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Paul Harvey still American agriculture’s hero, spokesman

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Super Bowl XLVII will long be remembered for three momentous moments.

First, the underdog and scrappy Baltimore Ravens football team played with enough spunk to defeat the highly favored San Francisco 49ers in the final minutes of the NFL thriller.

Second, the Superdome lights went dark for about 35 minutes. To this day, conspiracy theories continue to surface as to the culprit of the electrical malfunction. Only Christopher Columbus has been cleared of any involvement.

The third reason is how an American hero and legend, Paul Harvey Aurandt (Paul Harvey, for short) – radio broadcaster superstar – stole the Game of the Year in a commercial for his monumental tribute to the American farmer and rancher.

The Dodge-sponsored ad was a two-minute, pro-agriculture clip called “So God Made a Farmer,” a speech Harvey delivered during the 1978 National Future Farmers of America National Convention.

During the Super Bowl spot, Harvey’s masterful vocal chords struck a magical tone in the hearts of the 113 million people watching the telecast from around the globe. He spoke of the important and tireless dedication of farmers, ranchers, and the field of agriculture.

When the opening graphic with Harvey’s name appeared on the TV screen at the Blake home, our friends’ voices went silent. Only the sound of a mouse could be heard over the tight-lipped group. The only sound uttered was an “awwwe” when a slide of a young girl dressed in a red-checked shirt standing on a farm appeared on the screen.

When the commercial was over, hooting and clapping filled the living room along with one comment which really said it all, “Agriculture is great.”

During his daily, nationwide radio broadcasts from the 1950s to the 1990s, Harvey's reports sometimes included agricultural news in the five-minute summary broadcast from Chicago.

Paul Harvey was my hero. As a former farm broadcaster in the Midwest, my voice on the radio squeaked like a mere mouse compared to Harvey’s commanding voice.

As I worked in Michigan radio, I spent my weekday lunch hours sitting in my 1972 Chevrolet Rally Nova listening to the local news followed by Harvey’s five-minute radio summation of the top news.

During those days, I hired a college intern, Scott, to help produce daily and weekly farm radio programs. Scott, too, was a Paul Harvey fanatic.

In our efforts to prove who was the bigger Paul Harvey fan, Scott brought in stacks of 120-minute audio cassettes; each filled with Harvey’s radio broadcasts with the broadcast dates written on each cassette. I lost my bragging rights under the weight of the cassettes.

A few years later, I was invited to hear Harvey speak at a luncheon in Detroit. Sitting in the back-40 of the packed ballroom, Harvey’s barreling voice made the walls vibrate. His voice was much more powerful in person than the tiny speakers in my 1972 Chevrolet Rally Nova.

Harvey passed away in Phoenix in 2009 at age 90. America lost a great man. Yet the Super Bowl ad brought his great legacy to the present.

The commercial reminded me of a point made by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in December during his presentation at the Almond Industry Conference in Sacramento, Calif. Sec. Villsack said agriculture has an identity problem. Consumers today are so far removed from any knowledge about agriculture that they don't understand the hard work undertaken to put food on the grocery store shelf.

In a mere two minutes, the Dodge-Paul Harvey ad placed agriculture on the front burner for consumers to see and appreciate. It was a piercing pro-agriculture message heard around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Harvey. American agriculture and consumers are better because of you.

cblake@farmpress.com

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