in the forefront of young people's minds.
"It had to happen because we are so good at talking to ourselves,” says Clarke. "What we've done here is to develop a place where people can go for unbiased information about food and develop an understanding.” 

For More: "I Love Farmers"

You can e-mail Rachel Duff at

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