God Made A Farmer
Local farmers make emotional connection to Super Bowl ad about their sacrifices
By PAT LAWRENCE
It was just two minutes. It was just a commercial. It was just … wonderful.
Tucked calmly, almost casually, into the kinetic clamor of Super Bowl excess, between the beers and the beautiful bodies, there was a familiar voice with an unexpected message, a message so improbable, many couldn’t believe what they were hearing. It was a message so welcome, they won’t forget what it meant.
On Super Bowl Sunday, when Paul Harvey began his distinctive intonation, “And on the eighth day…” many of the 111 million Americans watching recognized the voice. By the time Harvey had finished with “So God Made a Farmer” at least 2% of them, the number of Americans that claim farming as their livelihood, realized he was speaking directly to them.
Even viewed through the lens of corporate sponsorship this ad wasn’t just business, it was personal.
Ruth Edingfield of Belfast has been farming with her husband, Jack, for 54 years. She says, “Jack was born on a farm and I moved onto one when I was ten.” Today they raise beef cattle and hay though for years they raised tobacco and corn as well. Ruth was surprised when she recognized Paul Harvey’s voice and amazed as the fields and faces scrolled across the screen. “I loved it. It was so moving. I never expected something like that on television, much less during the Super Bowl. The commentary, the pictures, just made me feel good. And, it was such a wonderful message to people who don’t have any idea what farming is like.”
Doug Barton of Clinton County was so impressed with the sentiment, he totally missed the sponsor. He doesn’t mind admitting wiping his eyes at the end, and he had plenty of company all across the country. At 58, he says, “It looked more like farming back when I first started farming. My dad raised hogs, my father-in-law raised beef cattle. The typical farm had a little livestock grain and hay.” After the game, Doug told his wife all about the ad, but, he says, “When she asked what it was for, I couldn’t tell her. I didn’t know till days later it was a commercial for Dodge Ram.”
Jim Carr is a fourth generation farmer with a degree in animal science. He raises corn, beans, wheat and has a small cow/calf operation near Mowrystown. Jim says, “The pictures might have been a little dated — we’re a lot more automated now — but they did a nice job and I really liked it. I recognized Paul Harvey’s voice right away.”
The ad is part of a Dodge Ram partnership with the National FFA Organization aimed at “highlighting and underscoring the importance of farmers in America,” according to Chrysler. In a collaboration with the FFA, Dodge agreed to donate $100,000 for every 1,000,000 YouTube views the video of the ad received, up to $1,000,000. The goal was reached in less than five days. Harvey delivered the “So God Made a Farmer” speech at the Future Farmers of America convention in 1978 and in 2011, Farms.com made a YouTube video of the commentary with less polished production values. Though Paul Harvey generally wrote his own essays, he claimed credit only for embellishing this one, but his unique, structured delivery made it especially memorable.
Beth Ellis is one of the farmers who took “So, God Made a Farmer” personally. She and her husband, Matt, have been farming together for 18 years and Matt farms about 5000 acres near Wilmington with his father and brother. The week of Super Bowl XLVII, Beth was in Kansas City where the Paul Harvey essay was also printed as a full page in the next day’s newspaper. “It was such a positive feeling to be recognized. Actors and celebrities get recognized all the time but they don’t actually do anything. Farmers do so much and are never get recognized.”
Shared, forwarded, played and replayed for friends, family and fellow farmers thousands of times since the game, for the men and women who make their living from the land, those two minutes of the Super Bowl were more compelling than any play. Most had trouble explaining why the ad brought tears to their eyes. It was, after all, just a commercial. But for farmers, past and present, the simple acknowledgement of what they contribute and how they live was more than fortuitous agricultural advocacy. It was a message that went straight to the heart.
(Pat Lawrence is a contributor to ACRES of Southwest Ohio.)