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Classic is a place to meet for farmers in TV ads

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

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.”

The ad ran in 18 major metropolitan television markets, he
says, from Columbus, Ohio to Minneapolis, Omaha and Memphis.  It didn’t run in New York City or Los
Angeles he says, mainly because of the cost of advertising in the top ten
cities. It did run in two of the top ten, though, Chicago and Washington, DC.
Monsanto has run print ads on the sustainability of modern agriculture in
publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker and it is running
online advertising that reaches New York and Los Angeles, he says.

“I know we’ve gotten the word out,” he says. “We’ve gotten a
positive response and we’ve heard from activists.”

Since the advertising campaign started, Monsanto has
piggybacked other efforts onto it, including a grant program for rural communities
run by the Monsanto Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm.

It’s called “America’s Farmers Grow Communities,” and has
made $2,500 grants in 1,204 counties in 38 states, says Deborah Patterson, president
of the Monsanto Fund.

 The program
began in 2010 and “so far we’ve had 50,000 farmers sign up,” Patterson says.

The winners are chosen by lottery.

The winners then get to choose where to donate the money in
their county. It has to go to a nonprofit activity or local government.

The most popular beneficiaries have been 4-H, FFA, volunteer
fire departments, educational institutions, local libraries and conservation
districts, she says. It’s all about neighbors helping neighbors.”


You can meet the other farm families in the America’s
Farmers ad campaign and learn more about America’s Farmers Grow
Communities here













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