February 2012
Celebrity Farmers By Joe Guenthner, agricultural economist with the University of Idaho in Moscow

“I know their stock went up.”

When I asked Frank Martinez about the impact of some McDonald’s television commercials that was the first thing he said. Frank is a Washington-state potato grower and the star in several ads for McDonald’s fries.

The first ad is called “Good Potato.” It starts with Frank digging a hill of potatoes in fading evening light. You can hear the shovel penetrate the soil. He picks up a tuber, cuts off a slice, and says “Good potato.” At the end he says “I am Frank Martinez and I grow the potatoes that make the world’s best fries.”

“Dream Come True” is the title of another one of the Martinez ads. In it Frank talks about his childhood in a migrant worker family. He tells about becoming a farm foreman at age 17 and growing the first crop of his own potatoes at age 30. Near the end Frank asks his grandson if he is going to be a potato grower.

McDonald’s also features a lettuce grower and a cattle producer in their new television ads. They are part of the company’s strategy to satisfy consumers who want to know where their food is grown.

Although few consumers have any connections to farms many are developing an understanding and respect for farmers. Maybe that’s because food is becoming more important in our culture. There are television channels devoted to food and many chefs have become celebrities.

According to Phil Lempert, also known at the Supermarket Guru, some farmers will join chefs as celebrities. Lempert, who spoke at Potato Expo 2012, has identified 10 trends that will affect food markets in 2012. The emergence of celebrity farmers is one of the 10.

Frank Martinez is not the only potato grower on the celebrity track. Others have been featured in Frito-Lay marketing efforts, including billboards. It is not just processors and QSRs that select growers to become celebrities.

Celebrity chefs are becoming champions of celebrity growers. One example is in Prince Edward Island. Chef Michael Smith made a video about Lily Pond Farms, operated by three generations of the MacIsaac family – Joseph, Blair, Kevin and Erica MacDonald.

In addition to television and billboards, social media such as YouTube also is being used to highlight celebrity growers.

Frank Martinez

View the “Good Potato” ad.

View the “Dream Come True” ad.

Lily Pond Farm

View the “Lily Pond Farms” video.



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