Shooting Horses in the Sunshine State

We recently had the enormous pleasure of shooting for a great new client, Andis Company, in Wellington, Florida. They brought us down to the winter hunter-jumper horse capital of the world to build a photo and video library with some master horse groomers who use and endorse their amazing line of clipper products. We had a fantastic time teaming up with the Andis folks, and enjoyed shooting with Dana Boyd-Miller, who’s a world-renowned show horse groomer, and “Clipper Girl” Brooke Sheridan a master of the “mini-horse.” Beautiful country, great people, amazing horses. We even had a few minutes to swing by the beach.

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Game Changer

The Dodge Truck SuperBowl ad “God Made a Farmer” was a game-changer on a lot of levels. I read one commentary that said it’s not only a rare fist-pump for the American farmer, it’s something almost everyone in agriculture can support as it allows farmers and ranchers — normally a humble, “don’t blow your own horn” kinda bunch, to take a little pride in what they do.

The Dodge Ram Truck SuperBowl ad is the latest, and arguably most successful and widely seen effort in the fast-growing “agvocacy” movement, which encourages farmers and ranchers to engage with the non-farming public on a dialog about agriculture, the rural lifestyle how our food is produced.

The recent fun parody video work of the farming Peterson Brothers from Kansas is a prime example of the effectiveness of farmers telling their own story in creative ways. My kids now prefer the lyrics “I’m farming, and I grow it!” sung to the tune of “I’m sexy and I know it.” If you haven’t yet seen that video (so, what planet are you on?!) here it is:

But this new ad from Dodge  brings corporate advertising to the agvocacy game in a big way. This in itself is not new, but the combination of a SuperBowl ad buy, plus the live and ongoing ripples through social media give this a new momentum. The fact that Dodge is teaming with the National FFA Foundation to raise funds for that organization is a great touch, and is leveraging the momentum of the ad to do real and sustaining good.

So we’re jumping on the bandwagon. Because it’s a great wagon to be on. Check out the YouTube video and help raise funds for FFA:

Perspectives from “fly-over” country

Recently Shawn and I had an opportunity to work with a great agency partner to produce a custom stock photo library for one of our long-standing animal health clients. The project took us into western Wisconsin to visit some amazing seedstock and cow-calf operations, then into western Kansas to visit some premiere cow-calf and beef feeding operations.

(c) AgriLife Studios 2012

While Wisconsin was beautiful (and green!) I felt a special connection to the places and people of west central Kansas. As a Wyoming boy currently living in the upper Midwest, when we dropped into the wide open prairie grasslands, brown and dry as they were, I felt like I was home.

Shawn boards our plane at Garden City, KS.

The town of Garden City is much like my hometown of Laramie, Wyo. From its single-runway airport to the bustling little downtown, to the views of wide open range just out the backdoor, everything felt right.

In this political season, sometimes these small towns grab the headlines – if they happen to offer a homespun photo-op for a candidate hoping to show “he cares about Main Street more than Wall Street.” But mostly, these are the “fly-over” states. In the big scheme of world events, these communities are hardly a blip on the radar.

(c) AgriLife Studios 2012

But home is where the heart is, and these communities of America’s heartland are full of heart. I know there are people all over our country — like those in New Jersey and New York helping one another through the aftermath of a superstorm — that care about one another and demonstrate the character that makes America great.

But when the dust all settles, my heart always goes back to the heartland.

(c) AgriLife Studios 2012

A Visit to the Home Place

Going “home” for us means a 14-hour drive across the prairie and Black Hills, to the upper “breaks” of eastern Wyoming. My wife’s great-grandfather homesteaded a ranch there more than 120 years ago. Her folks moved back nearly 40 years ago to build a life for their kids, and build a registered Angus herd. Teri’s youngest brother recently moved back with his wife and three young girls to continue the family tradition, and to build a future for his family that we all hope and pray will last another generation or more. It’s not an easy life, for sure, but it’s a good one.

