In an industry where rain is a good thing, who better to celebrate our farmers than country music superstar Luke Bryan, who is kicking off his ninth Farm Tour on Thursday. First stop: Lincoln, Nebraska.
The locations of the tour, sponsored by Bayer, change each year, and this time around, he’s charting a six-stop swath through the Midwest. The tour is a perfect fit for Bryan, whose Georgia farm roots carry credibility in the ag industry. (His dad is still grows peanuts on the family farm.)
“The concept of celebrating the American farmer is one that we hold near and dear to us,” said Ray Kerins, Bayer’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs who has worked closely with the tour the past several years. “We appreciate Luke’s family values and the way that he looks at the world, and that’s what Bayer stands for.”
This year, the Farm Tour connected with the governors in all six of the states where there will be concerts, and each one has signed official Here’s to the Farmer proclamations, helping to raise awareness for ag communities and all that our farmers do for us.
No video can adequately explain what it’s like to attend a concert at these farms: the two-lane roads are packed with excited fans, the morning dew gets replaced by the boots of 20,000 concertgoers — it’s truly an experience.
But for those not seeing one of the shows in person, there are many more reasons to appreciate what Bryan and Bayer are doing and why these next two weeks do so much for agriculture:
Every time the hashtag #HeresToTheFarmer is used on social media, Bayer donates a meal to someone in need. It’s as simple and powerful as that. In recent years, the food-donation campaign centered around the #Thankful4Ag tag, but this fall, it’s been changed to #HeresToTheFarmer (which, of course, is one of Bryan’s songs). Two years ago, Bayer, in partnership with Feeding America, donated 330,000 meals. Last year, that climbed to more than 500,000. This year’s goal is 1 million. Bayer is airing TV ads in cities around the country to help promote it.
For an industry that is in charge of feeding people, it’s important that the effort is made for everyone to be fed. “I’ve been very proud of our partnership with Luke,” Kerins said. “Over the years, our association has grown, and the programs associated with the Farm Tour have grown.”
Every harvest season, it seems that things get bigger and better. One of the biggest spikes was between 2014 and 2015, when the attendance rose to 130,000, up from 110,000. This time around, there are just six instead of eight stops, but the average per site is expected to climb. This is where Bryan will be visiting:
- Sept. 28 — Benes Farm in Lincoln, Nebraska
- Sept. 29 — Don-Ale Farms in Baldwin City, Kansas
- Sept. 30 — Ziel Farm in Boone, Iowa
- Oct. 5 — Sprangler Farms West in Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Oct. 6 — Ayers Family Farm in Edinburg, Illinois
- Oct. 7 — Stowers Farm in Centralia, Missouri
“The idea of celebrating a farmer onstage, that goes to the heart of what the Farm Tour stands for,” Kerins said. So when Bryan had the idea to bring a farmer up to the mic at each venue and celebrate in front of 20,000 fans, there was something genuine about Bryan’s respect for those in agriculture.
At each of the tour’s eight stops, Bryan’s team locates one lucky farmer to come onstage with him. The farmer not only gets recognition for the hard work he or she does, that person also receives $5,000 in credit toward Bayer Crop Science products.
“This is another instance where Luke and his view on life is natural and it’s real,” Kerins said.
A portion of the ticket proceeds go toward Luke Bryan Farm Tour Scholarships, given to students from a farming family within communities that the tour plays. Last year, the tour hit the mark of 50 scholarships given during its first eight years. For 2017, Bryan and his team will be awarding six more scholarships.
LOCAL FOOD DONATIONS
In addition to the Feeding America partnership, at every stop on the tour, Bayer is donating $2,000 to a local food bank. The goal is not just to talk about the needs of impoverished and hungry people in the U.S., but to actively do something about it.
“Here you have a great tour that folks are paying attention to, and here’s an opportunity to raise awareness about the fact that, even in America, people are hungry,” Kerins said. “As a father of three … the thought of any child going without food makes me want to tear up.”
Back in 2007, Bryan had us hooked on the catchy “All My Friends Say,” which began his rise to superstardom. His live shows solidified him as charismatic performer. Couple that with several more albums and gobs of hits — not to mention last year’s Farm Tour album titled “Here’s to the Farmer” — and the 40-something musician is practically begging you to find a good square bale to sit on and join him in appreciating our rural communities!