On Old Red & In Defense of God


I don’t think I’ve ever introduced you to Old Red. She once was more of a new Red, a shiny Red, a Red with sex appeal and a kitten-like purr, but these days she’s earned the “Old” part of her name. She rumbles more than purrs and her parts aren’t all exactly as they once were. Like all good women, she’s gotten better as she’s aged. Only now, fifteen years later, is she beginning to slow down. Fifteen is like eighty in truck years and so it is to be expected.

She’s older than our marriage and both children. She took us to the movies and on vacations when we were dating. She’s hauled our kids to school and sports practices, pulled our camper to the lake and back. She’s brought home countless tons of feed, big bales of hay and straw, box loads of mulch and compost. Every inch of fence on our farm, every board, every nail, every fence post once made a journey in or behind her. She’s hauled pigs, poultry and cattle to market; kids, cows, and horses to and from fair, 4-H, and rodeo. She’s done it on worn tires when times were tight, and has never asked for more than a quick drink of fresh oil, a new set of brake pads.

She’s going to have to be replaced soon. This year, probably, but neither The Man nor I are excited to see her go. We looked last year, even brought a shiny new Red home for a weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be. She’s seen us through the beginning and growth of both our family and farm, she may as well be family herself. It’s hard (and expensive) to let her go, but I can tell you one thing for sure: when we must, it’ll be another just like her that fills that spot in the driveway.

By now you’ve probably seen the Ram Trucks Superbowl Ad featuring Paul Harvey reading his piece titled, “God Made a Farmer”.

If you haven’t watch now. It’s well worth the two minutes of your life.

There have been plenty of posts in the agriculture blogging circles praising Dodge today. Lora Berg wrote about how the ad made it a “good day to be a farmer” at National Hog Farmer Magazine, Carrie Mess pulled words from the hearts of all farmers when she wrote, “All I want is to be a good farmer. The kind of farmer that Paul Harvey describes here,” and Ryan Goodman included the words to Harvey’s original 1978 tribute in his post, which in and of themselves are worth a read.

But there have also been some less-than-stellar discussions of the commercial outside ag circles and many of those have centered on Dodge’s inclusion of “God” in their ad. Since I think it’s important that we don’t get caught up in our own communities to the exclusion of other perceptions and opinions it’s that one that I most want to talk about today.

Paul Harvey was famous for his down-to-earth personality and commitment to America’s heartland, the rural-dwelling folks who labor day in and day out to feed the nation. Of course, it’s probably worth noting that a grand majority of those people are, in fact, Christian. And, as such, the invocation of God in a tribute to them is not so far out of left field. But what’s really notable here is that part about Paul Harvey being so down to earth. I can’t speak for him, I guess, but I don’t think he’d mind if you interpreted the word ‘God’ differently than he did. I don’t think he’d mind if your God goes by a different name than his or if by none at all. And I know for fairly certain America’s farmers don’t mind. They don’t mind if what you got out of that commercial is that a class of people arose from years of evolution to take on the job of being a farmer instead of being built specifically for it by a higher power. I think they’re mostly just happy to be getting acknowledgement on such an enormous stage, to know that one of the companies they support also supports them and they’re excited that more Americans might pause to consider the work that goes into filling grocery shelves. My God goes by a different name than Paul’s, by a different name than most Farmers’ and it’s okay if yours does, too. The point isn’t about the source of the farmer, but the source of the food.

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6 thoughts on “On Old Red & In Defense of God

  1. I enjoyed reading your essay on the “Eatocracy” CNN web page, and also enjoy this web site that it lead me to. I grew up as an east-Iowa farm boy, but left the farm for a life in academia. My sister and I inherited the family farm and a cousin rents the land now. I often think of moving back to the farm and trying to crank out a textbook, but I’m still immersed in experimental science. Maybe in 5 more years. Until then, I’m happy in Austin with a large selection of local farms and farmer’s markets and several restaurants that emphasize slow and local food.

    In addition to your CNN essay, I also enjoyed one by Brian Scott that dispelled many misconceptions about farmer’s relationships with Ag companies. He also has a web site: http://thefarmerslife.wordpress.com

    There’s plenty to complain about concerning CNN, but their website has been doing a good job presenting the farmer’s perspective to those who really have no idea how our food gets to the store.

    thanks for writing and farming,

    1. Rick,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I really enjoyed that post of Brian’s as well and follow his blog as often as possible.

      – Diana

  2. Read your blog and CNN article. It is tougher for women in Ag. I have been in it for almost 30 years. While I respect your efforts, yours is a different farming operation. If all folks raised hogs the way you do, there would be less pork consumed (I looked at your prices). Most farmers raise commodities with all the uncertainty and headaches that comes with it.
    Seems like a lot of your focus is how different your operation is than other farms. If so, can you really expect to be “included” when folks talk about farms in general? The fact that most farms sell into the existing markets (regular) is what allows you niche (different).
    I know a lot of minority farmers and they are hard-working folks. For most it is not their “day job” due to the small size of farms that have been split among children over many generations. The difference is that these folks consider themselves farmer (cause they are) and look to associate with other in the profession. They focus on the similarities among with their farming neighbors instead of the differences. Maybe you can look for a group of alternative farmers where you can talk about all the headaches of being a niche farm in your area.
    Can’t really relate to your view on God but sounds like you’ve made your decision.
    By the way – will you replace your dog with another?
    I wish you the best…Clyde

    1. Hi Clyde, thanks for popping by. Seems there’s a gap in our communication. If all folks produced pork like I do there would be less pork period and price is only one of the reasons for that. If you do some more reading here and follow along you’ll see that I make no bones about that and that I am an avid supporter of farmers in all kinds of ag. If you’re under the impression that the uncertainty and headaches that come along with commodity farming are not the very same uncertainties and headaches that come along with niche farming, you’re quite mistaken. Sometimes they manifest slightly differently, but they’re all the same when you get right down to it. I’m not sure where you got the impression that I focus solely on differences or that I don’t feel “included” among conventional circles but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve found the community of farmers in both my local area and the greater communities on Social Media to be incredibly inclusive and supportive. I’ve written before about how we get a grand majority of our information and inspiration from larger farms and how important I believe it is that new farmers not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

      As you’ve been in the industry for 30 years I’m sure you’re well aware of how resources and scale affect marketing options for all crops, I think it’s worth pointing out that there is no exception to that rule here.

      As for the dog, do you mean the Border Collie? I’m sure one day he’ll need a replacement, but as he’s not even a year old yet I hope that’s a good many years on down the road. Thus far I’m very happy with him and imagine I would like to keep one like him around when the time comes that he is no longer able to work.

      1. Diana
        Thanks for the reply. That was my impression (mainly from the CNN piece). Shows again that it is good to ask for clarification instead of assuming.
        I am glad to hear that you feel a part of your ag community. In my experience the differences for niche operations relate to marketing and positioning of the products (peas, hogs, onions). I have worked with many producers who wanted a “model” for their niche operation that did not exist in a local area.
        Many folks like you find that you have to become your own “model” and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
        Commodity crop/animal farmers usually have a market. It may be up or down depending on the year.
        Hats off to you for jumping into pigs and figuring out how to make it work.
        By the way – it should have read “dodge” and not “dog”.
        All the best……..Clyde

        1. Oh! Dodge. Yes, probably. To be fair, we started looking a little bit last fall and liked the Dodges best anyway, but the commercial certainly didn’t hurt their chances any. 🙂

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