Guerrilla Advertising: Farm Edition

Walking down an urban street, we are often drawn to storefront windows, the greenery and shade of trees, and the vibrancy of having a busy sidewalk mixed with cars and bikes passing by. We also sometimes notice ads wrapped on light posts or graffiti (condoned art graffiti or guerrilla graffiti) on walls and windows.

In one particular case, at 657 Valencia St., sandwiched between the Elbo Room and Curry Up Now!, ads covering the boarded up building promote a less conventional thing:a family rice farm in Northern California. Lundberg Family Farm, south of Chico, espouses its farm practices in the "ad" noting that it uses Non-GMO (Genentically Modified Organisms) seeds and farming "in parternship with nature by using ecological farming techniques that care for the soil, wildlife, air and water." As stated by Jessica Lundberg,

"We feel that the consumer has the right to know if they are consuming genetically modified food."

The farm's blog has a very well written piece titled, "A Farmer's Rebuttal to the Arguments Against GMO Labeling",  which goes point by point through the false arguments made by the Proposition 37 which would have required all food made with GMOs be labeled.

  • Conflicts with Science
  • Full of loopholes
  • Higher grocery bill
  • Hurts farmers
Essentially Lundberg Farms debunks all of the claims that GMOs are safe (much like Rachel Carson did the same debunking "safe" pesticides. In addition, the notion that labeling hurts farmers is countered with the fact that many foods are labeled for other things, such as saying where they're from (California vs. Chile) or that they're organic. I.e. labeling is a normal thing that would never hurt farmers and would not create a higher cost.

The style of the posters uses hand written looking fonts, and is written in a light and fun tone, with the names of the farmers above their heads, or a description of "Mo the Llama" who guards the sheep from wild dogs and coyotes.

Although I couldn't tell for sure what the farm was trying to promote or sell, I was highly drawn to the style of the poster ads, and that they seemed to have a more traditional approach to farming (non-GMO seeds, possibly organic, etc.). I only found out that they are a rice farm by looking them up online... but maybe that was what they wanted all along. The message of the ads also presented the farm as a family farm that produced high quality safe products while also caring for the environment and helping out neighborhoods in need.
A case in point is one poster describing how the farms are helping a neighborhood in southeast Chicago, Altgeld Gardens, where there are few options for buying good food.

In the end, I still had to wonder, were these sanctioned advertisements by the building owner? In other words, a billboard of sorts on the boarded up storefront. Or were they guerrilla ads, similar to ads for live concerts, posted by folks at the farms or an advertising firm hired by them?

Because of the message and the look of the posters, I was happy to see them and wanted to learn more about Lundberg Farms. At the same time, I had to wonder, is it really right to have such ads on boarded up storefronts, especially if they are not ok'ed by the building owner. And even if the building owner approved it, should we have such ads adorning every boarded up building. In the end, I felt very conflicted.

Although the ads were not taken down, they are now covered by more traditional poster ads for upcoming live shows and promoting new movies. The normal poster ads are back.


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