Farming fiction is being foisted upon us all, scripting an agricultural narrative that has little basis in reality.
That’s the premise of a smart new post by our friend Forrest Pritchard.
Writing on The Huffington Post, Mr. Pritchard’s post, How TV Has Made Us Stupid About Farming, has a few choice words about how farmers are being portrayed in television commercials:
You’ve seen the ads. Parachuting cows imploring us to eat chicken sandwiches. Farmers who can’t spell. Kids who garden with dinosaurs and chickens without bones. We’re not talking about restaurant spokesclowns any more, or your grandma’s ‘Where’s the beef?!’ ads. Over the decades, commercials seem to have transitioned from pure fantasy to pseudo-reality, a pop culture kaleidoscope through which the act of farming becomes obfuscated and whisked into the realm of afterthought.
Of course, like the rest of us, farmers, by and large, possess senses of humor, but Forrest rightly points out that the cows featured in a certain ‘chicken-fillet’ restaurant’s commercials are Holsteins, bred for dairy, not beef. These cows can spell, but they spell badly, “tacitly perpetuating a stereotype of agricultural illiteracy.”
And then there’s Old McDonald, the farmer in the G-E-I-C-O spot that misspells ‘cow’, c-o-w-e-i-e-i-o. Pritchard makes the observation that “. . . it’s not even that irksome to see Old McDonald, our country’s de facto agricultural mascot, portrayed as a lovable imbecile.”
A generation that’s been raised on artificial ingredients is now being fed a diet of farming fiction.”
Yes, humor is used in advertising all the time, but what Forrest sees is something more insidious, darker. To this point, he writes:
Now, before I’m accused of being a (stereotypically) curmudgeony farmer, I fully realize that commercials exist to sell product; this is the nature of businesses. But with less than one percent of the country currently employed in farming, an overwhelming majority of Americans are fully disconnected from agricultural production practices. As a nation, how much do these ads influence the way we perceive agriculture? Intentionally or not, corporate America has filled an important cultural void, playing high definition surrogate to our rural education.
Commercials have long taught us that food should be cheap and abundant, an economic fairy tale that walks hand-in-hand with confinement livestock operations, herbicide monocultures and preservative-laden processed foods. Perhaps it’s only natural that these ads have delved into the realm of edutainment, scripting an agricultural narrative that has little basis in reality. A generation that’s been raised on artificial ingredients is now being fed a diet of farming fiction. Small wonder we’re also fed ads for Prilosec.
With smart, articulate, young farmers like Forrest Pritchard speaking up for the real food farming system, maybe there’s hope.
His book, Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm, was named a Top Ten Read by Publishers Weekly, Washingtonian, and NPR’s The Splendid Table. You can get your copy here.
Photo credit: Craig McCord
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