The Story of “You Been Farming Long?”
For 40 years, this image has been found in countless homes, cabins, barns, and farm equipment sheds and machine shops. It is considered by many as the most iconic poster in the world, especially in agriculture. The “You Been Farming Long?” poster is simple in its imagery and text, yet, it speaks volumes in its portrayal of rural life and the occupation of the farmer. Many have wondered where it came from, who the two twins are, and why it seems to be everywhere. Well, here is the story behind it.
The story has many layers, from the time the photo was taken of the two twins to over 1,000,000 copies of the poster being sent out worldwide.
It all started back in 1978. The Jacobs family had a Guernsey cow operation in San Miguel, California. At one point the Jacobs had a visitor stay the night on the farm while passing through. Before the visitor left, they asked for permission to photograph the twins, Matt and Chris, who were only eighteen months old at the time and were decked out in their brand new overalls. Naturally, the mother agreed and even decided to take a few shots with her own camera as well.
As the twins’ mother reviewed the photo prints that came back later, she was drawn to one shot in particular where the lighting paired well with the expressions Matt and Chris were showing. So, she ended up entering the picture into a contest at the local state fair.
Unfortunately, there were many “rural” images like hers in the competition and the photo finished in third place. But many onlookers saw what had been captured in that photograph and asked for copies. Mrs. Jacobs would send little 8x10’s out here and there. It was even featured in a couple of dairy magazines.
Four years after originally taking the picture, fate aligned itself to take the image nationwide. In 1982, a magazine publisher called Mrs. Jacobs asking to have the picture for his publication. His name was Roy Reiman and the magazine he was trying to launch was called Country Kids.
He offered her over $200 dollars for the image, which she accepted and used for a new washing machine.
Reiman originally planned to have it as the cover for the magazine, but he changed his mind. The new strategy was that for every magazine subscription sold he would give the subscriber a free poster of the twins, with “You Been Farming Long?” added to it. From there, postcards, playing cards, calendars, more posters, and even “Little Farmer” figurines were created.
After the initial release, the Reiman Company tried multiple times to “update” the iconic image but they were never able to recapture that initial magic. There was also a legal battle over Mrs. Jacob’s royalties that was eventually settled. Now, the boys are grown and living a happy life.
It is just funny how one image, two twins, and four simple words captured the soul of farming and the heart of America.