The Farm Families of Mississippi promotion campaign, launched in 2010 by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and more than a hundred supporter organizations and individuals to spotlight the role the state’s farmers play in the production of the nation’s food and fiber, has racked up hundreds of millions of impressions on TV, radio, billboards, social media, and at various events.
“This program started on shoestring budget,” says Mike McCormick, MFBF president, “and it has grown each year and has become something really positive for our farmers and our state’s agriculture.”
At a Greenwood, Miss., event to thank supporters, he said, “There are a lot of misconceptions in the general public about agriculture and what farmers do, and [Cleveland, Miss., farmer] Donald Gant and [former MFBF president] David Waide felt we needed a program to counter those perceptions. It has succeeded far better than we dreamed.
“We knew from the start,” McCormick says, “that we couldn’t accomplish much with just a one-time telling of our story — that it had to be told over and over during a year, and then continued for a long time.
Michael Lott, from left, and Trey Sandifer, both with Syngenta, and Craig Hankins, Delta Ag Expo, were among 2018’s five-year supporters of the Farm Families of Mississippi promotion campaign. The awards were presented by Mike McCormick, president, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. Other 2018 five-year supporters not present for the photo are Mississippi Peanut Growers Association, Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, Stern Strategic Marketing, and Table 100 Restaurant.
We have a firm that does a survey at the end of each campaign to analyze its effectiveness, and we’re moving the needle in a positive manner. It’s not cheap to do it. Farm Bureau puts in a lot of money and staff work into it each year, and we’re very grateful for the additional commitment and support of all the individuals and organizations who contribute time and money.”
Greg Gibson, MFBF communications coordinator, whose department has managed the campaign and produced the gorgeously-filmed TV commercials and other promotional messages and materials, says, “Although we have a broad media effort, TV is where we get the most impact. We ran over 2,500 TV spots across Mississippi during the 2017 campaign, generating over 22.5 million viewer impressions. We placed 118 billboards all over the state, both digital and static. The sign company tells us there are 33 million cars that pass these billboards each month. Our media buyer has worked out an agreement with Lamar Advertising that until there’s a new buyer for a particular billboard, our message gets to stay up, increasing the number of motorist views.
“In our year-end surveys to determine how our messages are working, we’re consistently scoring 85 percent to 90 percent on the issues we promote. And we’re really proud that the Farm Families of Mississippi campaign now has a 71 percent recognition, which increases yearly as people see the TV spots, the logo, billboards, social media sites, car tags. All these help us keep our message in front of the public.
“Our Facebook and Twitter posts create a lot of conversations about agriculture. Our YouTube channel continues to grow and features Mississippi on the Menu segments, along with our TV spots. Several Farm to Table dinners have been held across the state, honoring our farmers for their contributions to restaurant menus, and part of the profits are donated to the Farm Families campaign.”
“In our year-end surveys to determine how our messages are working, we’re consistently scoring 85 percent to 90 percent on the issues we promote."
The 2018 TV commercials, Gibson says, “take a much more direct approach regarding issues in the spotlight. In the early days, we primarily used a ‘feel good’ approach. We wanted the public to get to know who we are, and to create a good image for farmers. As time has gone along, we’ve become more direct with issues, particularly on social media. The 2018 TV commercials tackle head-on the issues of GMOs, antibiotics, and trade. We feel it’s important to educate the public about our side of the story regarding these important issues.”
The campaign has had an ancillary benefit, says Mike McCormick. “When we go to D.C. to meet with members of Congress and the administration, they talk mostly about plant closings in small towns and that trade is bad. We need to counter this perception by these officials. Everyone connected to agriculture needs to tell them how important trade is to the economy and how vital food security is to the American people. Programs like Farm Families of Mississippi can help to show these leaders how we’re promoting agriculture’s story and issues in a positive way.
“I’ve been involved with checkoff programs in other organization, and this program works as efficiently and effectively as any I know. MFBF doesn’t charge anything back to the campaign for our staff’s time, and 100 percent of all the contributions we receive goes directly into this campaign. Greg Gibson has led this effort from the start, working with Mark Morris [communications specialist], Justin Ferguson [national affairs coordinator/row crops], who reaches out to our supporters throughout the year, and Angela Ellis [member benefits coordinator/department assistant/ad rep], who works behind the scenes and is an integral part of what we do.”
Coley Bailey, Jr., last year’s chairman of the program, says, “We’re extremely proud of this program, which has touched many thousands of people with our message about Mississippi’s farm families and the role they play in their local communities, as well as to the economy of our state and nation. We want to thank everyone in the 50 Mississippi Farm Bureau chapters and the 135 state organizations and individuals who support this effort through contributions of time and money.”
The Farm Families of Mississippi special vehicle tag has seen steady growth in sales, he notes. “We now receive about $70,000 from fees for this tag,” which is available through local tax assessor-collector offices in place of regular vehicle tags.
The 2018 fund-raising campaign is now under way, says Greg Gibson, with a goal of raising $500,000 to $600,000. Contributions to the non-profit organization are tax deductible. A donation link can be found on the website (GrowingMississippi.org), along with links to past years’ TV commercials, and other related information.