What makes someone famous? Already you are reading this and thinking, "Well, not everyone who's famous deserves it." Some got on the list and are more infamous than famous, but that's not today's point. Let's rule them out for now (I say as I create a Venn diagram in my mind.) and just focus on the basic categories that make most people famous.
Generally speaking, being famous means you have a high level of recognition and popularity. You earn this status through accomplishments, visibility in the media, public attention and a significant following.
Categories of fame include people in the following industries:
Politics and Leadership
Business and Technology
Social Media and Influencers
Literature and Writing
Science and Academia
Art and Visual Arts
Fashion and Design
Humanitarian and Activism
The list does not reflect a ranking of importance but the level of visibility and recognition that the people in these categories tend to receive, deservedly or not.
Do you see farmers on that list? No? And yet, farmers touch your life every single day in a way that is deeply significant. Most of the time we eat our cereal with milk and berries and don't give it a second thought. Most of us can't name the farmer we got them from. But ask me who made my shoes. I can tell you that.
Do you see the problem here? Even if you wanted to put them on the list, which category would you put them in? Business? Science? They are not even on the map.
Let's talk about why farmers should be famous. Besides your cereal for breakfast, your turkey sandwich for lunch and the ribeye steak you treat yourself to for dinner, farmers have a significant contribution to many other facets of everyday life all while producing your food.
Farmers are close to the land and the work that they do has a direct impact on making that land better (or worse). And they have the power to shift their practices from year to year to improve the land, the soil, the amount of carbon captured, the amount of chemicals, the impact of that soil on nearby water. Farmers have a TON of power and the opportunity to use that power to improve the environment. While some businesses (let's take an airline, for example) need to use carbon offsets from outside their business, farmers have the opportunity to make smart environmental choices and improvements from within their own operations.
Farmers operate, for the most part, in rural communities. With strong farms in these communities, businesses thrive, schools are filled, real estate is supported and micro economies prosper. When those farms fail, rural communities follow leaving a greater gap between urban and rural citizens and their livelihoods. To build a stronger nation, we need urban centers and thriving rural communities.
Your personal health depends on healthy inputs. You are what you eat, remember? To know what you are eating and how it was produced (What did it eat? How rich was the soil it grew in?) there's no better source than your farmer. Reading the side of a box in the supermarket only tells part of the story. If you want to really understand what you are eating, you need to know your farmer. And smaller, direct-to-consumer farmers are the ones who will tell you and will work with you to give you what you want and need.
In order for farmers to be famous they need better visibility and recognition. Visibility and recognition are two center tenets of the For Farmers Movement. Through the Talk Farm to Me podcast, farmers tell their stories. Those stories are echoed in blogs and social media so they reach more people. Through a twice-yearly grants program farmers are nominated for and awarded grants. The nominations process is a key part of that program where friends, family, neighbors and customers honor farmers with their heartfelt appreciation of farmers for the work that they do.
Who is the most famous farmer? If you ask Google, it's Joel Salatin, a self-professed lunatic farmer from Swoope, Virginia. Salatin has lifted the hood on his own operations to share it with millions of farmers, would-be farmers and homesteaders so that they might learn from his regenerative processes. Salatin has been featured on many podcasts and is a prolific writer of articles, blog posts and books. He was featured on Talk Farm to Me during the pandemic to discuss this very topic -- the importance of farmers and how the pandemic underscored to the public how much we need them.
How do farmers get famous? Two of the farmers featured on Talk Farm to Me -- Joel Salatin and Will Harris of White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia -- were subsequently interviewed by Joe Rogan on his podcast. This can help. At least in the farming world, his appearance on Rogan's show has made Will Harris more of a household name. And he's worked it. On social media, Will Harris and his team have told their story effectively, over and over. Rancher Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farm in California has shared her farm story, educated new farmers and gained notoriety through social media. Other farmers have done this too, with varying success. Some farmers go the entertainment route and others the influencer route. These farmers are wheedling their ways into the hearts and minds of consumers. These cases are more limited and we have to be more apart of this equation, seeking farmers out, sharing our awe and admiration for what they do, and as Will Harris is fond of saying, "Giving a damn."
So what can we do? Let's focus on three easy ways to make farmers famous. I mean, we need to start somewhere and at this point it's best to be practical, using our training wheels for support. OK? Here goes:
Seek out your own local farmer. That could be at a farm stand, at a farmer's market (here is a comprehensive guide on how to find your and get the most out of it), or even (less locally) online. By having your own go-to farmer you can buy meat and produce, you can ask questions 'til the cows come home, and you can learn more about your own food and the challenges farmers face to bring it to you.
Get to know farmers in general. Listen to a podcast or follow them on social media. Once you spend a little time in the space, you will start to see patterns. You will recognize the challenges they face and will have the opportunity to be informed about important issues that impact your daily life. Here is a fun 5-day challenge that will introduce you to some of the most interesting farmers I know.
Take a small action to support farmers. You can join the For Farmers Movement. It's all about easy actions that have a big impact. For starters, you can nominate a farmer you know (see No. 1) for a grant. It's so easy. Nominations open twice a year, in the spring starting on National Ag Day, and in the fall staring on National Farmer's Day. In 2023, the next round of nominations open on October 12. You can also support grants for farmers as a part of this process. For Farmers accepts grants of $1 and up. That's how most of the grants are built: a dollar at a time. And together we can fund more support for farmers. So far, For Farmers has awarded 26 grants in 18 states.
Here's a little reward for your role in helping to Make Farmers Famous. If you are planning to do even one of those three easy actions, send me an email with your address and I will put a few Make Farmers Famous stickers in the mail to you. You can wear one, put one on your laptop or your phone case and show the world that you support farmers. You can also share this article with a friend so they can take easy action too.
The only way to make farmers famous is to start with one simple action. And while you are helping farmers, you will be helping yourself in so many important ways.
Dana DiPrima is the founder of the For Farmers Movement. For Farmers supports American farmers by sharing their stories, replacing myths with facts, and providing them with mini-grants and other helpful resources. Dana is the host of the Talk Farm to Me podcast featuring farmers and farm issue experts from across the country. She authors a weekly letter in addition to this blog. You can subscribe here. And you can join the For Farmers Movement to support your farmers here. You can also follow her on Instagram and Threads.