A Couple of Freebies for the American Farm Bureau

A quickie post (translation: you'll likely notice the lack of editing, reason, coherence. What can I say?)

Last week I spoke to a gathering of the Missouri Farm Bureau. The MFB is part of the American Farm Bureau, a national organization made up of fifty state bureaus. The FB supports  two primary interests: agriculture and rural America.

At least among the Missouri group, no one’s too happy about the criticism of agriculture, and I’m guessing they’re not too happy about the state of rural America. Alas, a bunch of food reformers aren't happy at all with the Farm Bureau Federation. They see it as an evil special interest group that screws taxpayers and controls the USDA and god-knows-what-else.

Put another way, the Farm Bureau has an image problem.

So here are a couple of ideas. Free!

First --- “communication.” Don’t bother arguing with the critics. They started the debate. They defined the “problem.” As a result, they control the conversation. You can’t win. So start another conversation. Invest in an image campaign.

But not the usual roundup of long shots of fields, happy kids with their overall-clad dads, tractors, etc. Ads like those are now associated with Roundup, Monsanto, and Big Ag and Big Food.

Instead, try this:

A thirty-second shot. We see a table covered with plates of various kinds of food. Hands come in and out of view, as the people attached to those hands scoop dip, pick up a carrot, cut a potato, whatever. The soundtrack consists of inaudible conversation. We’re not supposed to care what people are talking about while they eat, so the soundtrack needs to imply party chat but the chat can’t be too loud or it’ll distract from the image of people gathered around a table, eating, talking, laughing. Toward the end of the thirty seconds, this tagline appears on screen: “Your food. It’s everywhere.”

That’s it. I’m guessing various federal regulations require some evidence of sponsorship, so at the last moment, way at the bottom of the image, in small font: Farm Bureau Federation of America.

Variant: Start with same image, show that for about fifteen seconds, then add thirty seconds of a closeup of a wheat plant or a barley plant or a glass of beer or a hop vine. Whatever. Same tagline at the end.

Second freebie: Surely the AFB has some funds floating around. Why not use some of it to document “rural” life in America?

And here’s a specific idea: Some months ago, my best friend and her brother were invited to sing at her brother’s in-laws’ something-or-other celebration. A fiftieth wedding anniversary or a 75th-birthday or something like that. Said in-laws are rural folks. The gathering included  singing. My friend and her brother. Others at the celebration. The group as a whole.

I was fascinated. How often do any of us attend a gathering that includes singing? Not often (except at formal settings like church or a concert). But I bet that in rural America, many informal events include that kind of singing.

The art of the group sing is a lost art. Or at least a fading art. So the Farm Bureau could offer grants to document this activity. Filmmakers could create a full-length documentary or a series of short films that capture this dying art form. The AFB would get chops for supporting the arts and for supporting and celebrating rural culture.

Projects like these would take the AFB out of its politics-and-advocacy as usual (Future Farmers, state fairs, etc.) and bring a different message to a much broader swath of society.