'You're a Bacon Farmer?'

March 8, 2012 10:24 PM

Pork producers in Ohio embrace a new label

There is some discrepancy in the agricultural industry as to what we call the people who grow and raise our food and fiber. Earlier this year, Iowa State University rural sociologist J. Arbuckle set out to determine what farmers in Iowa prefer to be called.

"We gave them of five terms—farmer, producer, farm operator, grower and rancher—and asked them to select the one that they felt best describes them," Arbuckle says. "The term ‘farmer’ came out on top, with 60% preferring to be called a farmer."

How about being called a bacon farmer? What began as an industry image campaign promoting Ohio pork producers has others across the country thinking: Should farmers change what they call themselves in order to connect with consumers?

This past fall, the Ohio Pork Producers Council (OPPC) launched a new campaign with hopes that it would help consumers connect with hog farmers. Jennifer Keller, director of marketing and communications for OPPC, says an ad agency helped develop an edgy, bacon-focused campaign and at first she was skeptical.

"I was immediately uncomfortable," Keller says. "I thought, this thing will never fly with our producers."

The agency proposed to feature a "bacon farmer," a "ham farmer" and a "pork chop farmer" explaining their operation in a 30-second TV commercial and a longer video on the OPPC website and YouTube.

Pat Duncanson, a hog farmer from Minnesota, says he’s not too keen on the term "bacon farmer" and would rather be called a pork producer. Keller says that pork farmers in her state were also a little skeptical at first. But once she explained the reasoning behind the campaign, they were more receptive to the idea.

"I live in a fairly suburban area, but I grew up on a hog farm, and my neighbors certainly don’t call my parents pork producers," Keller says. "What do we call ourselves going forward? That’s something to consider."

Connecting consumers with farming is an ongoing battle and Keller admits that OPPC is just going on intuition, but she says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Maybe getting out of their comfort zone is just what farmers need to gain the support of their town-dwelling counterparts. 

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