So, one thing that happened is that Dodge blew off the atheist truck market, and ran an advertisement using an old Paul Harvey monologue that begins:
"And on the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker!" So, God made a farmer! God said I need somebody to get up before dawn and milk cows and work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board. So, God made a farmer!
Two minutes of this over pictures of farms and farmers, and then a discreet Dodge Ram pickup at the and. It has been getting what they call buzz, in part b/c it's, urm, recycled. I am not that concerned about the originality of the advertisement, but I am interested in its premise. At the end of the commercial, we see the tagline "To the Farmer in All of Us." Doubtless, the farmer in some of us is at the Dodge dealership this morning, seeing about trading that minivan for a truck, now that the kids are grown. It's an expensive proposition, as they start north of twenty grand and get much more expensive very quickly.
We begin to arrive at a question, which is how do small farmers, of the sort valorized in the commercial, afford shiny new pickup trucks? Anecdotally, they answer is that the cannot afford to, or they prefer to spend their disposable incomes on things like mortgage payments and fixing holes in roofs. The last time I visited a farm, I happened to take a picture of a Dodge truck. It belongs to my Randy and Lisa Robar, neighbors in VT who run Kiss the Cow Farm (for some reason, they don't have a website, so no link). Here is a picture of their Dodge truck:
I was actually focused on the cows at the time, but you can see enough of the truck to notice that it is 1) old enough for an AARP card and 2) full of cow manure. You cannot see that it takes considerable tinkering and TLC to get it to start. When the farmer in all of us is at the dealer's, mulling over $395 for chrome steel bedrails, Randy and Lisa Robar, and others like them, are shoveling shit into vehicles that rolled off the assembly line when Ted Williams was still a fighter pilot, and spraying ether into air intakes in an effort to get them to start.
The farmer in all of us, 99+% of the time, is not a farmer. Farming is hard work, and it pays poorly. The Robars took over the farm from a farmer who died on his own farm in a farming accident. "The farmer in all of us" is a nice, truck-selling way to refer to an inclination that Americans have to like the idea of farming. The valorization of farmers by non-farmers goes back at least to Thomas Jefferson:
Ironically, had Jefferson been in office in 2008, he most definitely would have voted against bailing out Detroit:
While we have land to labour then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry: but, for the general operations of manufacture, let our work-shops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles. The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.
If you like Enlightenment-era aestheticization of farming, you might also enjoy J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur's Letters From an American Farmer, the Rocket 88 of the dilletante farmer genre. All of which is to say that the Dodge Truck commercial taps into a deep vein of US sentiment that likes the idea of farming more than actual farming. It is, in its way, not that different from Marie Antionette dressing up like a milkmaid, sexy Bo-Peep costumes, or dropping $1,300 on a chicken coop from Williams-Sonoma.
I'd suggest, just as a conversation starter, that the average American's deep-seated fondness for the idea of farming, coupled with a preference for easier, safer, and more lucrative work, creates exactly the kind of environment where terribile industrial farming can flourish. As a nation, we are seduced by pictures like the ones in the Dodge commercial, and meanwhile the heirs of Earl Butz are busy making anaerobic pigshit lagoons.