(c) 2012 AgriLife Studios

When we visit the ranch it’s a “vacation” — we roam the pastures and hills, ride 4-wheelers, enjoy the vistas, and occasionally make ourselves useful by joining the family in working calves, feeding cows or fixing fence. It’s a time to appreciate the lifestyle and enjoy each other’s company. Then we drive back to Minnesota, the place our kids call home, and return to our normal routine.

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Meanwhile, the family back on the ranch continues plugging away. For them, the ranch is a way of life, and a living – barely. They’re doing okay, but this ongoing drought means there’s not enough grass for the summer calves, and not enough hay for the cows in the coming winter. Feed prices and fuel prices are high. And as our family and their beef-producing co-horts across the country sell more cattle so there’s fewer mouths to feed, the price of cattle makes its downward slide on the market cycle.

We pray they will all weather the storm. And we’ll do what we can to help out. Because keeping the family on the ranch means, maybe, at least one more generation can call it “home.”

(c) 2012 AgriLife Studios. All rights reserved.

County Fairs & Tractor Shows

It’s County Fair season in Minnesota. Those of us with 4H kids know it’s a crazy, exciting, exhausting time. It’s when all the work pays off, or not. It’s the excitement of the show, the yearning for that blue (or purple!) ribbon. It’s carnival rides and the time when we indulge in forbidden foods, like cotton candy and cheese curds and mini donuts by the bag.

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It’s also the season for antique tractor shows. A nostalgic celebration of farm machines built back when “horsepower” was something still measured in the number of equines on your farm, now lovingly restored to their original glory. This show featured Farmall IH tractors – flying Old Glory, red and proud.

Wherever you are this summer be sure to take in a county fair. In the meantime, enjoy these great images shot this week by AgriLife Studios’ own Shawn Nielsen at the Wright County Fair in beautiful Howard Lake, Minnesota.

Loving Sub-Rural Living

I like watching the tractors and combines roll by. I farm vicariously through these guys who are struggling to piece together enough small acreages between the houses to make a decent living.

You see, our house sits on what was once farm land 20 years ago (yes, I confess, I am part of the urban sprawl problem). My wife and I chose to make our home in “sub-rural” Dayton, Minn., nearly 15 years ago because it was off the beaten path, the lots were large and it felt like we were almost in the country. We love our big 2-acre yard. We’ve planted dozens of trees, and our salsa garden and sprawling pumpkin patch seem to expand each season.

We’ve found the sweet spot, but it’s not easy. A lot of people like country living, but some would like to see it a little more tidy (it seems dust, sounds and smells come with the territory). We sometimes forget who was here first, and what makes it “country” in the first place.

Personally, I like the smell of freshly turned soil. I even enjoy taking a liesurly drive behind a big diesel tractor rumbling down the road (when I’m not in a hurry). And I don’t mind a little “earthy fragrance” when the manure spreader hits the field.

It seems to me that if we’re going to live here taking up valuable productive acres, the least we can do is slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy it. Call it smellin’ the roses (or something like that).

The Original Skyscraper

Shawn was out recently (I think he was on a feed run) and paused to shoot some images of this grain elevator at sunrise. It’s a great example of what we call “agritechture” and just a really cool shot. Shawn also came up with idea for the copy. I love the thought of a rural skyscraper. We think we’ll do a series of these “the world as we see it” type images. Stay tuned and we’ll see what happens. When we get to write our own copy it often takes on some attitude.

The Original Skyscraper – (c) AgriLife Studios 2012

Merry Christmas from the boys at AgriLife Studios

Here’s a fun little Christmas greeting for your viewing pleasure (you weren’t really working now anyway, right?). It’s a heaping helping of farm and ranch life imagery, sprinkled with a few of our own family snapshots.

So, from our family to yours, we wish you all the joy this season can bring, and a happy and prosperous New Year. We’ll see in 2012!

– Scott and Shawn