LEBANON (Lebanon Co.) -- A campaign to convince the consumer about how work in the fields translates to food on the table is under way through the efforts of the Lebanon County Farm Bureau.
Greg Hostetter, Farm Bureau vice president and a dairy farmer near Lebanon, said farmers should "stop and think about what you can always count on but take for granted."
The new campaign, "Thank A Farmer," brings this message to southeast and south central Pennsylvania radio listeners: "The sun will rise and your Lebanon County farmers will produce food for you."
The campaign idea sprang from the October board meeting of the Lebanon County Farm Bureau, when a member commented that the general public does not realize the extent of what farmers provide.
"Board members agreed that promotion should be done, so we discussed the issues and decided to look into it," said Hostetter.
Hostetter's homework included researching different types of media and the cost associated with each. Before the next board meeting he had compiled profiles and rates on radio stations and newspapers.
At the December board meeting Hostetter was encouraged to put his ideas on paper to give direction to the project.
"I began writing down the positive things I'd like to let nonfarm people know about agriculture," he said. "The more I wrote, the more passionate I got about agriculture's image. It piqued my interested and I started analyzing commercials, where I got format ideas and decided to write an advertisement about agriculture in general."
Since Hostetter was not planning on writing the ads, he was surprised when at the next board meeting members liked his examples and decided to use his ads.
"We decided to go ahead and get more written for Earth Day and ag days," said Hostetter, who sent the ads to the state farm bureau for final revisions. At the board meeting members also decided to pursue sponsorship options to finance the advertising. Now half of the cost, estimates Hostetter, is paid by agriculture businesses.
The ads are aired on radio stations WLBR and WQIC, which cover Lebanon and reach into surrounding counties. Two radio personalities from the stations read the advertisements.
Each station airs nine 30-second commercials per week for a 13-week time slot. Every two to three weeks the content of the commercials change.
The contract is not for 13 consecutive weeks, so a few commercials are saved for fall messages which address Thanksgiving and harvest issues and safety.
An additional six spots per station were given to the commercials since they also qualified as public service announcements. The adult contemporary AM and FM stations air talk radio and soft rock.
Hostetter found his inspiration in quotes which he has written down in the past, and "issues that I feel strongly about," he said. His wife also helped in editing and giving her opinion on the commercials.
"The county farm bureau's bottom line is from the beginning to promote agriculture in a positive way. People's ignorance toward agriculture is dangerous," he said. "Farmers are in the minority, and nonfarmers need to understand what farmers contribute to society because public opinion controls legislation. That affects how we can farm. We need them (nonfarmers) on our side.
"My message to farmers would be to be positive and emphasize the facts about what a good job we're doing of providing food for everyone to live and be healthy."
The commercials remind the public that they have to work only 38 days to pay for one year's supply of food, and that the average farm feeds 129 people a day.
"Without the fertile land, farmers could not raise their crops to feed people and animals.
Farmers have been called the "first environmentalists.' They are very concerned about environmental issues _ it is how they make their living," states one commercial.
The project has branched into other avenues to advance agriculture's image as well. While he researched information at the local library, Hostetter noticed the lack of quality, up-to-date books which addressed farming.
Consequently the Lebanon County Farm Bureau purchased 18 children's books to donate to the Lebanon Community Library to fill the need for agriculture literature. The books will be distributed to five other libraries in the Lebanon area.
Hostetter, who is the third generation farmer on the Lebanon farm, is farming 150 acres of corn, hay, and soybeans with his father. They have 55 cows and raise their own replacement heifers. His wife Kathy grew up on a pig farm in nearby Annville.