Growing Greatness from the Ground Up

We were tasked with creating a video to launch the Opening Session of the 2015 National Agri-Marketing conference. The theme is “Growing Greatness.” Now, that could mean a lot of things. And to the agri-marketers attending the conference, it would involve all the ways we tell the stories of agriculture and help our clients and customers reach their goals.

But what are those goals? What does “growing greatness” mean to a farmer or rancher? We decided to hit the road for a location shoot, visit a few farmers and ask what “greatness” means to them.

The answers were as varied as the people and their operations. But there was a common theme: pride in their work, doing things well, and leaving a lasting legacy.

We want to say a special thanks to our friends at the Minnesota Corn Growers for opening a few doors and helping coordinate the locations. We can’t wait to get back out there and shoot again when those folks start running their planters!

 

Hot in the Hog Spotlight

A few years ago we shot a custom library with our friends at Morgan Myers for their client, DNA Genetics, a global swine genetics company based in Nebraska. They were fantastic hosts, and we were thrilled to shoot in probably the most incredible swine facilities we’ve seen. Well-managed, clean and technically advanced. So impressive. But the best part, as always, was the people.

We shot some cool sets with the staff around the facility, as well as a whole series of on-set catalog style “beauty shots” of specific animals representing the company’s genetic lines. Many of our photos are featured on the DNA Genetics company website.

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Often, when shooting custom libraries, we don’t know how (or if) certain images will be used. So it was really fun to see one of our swine beauty shots literally spot-lighted a new national ad campaign for DNA Genetics. It looks like the kind of concept shot that might take all day to capture. But it was just one in a series of many gems from that custom library shoot waiting to be re-discovered.

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We want to thank the folks at DNA Genetics for being such fantastic hosts. And of course, offer our special thanks to the creative team at Morgan Myers for using our images in their great work.

 

The AgriLife View, No. 4

This Minnesota farmer takes his job pretty seriously, but himself?… not so much. He was gracious and happy to share part of his busy day during the recent harvest season to show us around his community and talk about his farm.

AgriLife View No. 4 takes a look at how we see farmers – hero, neighbor, grower, friend. One view is serious, the other light-hearted. Vote to tell us which one hits the mark for you.

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Christmas on the Ranch – Carols, Bells & Cow Chores

Every family who celebrates Christmas has their own rituals. For our family, feeding the cows is as much a part of the ritual as opening presents, lighting the advent candle, playing carol music or preparing the big family dinner. Sometimes we do chores in waves — feed in one pasture, come in for a hot chocolate and a round of presents, then head back out to deliver hay to another pasture. Sometimes, the process involves chopping ice from frozen water tanks. While the method of hay delivery has become more efficient over the years, and better tank heaters have mostly eliminated the need for ice chopping, the Christmas routine remains mostly the same. Caring for the animals takes priority. Of course, games of cowpie pond hockey, snowball fights and sledding with the cousins find their way into the routine as well. It’s Christmas, after all.

Christmas on the High Range

Christmas on the family ranch means getting together with the cousins, riding in the truck with Grandad when he feeds the cows, and making fun where you find it. For our kids, a highlight every year is pulling sleds through the pasture behind the 4-wheelers. But when the snow’s a little thin those frozen cow patties make for a rough ride. So what’s Plan B? How about a game of pasture pond hockey? All ya need is a little ice, a rock, a few sticks and some cousins. Who’s got game?

The Story Behind the Stock

We sometimes have new clients say, “We need a great shot, but we don’t want it to look like stock.”

We know what you mean. Too often, stock photography — particularly in agriculture — is either too “clinical” to be appealing, or too glamorously out-of-touch to be believed. We founded AgriLife Studios, and launched our stock image and video business [ www.agrilifestudiosstock.com ], to meet a need for images that accurately represent life and reality of agriculture.

Admittedly, our stuff is sometimes a little too gritty for the uninitiated. But sometimes it’s a little artsy. No matter the content or style, our images are always authentic — showing the real life, people and work of agriculture. It’s a reflection of who we are, where we come from, and what we value.

