The Illinois Farm Families coalition has officially coined 2023 as the Year of the Farmer to show appreciation for all that Illinois farmers have endured the last several years.
“You think about just where farmers are as far as production with what the economy looks like, uncertainty with a variety of things, everybody coming out of the pandemic — it all affects agriculture so specifically,” says Gracie Pierson, consumer engagement manager for Illinois Farm Bureau. Pierson is a member of the IFF coalition on behalf of IFB, along with representatives from the Illinois Beef Association, IL Corn, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Soybean Association and Midwest Dairy.
The campaign will specifically focus on communicating that 96% of Illinois farms are family owned and operated. In 2021, IFF funded a research study to better understand how to direct post-pandemic consumer engagement.
“Our research found that consumers believe 47% of Illinois farms are family owned and that 53% are corporately owned,” Pierson says. “I hope we can move that needle to more than half, and I would love someday for them to believe that at least 90% of Illinois farms are family owned.”
The goal of IFF is to build consumer trust in the food system by connecting consumers with Illinois farmers.
“When people hear that 96% of Illinois farms are family owned, then they’re no longer as concerned about a lot of our management techniques,” says Lindsay Mitchell, director of communications at IL Corn and IFF coalition representative. “Consumers trust families, they understand families, they assume that families have the same values that they do, and they’re willing to give us a little bit of the benefit of the doubt when it comes to management practices.”
The Year of the Farmer campaign will kick off with a Super Bowl ad and then feature different TV, print, radio, digital and social ads throughout the year. The campaign varies from traditional IFF programming because the target demographic is downstate Illinois, rather than millennial parents in Chicago.
Farmers from across the state will be represented, plus the variety of commodities produced in Illinois. More than 30 families are featured in the project, including:
- Chad and Brittany Bell family, Viola
- Marty and Sheila Marr family, New Berlin
- Kaylee and Kevin Heap family, Minooka
- Dan and Hattie Sanderson family, Clare
- Greg and Ashley Deal family, Danvers
“We’ve tried to pick a really diverse set of farm families across the state,” Mitchell says. “I hope Illinois farmers can see themselves in this video and that it’s an opportunity for all farmers across the state to stand together. It’s a good opportunity to feel solidarity and work together on big issues that impact agriculture.”
IFF hopes to help farmers see themselves as an integral part of the state and for consumers to notice the contributions farmers make to the food supply.
“I want the campaign to help Illinois farmers feel good about their legacy, what they came from and what they’re laying down for the future,” Mitchell says. “I also hope the campaign helps non-farmers and influential people across the state feel differently about agriculture and ask questions.”
More information about the Year of the Farmer campaign will be featured at the 2022 Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, Dec. 3-6 in Chicago.