Has the three-martini lunch been replaced by brow-dripping field work? Seems so at Archer Malmo, an advertising agency in Memphis, Tennessee.
You probably don’t think of advertisers as ones to operate a farm, but as an agency steeped in ag clients, we wanted to get up close and personal with the world’s greatest profession.
Enter Archer Acre — our agency’s very own farm nestled inside Agricenter International, a 1,000-acre agricultural research, conservation, and education center located a stone’s throw away from our office.
While most of the actual farm work is performed by the research staff at Agricenter International, our team selects the crops, practices, and products used on the farm. We’re able to observe how crops are raised and how our clients’ products perform, from planting through harvest.
Being a proud farm kid who’s worked in ag my entire career, I have plenty of experience in the industry, even operating my own family farm for more than a decade. But the same isn’t true for many of my colleagues.
As a 150-person ad agency with clients across various verticals and industries, we hire professionals based on specific creative and technical skills sets, such as web developers, media planners and 3D animators. However, some of them have never even been on a farm.
An out-of-office experience
What’s best about Archer Acre, team members say, is that it takes them from the confines of their office and puts them into a real field with real crops.
“When I’m sitting at my computer and flipping through stock images, I see someone else’s small perspective of what’s important or visually appealing to them,” said Matt Whitaker, an associate creative director at Archer Malmo. “As a designer, it’s important for me to see the process first hand and experience some of the same things that farmers deal with every day. This helps me better understand our audience and farming through their eyes.”
For Ross McDaniel, another associate creative director, Archer Acre helps make up for his late arrival into agriculture.
“The only things being farmed in my hometown of south Arkansas were chickens and timber,” McDaniel said. “So my experience with row and specialty crops was non-existent, aside from the produce we bought at the grocery store.”
McDaniel has formed many personal friendships with farmers over the years, going back to his days at the University of Arkansas. But he never realized just how hard farming really is.
“Having Archer Acre in our backyard has helped open my eyes to just how much goes into their daily grind and how smart and resilient farmers are,” adds McDaniel. “Archer Acre has taught me not just how people farm, but more importantly, it’s shown me why.”
For the past three years, Archer Acre has produced corn, soybeans and cotton. This past year, we’ve expanded the farm to grow tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, melons, onions, popcorn and peanuts — even hops and barley.
Growing these ready-to-eat crops has allowed us to experience ag full circle. We’re now showcasing our retail skills by designing our own line of Archer Acre branded products.
These home-grown products such as Hoity-Toity salsa, Colonel Poppington’s Poppin’ Kernels, and Wobbly Crow beer were enjoyed at our agency’s first-annual Harvest Party, where guests were invited to share our bounty.
This outdoor classroom isn’t just reserved for employees and clients. Melanie Towery-Prevost is an account supervisor on our team whose own recipe became Hoity-Toity Haute Salsa. She put some tiny hands to work gathering her ingredients, using the experience as a teaching moment with her children.
“My two children know that momma’s job has a farm that’s not far from our house,” Prevost said. “I love sharing this farm in a city experience with them, so watching them playing and picking crops instills a sense of pride and joy. We all get to learn first-hand the vast amount of work that goes into farming.”
Our agency will keep evolving Archer Acre by growing more crops, producing more branded items and inviting more clients to test our final products.
Looking at the big picture, we want to share this resource with our partners and friends, with whom we’re creating a growing ag tech movement within the mid-South. This includes helping test and showcase new innovations from start-ups within the AgLaunch network, a world-class accelerator, evaluating varieties and crops unique to the area with the Agricenter research team, hosting field trips with other key ag companies to better educate their employees, bringing credibility to the local Memphis food movement and becoming part of a local high school’s ag and sustainability program.
All of which means Archer Acre is quickly becoming Archer Acres.
Fred Nichols is Senior Vice-President at Archer Malmo and leads the Memphis-based agency’s agricultural practice.