July 23, 2016
Culver's restaurants aren't just known for their juicy butter burgers and rich custard sundaes, the fast food chain is scooping out a name for itself as a champion for agriculture. Whether it's donating money to support the National FFA or supporting food producers though their "Thank You Farmers" campaign, Culver's has a longstanding relationship with America's farmers and ranchers.
Most recently, Culver's has set out to bridge the gap between consumers and producers with its newest social media effort — #FarmingFridays. The program kicked off at the end of June and uses Facebook and Instagram to give consumers a glimpse of where their food comes from.
"Our #FarmingFridays initiative was created through the Culver's Thank You Farmers program to give our guests a peek into a day in the life of farming community members," said Jessie Corning, Culver's senior marketing manager. "To accomplish this, we asked seven agricultural influencers to share photos and videos on Fridays through August 5. From FFA members to ranchers to Kansas farmers and YouTube sensations, the people invited to share their stories come from a variety of backgrounds."
The program kicked off on June 24 with the Peterson Farm Brothers, who have gained recognition for their YouTube videos showcasing their lives as Kansas farmers. On July 1, "The Farmers Daughter USA" blogger was featured. The following week featured the National FFA officer team, and on July 15, Ann O'Leary, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will share her insights.
Tomorrow, July 22, beef producers Troy and Stacy Hadrick, of Faulkton, S.D., will share with consumers details about their lives on a South Dakota cattle ranch. They will be followed by Carrie Mess, who will talk about her family's dairy farm and the milk they produce there. The program will wrap up with Pam Jahnke, also known as "The Fabulous Farm Babe," and the host of The Farm Report.
"We've known of these ag influencers for some time now and reached out to them to see if they would be interested in participating," said Corning. "We're so humbled by the opportunity to help them all share their stories with our guests who otherwise may not get a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to have a career in agriculture. Everything we eat starts with farmers. Being from the dairyland, we understand and appreciate the hard work family farmers do in order to provide us with fresh, high-quality food. We know that many of our guests may not have this same awareness of the complexity and importance of agriculture, which can make it easy to believe many misconceptions about modern-day farming. Our main goal through Thank You Farmers is to promote a conversation about where our food comes from to help our guests make educated decisions."
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The Hadricks keep busy promoting agriculture through their company, Advocates for Agriculture, and they are excited about sharing the beef production story with Culver's customers.
"Culver's asked us to be part of their #FarmingFridays campaign, and we jumped at the chance," said Stacy Hadrick. "On July 22, we will be posting pictures and sharing stories on all of Culver's social media channels about what we do everyday on our ranch. It's an effort to give consumers more opportunities to connect with producers. We are planning on sharing pictures and videos that will give their customers a glimpse of what happens throughout the year, such as calving, grazing, weaning, breeding and how the whole family helps out to make it happen."
Culver's recognizes the importance of the producers who grow the beef, dairy and the products they need to make great-tasting burgers and custard ice cream, and unlike other chain restaurants like Chipotle, who seem to sell food based on fear-mongering and biased information, this burger chain has made it a mission to support modern production agriculture.
"Culver's wouldn't be what it is today without family farms, both right here at home and across the nation, growing and producing the wholesome, delicious food we so proudly serve," said Corning. "It's important for us to make sure these farmers know how thankful we are for their hard work and dedication. Another priority for us is to support the next generation of ag leaders, so we proudly work with organizations like the FFA. To date, our restaurants and guests have raised nearly one million dollars for the FFA."
"We've really admired what Culver's has done to share the story of agriculture with their customers," added Troy Hadrick. "They've really set themselves apart by doing this since there's been a few different restaurant chains they have decided to attack agriculture as part of their marketing campaign. So we were excited to be part of it."
Culver's support of the FFA program has helped to send members to the National FFA Convention, as well as offered much needed funding to underserved chapters.
"This year our restaurants donated more than 153 jackets to FFA members, so we received many letters from FFA members sharing how grateful they are," said Corning. "There was also one local FFA chapter that was going to have to shut down due to lack of funding, but with our donation, the program was able to keep going. We also hear from friends and family in the ag community that they love that we're taking the time to thank farmers. Our guests also love some of the larger-than-life ways we're thanking farmers. We hear a lot about the five barns on family farms that we turned into giant blue thank-you notes."
Culver's is always looking for new and innovative ways to say thanks to farmers. For example, thousands of people driving into the Twin Cities in Minnesota can't help but notice a giant barn alongside of the interstate, painted blue with the words, "Thank You Farmers" painted boldly in white.
"This year we're growing Thank You Farmers corn mazes across the country," said Jason Bradley, owner/operator of three Culver's locations located in South Dakota including Aberdeen, Yankton and Mitchell. "Our South Dakota maze was designed with Heartland Country Corn Maze in Harrisburg."
"It's important to support those who support us, so we try to eat at Culver's when we can," said Stacy Hadrick. "But it's also important to just tell them thank you both in person and publicly. Along with that, when they ask for help from farmers and ranchers to start a program like #FarmingFridays, we need to step and help them make it a success."
"We have always tried to find new and different ways to share our story, and this is a great chance for us to reach millions of Culver's customers," added Troy Hadrick. "Anytime we've had the chance to directly visit with consumers, they are genuinely interested in learning more about agriculture. It also give us a chance to learn more about what consumers have questions about. Ultimately it's another way to for us to have some great conversations about agriculture."