In many parts of rural America, the kinds of places where most families raising Angus cattle live, directions like these are common. Barns represent vitality in agricultural communities. They’re landmarks. And as they anchor farms to the land, they represent tradition: not just to farming and ranching families, but to those who live and do business in more urban areas. Barns are a symbol of this legacy, of Americana, of timeless values like hard work and integrity. They represent the heritage and foundation of the Certified Angus Beef ® brand.
ROOTED IN RELATIONSHIPS
Packed between these bookends are an infinite number of stories: of families, communities, partnerships, relationships and pride. Each logo’s landing spot includes its own unique connection to the best Angus beef and has become a new source of family lore and memories.
That’s precisely why the brand, for its milestone 40th anniversary, embarked on a cross-country journey to paint 40 barns with its iconic logo. Painted barns, functioning as billboards, were once a mainstay on America’s rural highways and byways, but have become relics. What better blend of nostalgia and innovation could there be for a brand deeply rooted in tradition, agriculture and marketing, celebrating both its history and impact on today’s industry?
For the brand that changed beef, unconventional isn’t unusual. Launched in 1978 and a niche program for many of its early years, the brand has grown to represent one-fifth of the nation’s fed cattle supply and markets more than a billion pounds of beef annually. It’s evolved into an Angus family legacy and thriving entity that sustains and grows businesses at every step from farm gate to dinner plate.
The search for barn locations began in late 2017. Farming families could nominate themselves, or others, for selection. Painting began in January 2018 in Ocala, Fla., where Baldwin Angus Farm – home to a red barn located off Interstate 75 – became the first of the 40. The late family patriarch Leroy Baldwin had served on the brand’s board, and as chairman of the American Angus Association® board. His legacy and intertwined history with the brand was the ideal foundation for a campaign honoring the past.
From there, the journey zig-zagged coast to coast, hosting celebration events at barn paintings in 25 states before wrapping up on October 18 – 40 years to the day after the first pound of product was sold in Columbus, Ohio – at Atterholt Farms, near the brand’s Wooster, Ohio, offices.
In Mulhall, Okla., the logo found a home at Pfeiffer Angus, where John Pfeiffer’s herd reflects the influence of the brand’s required 10 science-based specifications.
“The brand has had a major impact on how this cow herd looks today,” Pfeiffer says. “To be a part of it, to continue to work with the brand, restaurateurs and retailers – it’s a dream come true.”
Near Council Grove, Kan., Chris and Sharee Sankey shared a passion for the Angus breed and brand that is second to none. Their Angus roots run deep, and their family history aligns with quality beef.
“We are honored to have been selected for a barn painting, as 1978 was a special year for us,” says Chris Sankey. The couple graduated from Kansas State University, married and started their Angus herd the same year the brand began.
In fact, the barn paintings became an even greater family affair for the Sankeys: in addition to the Council Grove barn, their adult children’s barns in Raymond, S.D., and Economy, Ind., were among the 40 barns painted, as well.
The distance between farm and table dissolved at barn No. 23, near Mandan, N.D. The Boehm family at Interstate Angus Ranch cares for a herd of 100 registered Angus cows while operating Roby’s Supper Club, a local restaurant that proudly serves Certified Angus Beef ® brand steaks.
Second-generation rancher and restaurant owner Robert Boehm is brand loyal on both fronts. In the early days at Roby’s, when there were no local distributors from which he could source product, he would drive 600 miles roundtrip to purchase the beef brand to which he’s committed.
“If I couldn’t serve my customers Certified Angus Beef ® brand steaks, I wouldn’t serve them steaks at all,” he says.
Nearly a thousand miles away, in Lowell, Mich., is Sterzick Farm, the home of Barn No. 29, a 200-year-old beauty which evokes the adage “if these walls could talk…” Protected and cherished for generations, a drop of paint had never touched its wood – until the brand’s logo, that is.
That trust in the brand, and the power of the barn paintings, has been truly humbling, said President John Stika.
“This effort has meant so much to so many people, and really strengthened how Certified Angus Beef ® is perceived as a consumer brand,” he said. “In an increasingly digital marketplace, there’s something valuable, real and special about bringing members of our community together in one physical space.”
MAKING CONNECTIONS AND BUILDING FRIENDSHIPS
At each event, lines blurred between urban and rural. The gatherings opened doors for a food blogger and rancher, a state Secretary of Agriculture and a chef, to connect at the gate and around the plate. At any barn, a packer, farmer, foodservice distributor and retail brand partner might be seen sitting together, enjoying beef at the place the brand gets its start. Beyond those directly involved with the brand, school teachers and students, extension agents, politicians and media assembled as well, enjoying the meal and the spectacle that was so much more than “watching paint dry.”
At these tables, conversations began, friendships were kindled and people learned more about where their food comes from. The gatherings gave consumers the chance to ask questions, and farmers the opportunity to share what they do, why they do it, and what the brand is all about.
The diversity of guests and roles mirrored the dynamic community that helped the brand grow and thrive for the past four decades. They continue to drive that success and realize the mission of the brand: creating demand for, and adding value to, Angus cattle.
The uninitiated may view the brand’s logo as another label. Another piece of artwork that gets lost in the sea of marketing messages consumers are bombarded with daily. But those who understand it realize it’s a symbol that sparked thousands of storylines on ranches across North America, in kitchens and on dinner tables around the world.
While it’s the most visible reminder of the anniversary journey, the painted logo is actually secondary. Its biggest value is in the people, experiences and memories generated through the events, which created new brand loyalists and made their passions for better beef burn brighter.
“This campaign was and continues to be an opportunity to capitalize on the rich history of the brand’s roots and an initiative that will take us into the future,” says vice president of marketing Tracey Erickson. “These barns will be around for years to come, inspiring a new generation. We’re excited to see them enjoyed and leveraged to help tell our brand story.”
Artist Troy Freeman from Springfield, Ill., used paint he says will last 30 years, so few touchups will be necessary and the barns will be seen for decades to come. Pull out a map … the barns that now dot the landscape represent 40 parts of a greater whole.
“I don’t look at the Certified Angus Beef ® brand as an individual unit, but rather ranchers, consumers, distributors – people – all intertwined and working as one,” says Sharon Baldwin in Florida.
To learn more about the campaign and read the stories of each barn and family, visit CertifiedAngusBeef.com/brandthebarn.
#1 Baldwin family
#2 Nelson family
#3 Dal Porto family
#4 Yon family
#5 McPeake family
#6 McMahon family
#7 Pullen family
#8 Olson family
#9 Knoll family
#10 Bradley family
#11 Pfeiffer family
#12 Ulrich family
#13 Trowbridge family
#14 Schroeder family
#15 Carrico family
#16 Blythe family
#17 Sankey family
#18 Haverkamp family
#19 McCurry family
#20 Jones family
#21 Peterson family
#22 Swanson family
#23 Boehm family
#24 Hurlbut family
#25 Hadrick family
#26 Schiefelbein family
#27 Olson Family
#28 Boehmer and Bellingar families
#29 Sterzick family
#30 Sankey family
#31 Hoffman family
#32 Lienemann family
#33 Widener family
#34 Maples family
#35 Cannon family
#36 Thomas family
#37 McKean family
#38 Perry and Clark families
#39 Ferguson family
#40 Atterholt family