“We have leveraged the brand strength of our 134-year-old flagship Farm Journal into a multimedia advocacy platform for the entire agricultural industry, including government policy,” said Andy Weber, CEO of FJM and one of three company executives who serve on the board of the foundation, along with four directors from outside the media company.
The foundation's first project, which officially debuted in October, is Farmers Feeding the World, a long-term effort to raise $20 million or more annually to fight hunger. “Our vision is for this charity to hit a level of raising $100 million annually,” Weber said. After two months, the foundation has received checks and pledges that add up to $5.8 million over three years.
“We're running 300 different messages per month, on average, to the ag community in print, TV, Internet, sponsorships of live events and PR,” Weber said. “We have 7 million touch points per month in our media with American farmers and another 9 million consumer touch points.”
The foundation is buying media—at deeply discounted rates—throughout FJM's portfolio, which includes the b-to-b brands Farm Journal, Top Producer, Beef Today, Dairy Today and Implement & Tractor, and its AgWeb.com website, as well as the “AgDay” and “U.S. Farm Report” national TV programs. FJM recently purchased a radio program called “Consumer Ag Connection” that will also carry foundation messages, Weber said.
The foundation is also beginning to buy media from FJM's competitors “to make sure we cover the entire universe and get the best bang for the buck,” he said.
Initially, the foundation is focusing on one charity, Heifer International, which works in more than 50 countries, including the U.S., to help families and communities become more self-reliant by providing them with livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training. (For more information, go to www.heifer.org.)
In the future, the foundation could fund other efforts, such as the Farm Journal Legacy Project, the media company's multiyear, industrywide advocacy and education program addressing succession planning. “The average farmer is 58 years old, and only 20% have succession plans,” Weber said.
Although the foundation is a separate entity from FJM, with a full-time staff of six, Weber sees enormous good will coming from the synergy between the charity and the business. The Farmers Feeding the World program is also designed to educate the public on the role and importance of farmers by “aggregating many disparate efforts in agribusiness and the farming community so that we can create a voice for American agriculture, which is the largest and most prolific food producer in the world,” he said.