CNN Eatocracy: How has farming changed since 1978 and “So God Made a Farmer”?

Paul Harvey So God Made a Farmer compared with today's farmsThis week has been an exciting one for those discussing food and farming. Sunday’s airing of RAM Truck’s Super Bowl ad featuring the American Farmer has had online communities buzzing about the images and characteristics that defined our farmers in 1978.

Those characteristics and values still hold true today, despite what we commonly hear in mainstream media and reports from those who have a ‘beef’ with modern farming.

Also read this post and join the conversation on CNN Eatocracy

Paul Harvey first recited “So God Made a Farmer” at the 1978 Future Farmers of America annual convention. A few things have changed in the three and a half decades since. My dad was in Junior High (and still had a full head of hair). Since then, he has raised a few thousand cattle, has broken in a few new pickups, and harvested several crops of hay.

So how do things compare between 1978 and today?

Using the numbers from our most recent U.S. Agriculture Survey (2007, a new one is being conducted for 2012), here are some interesting comparisons:

In 1978, there were 2,257,775 farms, averaging 449 acres each. In 2007, those numbers reduced to 2,204,792 farms averaging 418 acres each. Farmers today are actually smaller by 31 acres.

Today the market value of farmland and buildings is $1,892 per acre. That is up from $619 per acre in 1978 – an increase of $1,273 per acre.

Continue reading more about how the stats compare between now and 1978 over on the CNN Eatocracy page. It’s a great place to join the conversation and share your experience on how things are different or the same.


  1. We started raising livestock in 1953 and I have been an agricultural journalist for 32 years. It takes fewer farmers today to produce more than it did then, and less land. We are more efficient, more productive. It always amazes me that today we have to defend something so basic, so essential to our very existence as agriculture, but that is a sign of the times. Farming has changed a lot in those years but the farmers and ranchers I know have the same values. And there are signs that young people are becoming more interested in production agriculture. I hope so. There is little hope without that.

  2. Hi Ryan! I have a bit of a different take on this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Canadian farmer and I love farmers but this seems suspicious to me. Here’s my video reply

    1. It’s always good to have a different take, and I guess we can have several reasons to dislike larger companies for their advertising campaigns. Agree or disagree, they work, consumers respond and buy, or they wouldn’t exist.

      The narrative by Paul Harvey was around long before it was used in this advertisement. And if the RAM brand wants to spend millions and bring farmers to the attention of millions of Americans, I am taking the opportunity to join in and carry on that conversation. And if they gain something from supporting our farmers and youth Ag education programs, more power to them. I am thankful for it because they were able to grab the attention of folks in a positive light that we (farmers) haven’t been able to for quite a while.

      1. Ryan, Mel’s video is hilarious and spot-on (always good to parse out who’s behind the ad and why), but I agree too with you. The commercial has opened another dialogue and also served to remind what farmers do for us, even though the message was ultimately done to sell their products. But we’re all selling something! Liked your post on CNN about the stats, thank you. Hope your master’s work is going well, by the way. I may have a suggestion for a blog post by the way; will email you if I don’t find info on your site. Take care.

    2. Hi Ryan and Kay!
      Great to hear back from you and I agree that it is good to get some nice publicity, just want to make sure we keep our minds sharp 😉 I’ve only heard of America’s Farmers from the youtube, are those commercials on TV in the States? And what are your thoughts on them? Does it feel like Monsanto is dodging some negativity by putting farmers’ faces out there? Everybody loves a farmer, after all!

      1. Yeah, we see the America’s Farmers ads here in the States. Can you blame em for trying to dodge some negativity? They get so much mud thrown their direction, it’s hard for folks to see what it is they actually do.

        I know several farmers who buy and use Monsanto products. They’re good people, family farmers, and their story needs to be shared like everyone else’s.

        Full disclosure, I have a good friend that works with the online content of Monsanto and she’s as genuine about telling the true story of our farmers as anyone else I know. If not more so.

      2. Hi Ryan,

        Heck, my family uses Monsanto products and work for Cargill and the whole lot! The reps and employees are genuinely great people like the rest of us, but I don’t see what good these companies are doing for farmers or for food quality. They get rich on our cheap food policies.

        I only have Canadian statistics but because of the price of inputs, net farm income from the market is similar to what we made during the Great Depression. (Well, as cash croppers we have great prices these days from our ethanol subsidies and low interest rates but they’re not going to be around forever. And in Canada we don’t get subsidies, well not exactly…)

        I know that the ‘technology’ has made us able to farm larger tracts of land and have larger herds, but for what end? More work with less pay. Less farmers out here means less vibrant rural communities, less infrastructure, less attention to the environment, less of a political voice.

        I love farmers so much that I think we should have MORE farmers, not less! But that would mean reversing the trend, and we have to look long and hard at how we got in this mindset to begin with.

        But this is a discussion between farmers and maybe not on your site 😉 Erase if you like and send me an email.

        What are you doing your master’s in?

        Take care and have a great day!


      3. Hi Mel, thanks for your thanks. I’m an animal nut :), but I still really enjoy Ryan’s blog and learn a lot from him. It is true that farmers do get a bad rap; people tend to judge the whole by the bad individuals, unfortunately. It’s good that farmers are getting great publicity with the Dodge commercials reminding us that farmers feed us! Anyway, your video gave me a chuckle, thank you.

      4. Hi again! Do you really think farmers have a bad reputation? I heard of some study that puts farmers up there with nurses and firefighters as the most trustworthy people in the public opinion. What specifically do you feel farmers are defensive about? Or what exactly makes you think people don’t like farmers? (or is it that people just don’t care where there food comes from?) I’m just really curious. 🙂

  3. The most exciting thing that has changed is the research into how plants grow and all the biologic activity in the soil. A century ago, soil mapping had just started. The heyday was in the 50’s. About a decade ago, we compared our current soil samples with the soil profile maps and were shocked to learn that half the organic matter had disappeared in half a century. Once upon a time, the Fertile Crescent was easy to cultivate…had to be since noone knew what they were doing as we started civilization eating bread. Now it is a desert…mostly because what most people think of as organic farrming did not work well enough to be sustainable. So we have begun slowly rejuvenating our soils with notill farming, cover crops and lots of study and work.

    1. Hey ROYSFARM, thanks for stopping by! Yes, there’s a great niche for organic and natural products and it’s awesome that we’re able to have farmers in the community who are willing to provide for those customers.

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