On a national scale, the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry is a quiet and somewhat forgettable matchup. In the state of Iowa, it seemingly continues to grow louder and more heated, thanks in large part to the rapid-fire social media platform Twitter, where fans can easily take jabs at one another about every non-issue they want to argue about.
For years, one of those highly-sensitive issues has been the debate between ANF, Iowa’s decades-long marketing campaign short for “America Needs Farmers”, and AHF, an unofficial campaign started by Iowa State fans that pays homage to Iowa State University’s deep agricultural roots, short for “Actually Helping Farmers.”
Hayden Fry and Iowa started the America Needs Farmers campaign shortly after the Farm Crisis in 1985. This was also at the peak of the Hawkeyes’ success on the football field. Fry put ANF stickers on the Hawkeyes’ helmets to raise awareness for struggling farmers as his team soared to No. 1 in the nation and made a Rose Bowl appearance, giving the grassroots campaign a nationwide audience. While it’s impossible to quantify what kind of impact the campaign had on the agriculture industry in jobs or dollar amounts, it brought an unprecedented level of awareness to the most important industry in the state and earned Fry an honorary membership to the Iowa Farm Bureau that year.
While Iowa was able to turn football success into a simple but brilliant marketing campaign, Iowa State continued its tradition of agricultural innovation by educating the next wave of farmers, offering 27 different undergraduate degrees in the field of agriculture and life sciences. And it doesn’t stop at farmers—whether it’s the top-ranked agriculture engineering program in the nation or the veterinary school that treats and improves the quality of farm animals, Iowa State and Ames have been vital to the industry in Iowa and around the country for over a century. You can spend literally hours reading about the programs that the Iowa State Extension Office offers to help farmers, there are dozens of agricultural start-up companies that planted their roots (no pun intended) at the ISU Research Park, and it’s no coincidence that more than a dozen agricultural organizations are headquartered in Ames. On top of that, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has more than doubled its enrollment since 2005.
So it’s not hard to see why the bitterness exists. Imagine if Iowa State had created an “America Needs Pediatric Doctors” campaign and their main contribution for decades was a portion of apparel sales going to charity. Something tells me we’d have some conflicting opinions.
So Iowa State fan blog Wide Right and Natty Lite created the AHF acronym, short for “Actually Helping Farmers” in response to an unchanged and seemingly stagnant ANF campaign. Many Cyclone fans have embraced the tagline while Hawkeye fans have generally not been pleased.
On Sunday, Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell tweeted this after his team met and volunteered with Winfield United crop protection products:
Now, Matt Campbell may not have actually known the full history of ANF and AHF before tweeting this. In fact, I’d be surprised if Campbell knows AHF stands for “Actually Helping Farmers” and not “Ames Helps Farmers” or something like that. Either way, I’m a huge supporter of trash talk so I can only hope this was his intention all along. But regardless, Hawkeye fans were not happy. Besides the run-of-the-mill name-calling, there was legitimate frustration that a coach with 33,000+ followers would tweet something in direct opposition to Iowa’s ANF campaign.
Except it’s not.
At the end of the day, Cyclone fans aren’t mad that the Hawkeyes raised awareness for struggling farmers. And Hawkeye fans aren’t mad that Iowa State provides a sizable chunk of agricultural education and services to farmers across the state. We’re mad because we selfishly all want credit for the work our schools have done to help an industry known for its humility. I’m pretty sure Alanis Morissette could write an entire song about the irony and hypocrisy of the entire debate.
The entire point of ANF was to get people riled up about agriculture, but instead we’re getting riled up because we don’t want the other guys to take credit for getting people riled up. Although ANF was largely successful in the late 20th century, the agriculture industry is still struggling to attract workers. America still needs farmers and they still need the schools that actually help those farmers. In a weird twist of fate, Matt Campbell and the AHF hashtag is starting the best grassroots agricultural marketing campaign in Iowa since, well, ANF.
So keep that ANF sticker on Iowa’s helmets every game. Start making AHF stickers for Iowa State. Put them on shirts, make it part of the CyHawk trophy, give back to farmers in some way as part of the CyHawk festivities. The more we can plaster ANF and AHF across the state of Iowa, the more questions everyone else starts to ask.
Embrace ANF. Embrace AHF. Silencing one only takes away from the message we’ve been trying to send all along. As fans, we win by rallying around our programs. As Iowans, we win by making an impact.