Paul Harvey’s words still ring true: God said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So he made a farmer

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I almost missed it.

I really didn’t care two figs about who won the Super Bowl, and it was getting late after the lights went out in New Orleans and made the third quarter stretch from here to eternity. My husband had already gone to bed, but I was just curious enough to see if the 49ers could pull off the upset.

Besides, the Budweiser Clydesdale ad hadn’t aired yet, and I knew it was going to be a good one.

Then, on one of the commercial breaks, a photo of a solitary beef cow out in a snowy field commanded my TV screen. Silently, the name “Paul Harvey” appeared. And that familiar voice began.

“And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise, and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.

“God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, 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.”

Harvey’s famous speech (complete text appears at the end of this column) continued as the simple ad moved through a slideshow of beautiful farm photos, commissioned from 10 noted photographers. It was wonderful, it was unexpected, and it was unbelievably moving.

A young farm girl in a pink checked flannel shirt in a field. Heaping bins of sweet corn being harvested. A farmer hefting bales of hay from the back of his pickup. A couple behind their farm market stand. A closeup of a farmer’s hands. A wheat combine. A farm family at the dinner table.

And it ended with the words onscreen, “To the farmer in all of us.”

I had to remind myself to breathe.

The ad, says the Chrysler Group in a statement, “reminds us of our shared identity and character, the greatness born out of perseverance and determination and the rewards that come from hard work.”

Paul Harvey first said these now-famous words in 1978 at the National FFA Convention. It was also published in his syndicated column in 1986, and at that time, he said he couldn’t take credit for writing it, as it came to him unsigned in the mail.

Dodge Ram, along with its partner Farms.com, is making a donation to support FFA local hunger relief efforts every time someone shares the ad video online via Facebook or Twitter, or watches it on its website (you can also scroll down to see it).

Many younger folks may not know who Paul Harvey is (my son admitted to looking him up online after seeing the commercial). The veteran radio broadcaster (1918-2009) was a fixture at the ABC Radio Network for 51 years (51 years!), and he’s best known for his “The Rest of the Story” pieces.

Reactions on our Facebook page included:

“Wasn’t that awesome…”

“Best ad of the night!! And so true!”

“Tears in my eyes”

“Made me proud to live this blessed life of a farmer.”

Of course, cynical online commenters everywhere had to turn the commercial into a blast against “industrial agriculture”, or called it an advertising ploy. “Marketing, pure and simple and pathetic,” said one response on the Huffington Post.

I choose to ignore those voices, and instead see the ad in its simple sincerity — a tribute to an undervalued and underappreciated farm community. A farmer who — regardless of farm size, philosophy, commodity or location — works harder than anyone outside the farm circle realizes. A tribute to the social fabric the farm community weaves still today. A tribute to complete strangers who can be family, bonded by the soil or the sow.

It was our two minutes of fame in the sun. And it was enough.

The cows still need milking, the waterers unfrozen, and the stalls scraped. The baler still needs fixed, the heifers bred and the fences mended. The crops still need planted, the fields harvested, and the world fed.

 Text of the Paul Harvey speech:

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.
 
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.
 
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt and watch it die, and dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks, and shoe scraps. Who planting time and harvest season will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, painin ’from tractor back, put in another 72 hours.” So God made a farmer.
 
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.” So God made a farmer.
 
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed, and brake, and disk, and plow, and plant, and tie the fleece and strain the milk. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing. Who would laugh, and then sigh, and then reply with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what dad does.
 
So God made a farmer.

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By Susan Crowell

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

6 Comments

  1. Connie Finton, Ohio dairy farmer says:

    Susan..I knew the minute I saw the ad that you would “be there” As a dairy farmer, I appreciated it..I appreciated it the times I have heard it in the past..the tears in my eyes were there each time, tears of respect for all those in agriculture. When I talk with groups about what we do..in agriculture in general and on our farm specifically, I tell them that we are but caretakers of the land God has placed us on and we are just here until the next generation comes to care for it.. and we take seriously our job of feeding the world. Yes, we get up early, work long hours (and this week are spending as much time thawing ourselves out as anything else) worry about paying bills , work under regulations drawn up by those who many times have no idea what we do…..but I always let people know that on this farm, we do what we love…and when you love your work…well that is just as good as it can get.

  2. Gale Betterly says:

    Thanks, Susan and Connie. You’ve said it so well.

  3. Scot says:

    Stranely missing was the lack of any green John Deere farm equipment

  4. In the forty some years I have lived in,(not worked in)farming country, I have seen many sons step into the role of the farmer that their dad has occupied for years! Their love for the land & its harvest, is genuine & straight from the heart! This is truly the best part of the Super Bowl program this year, & some years before! The negativity regarding this is unfounded & uncalled for! God does need a caretaker & the farmer fits perfectly!

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