Over the next 10 days 1 million fans will descend upon the Twin Cities for the biggest football game of the year. While their beloved Vikings didn’t make it, Minnesotans are eager to welcome Super Bowl fans to their state. From The Great Northern Festival and free concerts at Super Bowl Live to the Bold North Zip Line and the Polar Plunge, Minneapolis is offering a smorgasbord of activities for football fans. And for one of the largest farmer-owned cooperatives in the nation, what better time than to combine the love of football with the hard work of farming.
“Our hope is that the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl will help shine a light on modern agriculture and inspire the next generation to be more interested in careers in agriculture,” said Kim Olson, Land O’Lakes Chief Communication Officer. “For us, as an almost 100-year cooperative, we are very interested in more people having a connection to agriculture and if you look at the statistics right now it is less than 2 percent of folks have any connection to modern agriculture.”
The Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl, set for Thursday, Feb. 1, will put professional football players on a whole different kind of playing field — the tough, but rewarding field of modern farming. From 1-3 p.m. CST at 3M Arena at Mariucci, the home arena for the University of Minnesota’s men’s hockey team, four teams – each with one athlete and one Land O’Lakes member farmer – will compete in a series of farm-themed challenges.
And while it all sounds like just a bit of fun, the event is designed to inspire young people to consider careers in agriculture.
“We think doing something like this that is a little fun, a little lighthearted, but also really shows the kinds of skills that farmers are using today to help bridge that gap,” Olson said.
And if that isn’t enough, here are five more reasons why we think the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl rocks at bridging America’s favorite pastime with America’s most vital industry.
Olson said as Land O’Lakes looked at their member farmers to participate in the Farm Bowl, the cooperative tried to pick farmers who they thought would attack the task at hand as well as be a good representation of farmers from across the country.
“All of these member farmers of ours have exhibited the stamina and the ability for tasks like this. They are excited about it and we were looking for folks that would be fired up to do it,” Olson said. “We wanted people that would represent the industry well, that had good experiences with agriculture and could talk about it and tell their story.”
And these farmers are more than qualified to compete:
- Katie Dotterer-Pyle of Cow Comfort Inn of Union Bridge, Maryland- A technologically savvy third-generation dairy farmer that keeps a pedometer on each of her cows that tracks how much milk the cow produces each shift and her average daily steps.
- Darin Johnson of Johnson Farms in Wells, Minnesota- A fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer and co-owner of Johnson Farms, a multifaceted operation with a seed business, a trucking operation, and more recently a precision planter retrofitting operation.
- Amber Horn-Leiterman of Hornstead Dairy in Brillion, Wisconsin- Board chairwoman of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board and a sixth generation farmer who oversees herd management and public relations, manages employees, and handles the farm’s records for her family’s 850-herd operation.
- Dave Ribeiro of Rib Arrow Dairy in Tulare, California- A third generation farmer that milks 1,500 cows and grows corn, wheat, and alfalfa.
The NFL Players
Just like the farmer selection process, Olson said Land O’Lakes tried to pick a good representative group of current and former NFL players from across the nation that are both ag and youth friendly.
- Jerome Bettis – Nicknamed “The Bus,” Bettis is a former halfback who played for the Los Angeles Rams/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. He is seventh on the list of NFL rushing yards leaders. Bettis retired in 2006 after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
- Jason Brown – A former center, who made $25 million for the St. Louis Rams at one point, quit football at age 29 to become a farmer. Brown chose to walk away from football in 2012 to become a farmer in Louisburg, North Carolina. He maintains a 1,000-acre farm called First Fruits Farm where he grows produce such as sweet potatoes and inyari. Brown began learning about farming practices in 2012 by watching YouTube videos.
- Greg Jennings – A former football wide receiver who played ten seasons in the NFL. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers out of Western Michigan University in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft and won Super Bowl XLV with the team over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Kyle Rudolph – Nicknamed “Big Country,” Rudolph is an American football tight end for the Minnesota Vikings.
With one of the primary goals of the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl to interest and inspire the next generation into ag careers, the cooperative felt it was only logical to partner with GENYOUth.
GENYOUth nurtures healthy, high-achieving school communities by activating programs that create healthy, active students and schools, empowering youth as change-agents in their local communities, and engaging a network of private and public partners that share our goal to create a healthy, successful future for students, schools and communities nationwide.
GENYOUth specializes in a range of national initiatives including the largest in-school wellness program (Fuel Up to Play 60) in partnership with National Dairy Council and the NFL.
Olson said GENYOUth plans to bring a large cheering section to the Farm Bowl.
“There’s a lot of similar characteristics that farmers and professional football players have from grit and determination to having to be very smart at solving problems and I think that will come through as they watch the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl,” Olson said.
- Tractor Tire Challenge: Anyone got a jack? In this challenge, teams will have to utilize both strength and intelligence as they not only move heavy tractor tires, but successfully change them. Only when they have the tires on and fastened to the proper torque specs, can they advance to the next challenge.
Hay Bale Backup: Problem-solving and teamwork will be key in this challenge. Teams will need to load and stack ten hay bales onto a tractor, then successfully transport them across the field. Sure, you can parallel park, but can you back up these hefty hay bales?
Drone Drop: It’s not all about strength on the farm. It will take pure precision and serious skill to fly high-tech drones over a crop field, dropping colored pouches onto the correct targets. Ready, aim, advance!
Milk Pipe Puzzle: There’s no use crying over spilt milk…so don’t spill any! The teams will need to first prime the pump and ensure it’s working, then grab the missing pipes to continue the assembly. But watch out, not all pipe pieces fit the same way, so things may get tricky.
Feed Run: It will be a race to the finish line with the final challenge of sheer endurance. The first team to move 500 lbs. of feed across the finish line will be crowned Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl Champions.
Olson said Land O’Lakes is hoping as many people as possible will come and watch it live. The 3M Arena holds about 10,000 and Olson said the cooperative is ready to welcome both fans of farming and fans of the Big Game alike.
For those that can’t make it, Land O’Lakes is bringing the event live through Facebook Live and a recap of the whole game will be available on www.TheFarmBowl.com. The event also hopes to see coverage from some of the major sports networks.
“We are interested in making sure that people know the farmers’ stories as consumers are more and more interested in where there food comes. We have many folks that can tell them,” Olson said. “We are just trying to give people the opportunity to see what it is like on a farm and we are trying to do it in a fun way.”