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Classic is a place to meet for farmers in TV ads

DANIEL LOOKER 03/06/2011 @ 9:16pm Business Editor

If you live in farm country, you’ve probably seen them –– the almost poetic television ads that are a montage of landscapes, bountiful harvests and photogenic families. They begin with the questions, “Who cares for the land?” and “Who grows our economy?”

The answer, of course, is America’s Farmers, which is also the name of an effective campaign launched by Monsanto in 2009.

At the Commodity Classic last week, the four farm families who star in those ads got a chance to meet each other and reflect on how the effort has affected them.

“It was really a life-changing experience for our whole family,” says Travis Matthews, who, with his wife, Melinda, grows about 8,000 acres of corn and soybeans near Carrollton, Missouri. “People recognize us and come up and thank us.”

Not only are other farmers glad that families like the Matthews have been able to reach consumers with a slice of real farm life, for the Matthews, welcoming films crews was a new experience. Altogether, about 45 people worked at the farm making both the television commercial and a longer webcast that has more details about their farm.

“It was wild. We expected two to three people to show up with a camera,” Travis says.

Their four young children – Grant, Avery, Hudson and Emelia, got attached to some members of the crew, says Melinda. “Our daughter sat down and cried the night they left,” she recalls.

Melinda welcomed the chance to tell their family’s story, which includes a bittersweet start to Travis’s farming career. He was 16 when he and his brother, Hoss,  took over the farm after his father’s death.

The webcast goes into more detail about their farming operation, which is sustainable in many ways, from making variable rate fertilizer applications to having 120-foot-wide continuous filter strips along all of the farm’s waterways and ditches.

“I don’t think a lot of Americans don’t know where their food comes from and they want to,” Melinda says.

Mark Halton, Monsanto’s head of corporate marketing put together the ad campaign after he and others at the company met with farmers in the spring of 2009 to ask what more they could do for farmers.

“We heard, ‘We would love for you to be an advocate on behalf of America’s farmers,” he tells Agriculture.com

That was the genesis of an ad featuring farmers from four states – Iowa, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee – that first ran television on Thanksgiving Day of 2009, following a radio campaign.

“I and my team had a vision for this,” Halton says, “a vision for showing real family farmers.”

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