'Old MacDonald' becomes a feminist anthem in latest campaign for Land O'Lakes

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Close your eyes and imagine a farmer.

For many Americans, the image that comes to mind is an older man, maybe with a baseball cap and overalls.

But the face of farming has been changing. A third of American farmers are now women, who are planting, harvesting, milking and balancing the books on farms large and small across the country. A new campaign from dairy co-op Land O'Lakes and The Martin Agency celebrates these women with a new twist on an old tune, just in time for Women's Equality Day, the 98th anniversary of women's suffrage in the U.S.

"She-I-O" is a modern reimagining of the Americana children's classic "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," sung by country artist Maggie Rose and written by Grammy-winning songwriter Liz Rose, who has penned songs like Taylor Swift's "Fearless," Carrie Underwood's "Cry Pretty" and Kenny Chesney's "Better Boat."

"For most of us, our first impression of farming is through 'Old MacDonald.' It's very much about a male farmer. It's on 'his' farm, 'he' had a cow," says Anne Marie Hite, SVP, creative director at The Martin Agency. The new version of the song, with its chorus of "Old MacDonald had a daughter," resonated with the women of the Land O'Lakes cooperative, she says, who have typically learned the trade from fathers and grandfathers.

The campaign comes at a time when women's contributions and challenges are finally beginning to be recognized by society at large, says Anna Squibb, senior manager, integrated marketing, dairy foods retail at Land O'Lakes. "Now is a really important time for us to acknowledge and shine a light on the hard work that women have been doing in dairy farming. And not just dairy farming. Women are breaking through glass ceilings and barriers and stereotypes all over."

The music video was shot on two farms in Pennsylvania that are part of the co-op and features the Dotterer sisters, their cousins and their daughters. "All of the talent is a farmer or works on a farm," Squibb says. But the milk waits for no one. When not on camera, people continued with their daily tasks. Once the band was done filming in the corrugated metal structure, they were asked to move so workers could bring in a molasses truck that was due for a delivery.

The Martin Agency and Land O'Lakes (both women-led organizations) specifically sought out women to help create the video. It's directed by Similar But Different, a partnership between directors Charlotte Fassler and Dani Girdwood and edited by Heidi Black of Whitehouse Post.

While "She-I-O" is likely to be the first version of "Old MacDonald" that has a chance of actually placing on the charts, it's not the first female-forward take on the song. In 2017, McDonald's Canada replaced "he" in the song with "she" for International Women's Day.

"She-I-O" is the first step in the "All Better Together" campaign, which also includes a three-part mini-documentary series about the Dotterers, by Audra Mulkern of The Female Farmer Project. Land O'Lakes is also donating up to $100,000 to food charity Feeding America—$1 per share, tag or comment on the video. The song is currently available on Soundcloud and will debut on iTunes on Friday, Aug. 24.

"Think about what a co-op is," Hite says. "It's farmers that come from all different backgrounds, all different beliefs, and they all have to find a way to work together. If all these different people can come together to make one stick of butter, maybe there's hope for all of us."

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