I’ve heard there’s some big sporting event happening this weekend. Eyes of the sporting world will be cast upon my home state as U.S. Bank stadium in Minneapolis will be hosting Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for the non-Romans in the readership). The stadium is set to host 73,000 spectators in addition to the more than 110 million expected to watch from the comfort of their own homes.
Apparently, it’s a big deal for a city and region to host a Super Bowl, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are pulling out all stops to share our humble Minnesota ways for the world to see. The week leading up to the big game has been filled with events showcasing Minnesota’s finest, including outdoors concerts in vocal-cord numbing near-zero temps. Temperatures are supposed to top out at 8 very Minnesotan degrees on the day of the game, but fortunately for the fans and football teams, U.S. Bank stadium is an enclosed structure.
Anyone who lives and works in these parts of the country knows all about this kind of weather, heck us northerners may even put on long sleeves. Though we still sweat in the summer heat and shiver in the winter cold, we just buck it up and go about our business.
Farmers in these climes really know how to buck it up, especially when they have livestock to care for. With all eyes on the frigid Twin Cities, Land O’Lakes hosted the first ever Farm Bowl at the hockey arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Land O’Lakes, a large and diverse agricultural cooperative based in a Minneapolis suburb, hosted Farm Bowl to shine bright lights on farming in Minnesota and across the country. Six teams, each made up of one current or former professional football player and one farmer, competed in an agriculture Olympics of sorts.
The four stations that each team battled through showcased the strength, finesse, smarts and agility necessary on modern farms. Granted the competition took place in the comfy environs of the enclosed Mariucci Arena, but the football players gained a greater appreciation for all the tasks that farmers do. How often when you need to change a tire on a tractor or other farm equipment is it out in the middle of the yard or in the field? Of course, you can’t run air hose all the way out there for the impact wrench. These competitors had the luxury of having the air wrench, with the right-sized socket already loaded, equipped with long enough air hose to reach the tractor. Not reality, but they still realized the size of the equipment and the strength required.
These teams battled each other and the clock, as the two fasted teams advanced to the finals. Teams were docked points if an error occurred, such as a beanbag dropped from a drone missing the target or if a pylon was tipped over when nudged by the bale rack.
Day-in and day-out farmers know that they are always against the clock, and they also can get “docked” for missteps along the way.
Super Bowl week is about seeing and being seen, making it a great stage for the first Farm Bowl to take place. The event was live on Facebook but can be viewed and reviewed by clicking here. Exposure is what it’s all about, and Farm Bowl’s reach should have provided plenty of that. Jordin Sparks, “ring” announcer for Farm Bowl, has 6.3 million Facebook followers, so even if a small fraction tunes in and views it favorably, that is a big boost to the backing of U.S. agriculture.
Jason Brown is one of the biggest fans of farmers out there, and I mean big. Brown stands 6-feet, three-inches, weighing over 300 pounds and he played 100 games in the National Football League for the Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams, before walking away in 2012. In “retirement” he has become a farmer, putting in great context the similarities, yet differences between his former and present careers. “It truly was a calling from God,” he says. “People may think I’m crazy, but it’s moving from a life of entertainment towards a life of service.”
Professional athletes may make millions of dollars, but farmers feed billions of people. Those billions are glad that you do what you do, but all too many of them are further distanced from you on the land. Events such Farm Bowl, taking place on a global stage, are a good first step to regaining or making that connection.
As you hunker down to watch the big game, surrounded by a feeding frenzy of hors d'oeuvres, take a breather between bites and pat yourself on the back, or thank a fellow farmer for filling your table with wings, ribs, meatballs or little wienies.
You know how much work goes into your farm; it’s time the rest of the world finds out.
To get a glimpse of what Farm Bowl is all about, check out this gallery on one of our sister publications in Minnesota.