Call them farmers

Created: 10/04/11 (Tue) | Topic: Education

An editorial by Cyndie Sirekis

Steering clear of “producer” and “industry” when talking about food grown or raised by America’s farm and ranch families was one of the tidbits of advice offered at a recent gathering of Farm Bureau members and staff from around the country involved in agricultural promotion and education. The solution? Just use farmer.

J. Scott Vernon Ph.D., a featured speaker at Farm Bureau’s national Promotion & Education Conference, is the founder of I Love Farmers…They Feed My Soul and a professor of agricultural education and communication at California Polytechnic State University. He is not alone in urging food producers to call themselves farmers.

Vernon and the board of directors of I Love Farmers, none of whom are older than 25, do stand out in the growing field of those dubbed “agricultural advocates” due to their chosen methods of engaging with the non-farming public. 

Provocative is an apt description for some of the strategies used by the young agricultural enthusiasts (ages 15-25) who make up I Love Farmers, the 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded by Vernon to “create a conversation among peers about our food, our farmers and our future.”

The slogan “Where’s the Food, Without the Farmer?” is one example. Tee shirts, ball caps and temporary rub-on tattoos emblazoned with the slogan are wildly popular as conversation starters when worn by supporters.

Hosting rap and reggae concerts and using social media are other fun ways to get points about today’s farming across to young people, according to Vernon.

Going even further afield from the traditional venues ag advocates often frequent to reach the public, such as farmers’ markets and community fairs, supporters have placed “I Love Farmers” artwork in tattoo parlors.

Spreading the word about today’s agriculture in tattoo parlors may have some merit.

According to the website, which features facts and statistics about inked body art, 14 percent of Americans now have one or more tattoos. That’s up from 6 percent in

Looking at age breakdowns is even more revealing. A 2006 a study done by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. Expanding the age bracket studied up to 50 reveals that 40 percent sport some ink.

Despite the growing prevalence and increased acceptance of tattoos, does Vernon really think people will ask for “I Love Farming…it Feeds My Soul” tattoos?

Not at all, he says.

“This is just one more place where we can reach people and get them talking about food and farming,” he suggests.

Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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