|For the week of October 2, 2006|
Public Television Telling the Farmer's Story
"We just need to do a better job telling the farmer's story to non-farmers." Anyone who has hung out around a machine shed, a small-town diner or a barber shop in rural America has surely heard this lament. Usually, the phrase is preceded by the latest report of well-meaning consumers being snookered by slick campaigns from activist groups determined to drag agriculture through the mud.
The challenge confronting agricultural communicators is how to tell agriculture's story to American consumers in a meaningful and tangible way. It simply is not feasible, affordable or effective to drop leaflets over a city, or buy a series of commercials during the Super Bowl, or even purchase the naming rights to a professional sports stadium – although some might think American Farmer and Rancher Stadium has a nice ring to it.
In the search for an appropriate vehicle to not only give farmers a voice, but one that would attract the interest of consumers, last year, a new public television show came to fruition. America's Heartland, a national public television series, has been a resounding success. The show recently embarked on its second season of telling the story of America's farm and ranch families to a sophisticated, consumer-oriented public television audience.
America’s Heartland celebrates the way of life, the state of mind and the rural pride that embodies American agriculture. The program does that through personal stories, rich in their depth and breadth, highlighting a special group of people – America’s farm and ranch families. During each episode, talented and dedicated journalists from KVIE public television in Sacramento, Calif., take their viewers on a journey paved with the stories of the families who help produce food, fiber and renewable fuel for America.
Just as it did during its premier season, America's Heartland is still telling the farmer’s and rancher’s story as it celebrates the miracle of American agriculture. The show invites Americans to sit down with farm and ranch families and to take a tour of their orchards and pastures, their fields and their farmsteads.
For this second season, the show's emphasis is to tell more stories that showcase how America’s traditional commodity crops – including wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and livestock – are grown. The show tells the story of how farm and ranch families undertake the major tasks of caring for their animals and planting, nurturing and harvesting their crops in ways that not only sustain their families economically, but also conserve the natural resources on which they rely. Also, the show is continuing to honor the small farmer seeking new and innovative ways to survive and succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Regardless of crop or location, American agriculture always has known the value of telling the farmer's story, but there has never been a vehicle that does so in quite the style of America's Heartland. You can bet that officials from the show's flagship supporting groups, Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation, have frequently heard the old mantra about doing a better job telling the farmer's story. Now that they have found an effective way to accomplish that goal, America’s Heartland is a prime destination for public television viewers for the duration of the 2006-2007 television season.
To learn how you might tune in to the story of America’s Heartland, visit www.americasheartland.org online.
Mace Thornton is deputy director of public relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.