God made farmers, man made ways to exploit them

God made a farmer to care for his lands, animals, feed His people, and, according to the Super Bowl commercial, to drive a Dodge Ram truck. It was one of the most talked about commercials of the evening, attempting to strike the chord in all of us that Mitt Romney (or any other politician) tries to strike when he wears a Carhartt jacket.

We are a nation of farmers a few generations removed from the fields. But today only 1% of Americans are actually farmers. We revere the image of farmers on TV commercials and in campaign speeches. The truth is there are 1 billion farmers on earth and 60% of them live in poverty.

In the past year I’ve worked alongside banana farmers in Costa Rica, coffee growers in Colombia, cocoa farmers in Africa, and apple farmers in Michigan and China, while researching WHERE AM I EATING. I’ve seen what life is actually like for farmers.

God made farmers and their seed, but man created laws that allow corporations to own the seed.

God made farmers, but man made “terminator technology” that keeps a crop from producing viable seeds so other men have to continue to buy the seed.

God made farmers, but man made the company store to which Costa Rican banana workers go in debt.

God made farmers, but man made a global market of speculation and short term profits that causes commodity prices to rise and fall and with them the lives of the farmers.

God made farmers, but man made pesticides that flat-broke farmers in China and India drink to end their lives and erase their debts.

God made farmers, but man made pesticides for farm laborers to spread, robbing them of their ability to father healthy children.

God made farmers, but man made farm subsidies that favor processed foods.

God made farmers, but man made slavery.

God made farmers, but man made a Super Bowl ad with a bunch of white farmers and one black one. In reality, much of American farm work is done by workers from Latin America, and much of our food isn’t even homegrown: 86% of our seafood, 50% of our fresh fruit, and 18% of our vegetables come from other countries.

God may have made farmers all around the world, but man continues to make new ways to exploit them.


This post is so eloquent and insightful. Thank you for your passion — and knowledge — because in my own little bubble that I live in I don’t really know much about any of this. All I knew is I saw the commercial, and other than wondering how Ram Trucks had anything to do with the nostalgic appeal of the great American small farmers, liked it. I am in advertising — I totally get why they did what they did — but how easy it is for us who live comfortable lives to remain oblivious to the ugly things that are out of our sight. I’m totally guilty of that. Thankful that you’re giving voice to these people.

Kristi Scott says:

Excellent, Kelsey. We must get beyond a media image and address the injustices in the agricultural industry.

Lisa Rice Wheeler says:

Being from the land of the farmer, not far from a town named Farmland, I was moved by what was shown and said in the commercial. I don’t care about the truck. I worked in the fields detasseling when I was in high school, and I saw the families who came each year to pick the crops, and I saw where they lived, and I wondered how it was possible that such conditions were considered sufficient for people who worked as hard as they did. I was outraged at what I saw as injustice. And in the fall, I went back to school. Your post is lovely and sad and, if we’re paying attention, moving. When your book comes out, I am hopeful that people will read it, understand what it’s telling us, and make those daily decision they can to improve the lot of the people who farm the land in this world.

Matthew says:

Spectacular post! It is short and sweet but incredibly powerful, and I love your use of the “Good made farmers, Man did X” construction. I’ll share with everyone I know and I look forward to “Where Am I Eating?”

Let your voice be heard!