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Monday, February 4, 2013

The Alpacalyspe and God Made a Farmer

Besides watching what turned out to be a good game last night, those of us who raise alpacas on our small farms took note of 3 commercials from the game. Alpacas were seen (if you didn't blink) in two of those commercials. The Lincoln ad featured a glimpse of alpacas lined up along a fence and the Kia commercial shows an alpaca watching a space launch on monitors at mission control. This was great publicity for the animals we love.

But perhaps the best commercial of the night really didn't look like a commercial. It was a two minute video celebrating America's farmers with beautiful still images and a stirring narration from the late Paul Harvey. Who cares if they were really trying to sell Ram trucks!

The imagery was amazing; it was ... art. The two-minute ad featured gorgeous still images from 10 noted photographers, including William Albert Allard, who has long documented the American Midwest; and Kurt Markus, who made his name with his depictions of cowboy life .

But the most memorable part of the video was Harvey's narration: the folksy cadence of his voice, familiar to any kid who grew up listening to him on the tractor radio in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the superior Andy Rooney and the friendlier News of the Weird. And Sunday night, just under three years after his death, I heard him when I never figured I would: during a Super Bowl truck commercial. But is was more than a commercial. It was the story of our heritage. A story that has nearly been forgotten by today's generations so far removed from the farm.

So thank you, Paul Harvey and thank you Ram trucks for reminding Super Bowl fans where their Doritos and salsa really come from.

Harvey's essay on the virtues of the American farmer was originally delivered to the Future Farmers of America convention back in 1978. It is as powerful today as it was then.

Here is the text:

"And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

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.

God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say,'Maybe next year,' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from an ash tree, shoe a horse with hunk of car tire, who can make a harness out hay wire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. Who, during 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.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark."

It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and brake, and disk, 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 would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what Dad does. "So God made a farmer.""

The ad is part of a Dodge Ram partnership with the National FFA Organization (formerly the Future Farmers of America) aimed at "highlighting and underscoring the importance of farmers in America," according to a statement from Dodge parent company Chrysler. The car company says that every time the ad is watched or shared, Chrysler will make a donation to the National FFA.