I have served on the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)’s Communications Committee for several years and have had the opportunity to provide input into the various activities for which USFRA engages each year, including a recent foray into the entertainment industry’s world. Through Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogues and other events, I see and hear firsthand how the entertainment industry views the agriculture industry. To them, farmers and ranchers are country bumpkins holding pitchforks with banjos and “Green Acres” playing in the background!
In fact, on a recent trip arranged by Ketchum to meet with several prominent Hollywood production companies, USFRA Chairwoman Nancy Kavazanjian and USFRA CEO Randy Krotz shared how they were pitched a variety of creative concepts for America’s “next big farm show.” These production companies have teams who are behind many of today’s popular reality TV programs, including “The Deadliest Catch,” “Pawn Stars,” “Top Chef” and “Project Runway.” While they demonstrated enthusiasm and creativity, Kavazanjian and Krotz remarked that the production companies' vision of U.S. farming and ranching really does start and end with farmer’s markets and American gothic scenes. This was obvious from the concepts that were presented, with the majority focusing on one of four basic themes: (1) fish-out-of-water survival swap; (2) city vs. rural contest; (3) farm makeover; and (4) back-to-the-land experience.
As Kavazanjian said, “Many of these concepts would have been funny, if not so tragic for today’s farmers and ranchers.”
Can entertainment industry views be changed?
So, can the entertainment industry’s view of agriculture be changed?
The documentary film, "Farmland," is continuing to go a long way in correcting the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding modern agriculture and in allowing USFRA to capture the entertainment industry’s attention. By taking the time and effort to visit with Hollywood production companies and sharing the success of "Farmland," USFRA is now able to connect and engage in significant dialogue with important entertainment industry players.
USFRA is looking to stay actively involved and focused on developing partnerships with the entertainment industry through a movement called “Farmland 2.0,” by increasing efforts to infuse real faces, voices and experiences of farmers and ranchers with America’s pop culture movers and shakers. The details for the movement are currently in development, so stay tuned!
I am excited about USFRA’s foray into the entertainment industry and think the entertainment industry’s view of agriculture can be changed, though it will not happen overnight. However, an effort has to be made, because I can honestly say the absolute last thing I want to see on TV is an agriculture reality show that is a cross between the Kardashains and Duck Dynasty! I shudder at the mere thought.