What does the Super Bowl have to do with farming? Perhaps it’s the perseverance of the players who sweat and work hard to achieve a key goal. Farmers do the same thing, though farmers do it every day.
But for one afternoon, as Super Bowl weekend fires up in Minneapolis, farming and football are coming together in one unique event.
Called the Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl, the event will pair farmers and football players in a unique contest of strength and skill. The event is sponsored by O’Lakes, the 96-year-old cooperative based in the Twin Cities.
“We’re a Super Bowl host committee member, and proud citizens of the Minneapolis-St. Paul community,” says Kim Olson, chief communication officer, Land O’Lakes.
Members of the cooperative will be teamed with football players. “It’s a nice mix of members from different regions we serve,” Olson says.
Recently, the cooperative announced that Jerome Bettis, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, will join the roster for the event. Bettis notes that the event is unique in “bringing together two seemingly unlike fields — football and farming — to celebrate the important work of farmers and inspire the next generation of leaders in the agriculture industry.” He adds that he’s looking forward to the test of skills at the event.
The program starts on Feb. 1 at the 3M Arena at Mariucci, home to the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team. But on that day, the space will look nothing like a hockey arena. Instead, a complex course of events will be laid out in the space for teams to compete.
There are six teams slated for the event. All the farmers are ready, and many are teamed with National Football League players. Here’s the initial list:
• Jerome Bettis, Hall of Fame running back and former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Katie Dotterer, Cow Comfort Inn, Union Bridge, Md.
• Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings tight end, and Darin Johnson, Johnson Farms, Wells, Minn.
• Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers former wide receiver, and Amber Horn-Leiterman, Hornstead Dairy, Brillion, Wis.
• Jason Brown, former center for the then-St. Louis Rams, who left the NFL to farm, is teamed with Dave Ribeiro, Rib Arrow Dairy, Tulare, Calif.
• JJ Nunes, Nunes and Sons Dairy, Tulare, Calif., will be teamed with a player to be named later.
• Craig Roerick, Roerview Dairy, Swanville, Minn., will also be teamed with a player to be named later.
“We had to watch how the playoffs go for those final players,” Olson says. “From my perspective, I hope that Kyle Rudolph isn’t able to play in the Farm Bowl.” Rudolph’s Vikings are in the playoffs.
There are some interesting aspects of the event, too. The event will be carried live on Facebook, and later, highlights will be available online. Host of the event will be Marty Smith, ESPN reporter. He’s a familiar face on the sidelines of many events the network covers.
On the sidelines, however, will be familiar face from a different industry — Jordin Sparks, recording star, actress and “American Idol” winner (Season 6).
“We wanted to expand the audience, and Jordin reaches a very difference than ag reporters,” Olson says. “We wanted to reach out to a more youthful following.”
In addition, GenYOUth, a group that supports community schools and promotes a more active lifestyle, will be on hand for the event. “We’ll have GenYOUth members in a cheering section,” Olson notes. “We want to show that agriculture and agriculture careers have a lot to offer youth.”
The event and the challenges
There are six challenges in this event that these farmer-player teams will have to take on — and each will take some strategy. “They have to work as a team,” Olson says. “Amber [Horn-Leiterman] has to get Greg Jennings involved in that tractor tire change.” And here’s a rundown of the events in the competition:
• Tractor Tire Change. For this challenge, teams have to use both strength and intelligence to not only move tractor tires, but also change them. And they have to get the tires on the machine and fastened at the proper torque specs before they can move on.
• Hay Bale Backup. For this, teams will need problem-solving skills. They need to load and stack 10 hay bales onto a tractor, then transport them across the field. It’s more complicated than it sounds.
• Drone Drop. Team members have to fly a drone over a crop field and drop colored pouches onto the correct targets. This one promises to be interesting for those who haven’t used a drone.
• Milk Pipe Puzzle. Here’s another brain teaser; teams have to assemble a pipe system in a dairy barn, and not all pipe pieces fit the same way.
• Feed Run. Here’s where brute strength comes into play. The team must move 500 pounds of feed across the finish line to be crowned Land O’Lakes Farm Bowl Champion.
“We worked with an agency in Wisconsin, GMR, to create this event,” Olson says. “The interesting thing about this is that a team of people within Land O’Lakes was working with farmers as well, and came up with different games. This is a very unique way to showcase that farming is not what people think today. Farming involves innovation, technology … and we want to give people a look at what it’s like to be on the farm.”
You can check out the course and learn more at thefarmbowl.com.