We made this short video to introduce ourselves to new clients — to tell the story behind the stock. What do you think makes a great stock image? We’d love to hear your take on it.

Scenes from the High Line Highway

I just returned from a late-summer gathering with my whole family in Western Montana. Flathead Lake near Glacier National Park, to be exact (happy 50th anniversary, Mom and Dad!). I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. I highly recommend it.

On the way home, we decided to take the “High Line” highway — a two-lane blacktop track across the expansive Northern plains of central and Eastern Montana. I spent many of my growing up years in Wyoming. I know what wide-open country looks like. But the “big sky” country of the High Line was truly stunning. This country brings to mind the Biblical term “cattle on a thousand hills” — big, big country with open rolling grazing land, hay meadows and wheat fields filling the view from one wide horizon to another.

For folks growing up in those places in our country with forested (and far too crowded) hills and hollers, this kind of place may be unsettling… too open, too endless, with nothing to keep you from blowing over the edge of the Earth. For those of us who love the wide open West, this place holds an indescribable attraction — we breath deeply and think, “this just feels right.” Those open horizons represent possibility, freedom — nothing to hold you back or hold you down.

For folks in agriculture, those high plains are home and heritage, where those endless wheat fields — the world’s breadbasket — give them a reason to get up every day, knowing what they do has purpose and value.

Maybe they should call it the High Road.

(Click one of the images in the gallery below, and enjoy a larger view.)

 

 

Apologies to our friend and AgriLife Studios Stock creative contributor, Todd Klassy, of Havre, MT. Todd, I drove through your home town on Sunday afternoon without calling. I didn’t want to disrupt your holiday. I’ll be sure to call you before my next visit. I hope it’s soon!

 

High Plains Holiday

We celebrated Independence Day — and a 50th wedding anniversary! — with family at the ranch in Eastern Wyoming (we actually held the family reunion at beautiful and historic Ft. Robinson State Park in Northwestern Nebraska). It was great getting everyone together, and it just seemed right — honoring the legacy of family, and of our great country, at the same time.

Of course, amidst all the family fun and celebrations, I stole a few early morning moments to run out and shoot some photos. With all the rain this spring, that country is looking great. The water holes are full, the cows are slick, the alfalfa circles may get an extra cutting, and folks are harvesting grass hay in places that haven’t seen a baler in years.

It’s shaping up to be a great summer on the high plains.

Profiles in AgriLife: The Horseman

When people think of horsemen, sometimes they imagine a romantic picture of a cowboy riding into the sunset, or something like the Man from Snowy River crashing down the mountain. For me, it’s a different picture. Nothing so flashy. Certainly not the Hollywood stereotype. I see a humble and quiet man. Someone who loves his horses, knows their quirks, cares for them and works with them. Someone who grew up in a saddle, but rides because it’s just part of his day, when there’s work to be done. It’s not an event. It’s a lifestyle. He represents all that’s wholesome, good and true about rural America. It just so happens that this man is my Dad. He taught me about the value of a good day’s work, to be true to your word, to stand up for the little guy, to respect others, to love God’s creation and the creatures in our care. He’s the reason I love the AgriLife.

Farm Photo Cruzin’ in Gator Country

Recently, I was in Jacksonville, Florida, for the National Agri-Marketers’ Conference and had some extra time to kill before flying home. Most people – especially my long suffering winter-weary brethren – would jump at such an opportunity to visit the beach. Or at least sit by the pool. That would be normal. Instead, I chose to stay an extra night, rent a car and go cruising looking for farm country photo ops. I figured my odds were good. Florida boasts some of the most productive crop and cattle land in the country. Turns out a plan would have been helpful. I spent a lot of time wandering in the woods, literally (that beach time was starting to sound good). But with the help of Google Earth and some really cool interactive USDA crop maps, I located a cluster of potato fields with some guys cultivating and spraying. Along the way, I found a holly tree farm, some emerging seedling corn, a small field of cabbage, and course some Florida beef cattle. My first evening out, I even stumbled onto a small town high school baseball game and enjoyed a tailgate meal under the home town lights on a beautiful Florida night. Who needs the beach?