The story behind the famous poster

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“I have (the poster) hanging in our milk house and I am very amused and captivated every time I glance at it. It is a masterful job of capturing an ideal pose, and the boys are having a pretty deep discussion, an attitude identical in every way to a couple of old farmers hashing something over.”

— Kenraid Shields, New York

“You been farming long?” is said to be the most highly recognized poster of all time. Two little boys, dressed in bib overalls, one in a red cap, one in a blue cap, stand alone on the edge of a field.

The minute one spots the old picture, so many memories come to mind. I thought of that poster, and the boys, just out of the blue while working outside a few days ago and wondered if there was any way I could find out where they are now.

Newagtalk.com is where I was directed when I searched and landed the following information: Matt and Chris Jacobs, 18-month-old twins, were photographed by their mother in September 1978 at home in San Miguel, California.

An overnight visitor to their farm asked for a picture of the boys before departing.

“I was glad they were dressed in brand new overalls,” their mother says.

Because the lighting on one of the pictures was just right, with the expressions captured so endearing, their mother decided to enter it in California’s Mid-State Fair. Even though the picture of her little farmers drew quite a crowd, and people sought the photographer mother out for reprints, the picture did not win but took third place.

Guernsey Cow Breeders magazine later ran the picture, and it was featured on a dairy equipment calendar, but it was seen by the most people yet when a syndicated newspaper supplement sent the picture all over the United States.

In 1982, Mrs. Jacobs received the big call that took the picture into nearly every farm-loving home. It was magazine publisher Roy Reiman calling. He was not yet well-known, but he explained that he owned a line of magazines geared to country living.

He offered her $250 or 1/2 cent for each poster if the picture was ever made into one.

He explained that he wanted to run the photo in a new magazine he was trying to jump-start, Country Kids. She agreed to posters only and used the 200-some dollars to buy a new clothes dryer.

Before long, notecards were being sold, the picture was world-famous and growing in incredible popularity.

It was then the boys’ mom asked for an agreement for part of the proceeds. With the help of an attorney, she was finally granted 6 percent of gross sales paid monthly for use of photos on anything other than posters.

The “Little Farmers” line grew into playing cards, porcelain dolls, figures and more.

The most current update, dated 2016, comes from Chris, the boy in the blue cap on the poster. The twins, now 40, both live in Fresno, California.

In his archived post on newagtalk, Chris reported then that he and his brother Matt were enjoying parenthood, both raising very young children. Their mother has enjoyed notes and nice comments from all over the country from people telling how much they have enjoyed her picture of two little boys.

Their father and grandfather had been involved in breeding and showing Guernsey cattle, and the boys helped show when younger, but neither are now involved in agriculture.

“I hope that doesn’t ruin my image as a poster child for agriculture,” Chris writes on the forum. “I have great appreciation for agriculture and hope to instill that in my daughters.”

The copyright of this instantly recognizable picture is now owned by Readers Digest, which bought out Reiman Publications.

Though the family didn’t reap the rewards that Reiman surely did, Chris said they are all doing just fine, and have enjoyed their part in this small part in the lives of farmers and country lovers.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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