Thursday, May 20, 2010

But you don't look like a farmer!!!

Took a few minutes out of my busy spring today to get a much needed haircut. Stopped into my barbershop, a local chain that caters to younger men-rock music played, attractive young ladies cutting hair, you know, my kind of place. Anyways, I always get some interesting perspectives on life from the gals that cut my hair, and today was no different.

The young lady cutting my hair today started in with the typical “so what have you been up to” small talk. I told her I’d been busy trying to get planting done, and I was on my way to the co-op for a lunch meeting with some other farmers. She asked me “are they, like, REAL, farmers?” With a laugh I said “yea...., why?” She replied, “oh, I don’t really like farmers, they are dirty and gross!!” Perplexed, I asked her to explain. She explained that she frequented a local watering hole, and, on Tuesday nights (country night) there was always a group of young guys wearing cutoff flannel shirts, cowboy boots, and driving jacked up trucks. She went on to say that they were rude, dirty, and usually drunk. They loudly proclaimed to be farmers to anyone who would listen.

Now, at this point, I’m getting a little bent. So, I asked her, what SHOULD a farmer look like? Well, she didn’t know. So I asked her if I looked like a farmer. “NO WAY!!! You always have a clean shirt on, and, like, carry a blackberry. You look like someone who sells something or runs a business. You don’t look like a farmer!!”

Well, I informed her that I was. And just maybe I have that appearance because I do more managing than wrench-turning these days. I asked her if she thought those guys were real farmers. Well, she didn’t think so, but they looked like they could be. I thought, ok, let’s let this die and see if she takes some bait....

I asked her where she usually buys food. “Well, local stores! You know”, she continued, “local food is better for you than factory food!” Really. So I asked her who she would trust more raising her food, me, or the guys from Tuesday night. “You” she said, “you look like you’d have a nicer farm”. Interesting. At our size, I told her, most people would consider us a “factory” or “corporate” farm. Those guys would, by most peoples guess, be considered “local”. She looked utterly confused, and maybe a little annoyed with me. She finished my hair cut without many more questions.

So here’s the point. We have a serious perception problem with ag in this country. People still view the Hollywood image of farmers, and of their farms. They can’t believe that the modern, especially YOUNG farmer, carries a blackberry and wears a golf shirt. Where have we gone wrong? Are we so busy trying to convince them we know what is best that we’ve forgotten that appearances DO matter?

A friend told me once, “If you don’t want to be treated like you need to be told what to do, than don’t look and act like you need to be told what to do!”


  1. Excellent post, Jeff. I work in agribusiness PR, and we are concerned about the reputation and misconceptions of agriculture today. Through the work of growers, like you, we hope that the erroneous beliefs about farmers and farms can be dispelled. Keep up the great work.

  2. Hmm, curious! It would seem to me that you just equated a "local" farmer with guys whom you don't even know farm, but get drunk, wear dirty shirts, and drive jacked up trucks.

  3. I grew up on a farm. When I was a kid, you could walk in and spot the farmers in the place (whether it was church, store, or anywhere)
    Somewhere along the way (early 80's or so) it got harder. You could still pick out the older farmers, but some of the younger ones, well, they didn't look much like farmers.