The farmer in us all

Astute football fans may recognize that headline phrase from a Super Bowl XLVII television commercial by Dodge Ram Trucks, which featured almost two minutes of legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey’s voice.

The advertisement drew its audio from a 1978 speech Harvey gave to a Future Farmers of America convention. Delivered in vintage Harvey style, with strategic pauses, breaths and pace changes, the speech was fashioned as a continuation of the biblical Genesis creation narrative.

“On the eighth day,” Harvey said, “God made a farmer” as a caretaker for his planned paradise.

The Super Bowl spot truncated the speech, but kept the original beginning that started with the grueling schedule farmers endure:

“God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.’ So, God made a farmer.”

Harvey moved on to the ingenuity and get-it-done work ethic that has always been the hallmark of American farming:

“God said, ‘I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, make a harness out of hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, at planting time and harvest season, will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then, paining from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.’ So, God made the farmer.”

The spot closed with the speech’s finale, emphasizing tenets regarding truth and faith and fidelity and posterity that signified early American agrarian ideals:

“It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who’d laugh, and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’”

Harvey’s last refrain rang soft and somber and steady and convincing.

“So, God made a farmer.”

The ad ended with the words “To the farmer in all of us” on the screen.

Almost 109 million people watched at least part of the Super Bowl, Nielsen reported, but it’s unclear how many saw the Paul Harvey spot. Or how many heard his “So, God made a farmer” speech for the first time.

Not nearly enough, assuredly.


Speeches like that ought to be part of the education curricula in every grade at every public school, especially in states like Arkansas, where agriculture is the state’s largest industry. At $16 billion, it represents a quarter of economic activity in our state, and provides one of every six jobs.

Tired of hearing about 40-something ratings about Arkansas? Switch the topic to agriculture, and throw out these numbers: No. 1 in rice production; No. 1 in baitfish production; No. 2 in broilers raised; No. 3 in catfish, cotton and turkey production; No. 5 producer of softwood timber; No. 8 producer of eggs; and No. 10 in soybean and sorghum production.

It’s common knowledge that the number of family farms across the country continues to dwindle each year, but here in the Natural State the agrarian way of life still thrives.

Our 13.5 million acres of farmland is divided among nearly 50,000 farms.

Agrarianism is viewed by too many like an old worn patch on a tired jean jacket, instead of a gleaming badge of honor from America’s founding generation.

No less a luminary than Thomas Jefferson heaped heavy praise on agrarianism as the philosophy most essential to the fledgling republic.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” he wrote to John Jay in 1785. “They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”

The acclaim Jefferson ascribed to agrarianism wasn’t directed at farming as an end, but rather the criteria required for success in the field.

Jefferson’s itemization of vigor, virtue, independence and binding ties could easily have been the fodder for Harvey’s speech nearly 200 years later. If there ever existed a “must have” set of character traits for self-government, it wouldn’t stray far from the set embodied by the traditional American farmer whose toil helped build America.

The litany of admirable lines in Harvey’s speech describes farmers, but declares no exclusivity to them.

Indeed, in the same breath that we might express gratitude to farmers for our abundant and affordable food supply, we should also aspire to their work ethic, their unwavering dedication to task, their self-sufficient spirit and their leadership by example.

Conventional wisdom says industrialism and urbanism have triumphed over agrarianism and ruralism.

Perhaps. It may well be that what this country needs most isn’t more farmers—just more people who think and act and live and work like they do.


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