I'm A Drover: Painting for the Brand
Ranchers aren’t strangers to “riding for the brand,” but artist Troy Freeman brings a different spin to the old saying as he has been “painting for the brand” this past year.
For nearly eight months, Freeman has spent his time painting the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) logo on barns across farms and ranches in rural America. Freeman’s efforts were part of the “Brand The Barn” campaign that celebrated the 40th anniversary of CAB by painting the iconic logo on 40 different barns.
The campaign started in January and by mid-February three barns were painted by different artists. At the time, Freeman had no plans of a cross-country painting adventure, but he got a call in early-March offering him the job of painting the remaining 37 barns.
He jumped headfirst into the project driving his car from his home in Springfield, Ill., to the first barn he would paint at Yon Family Farms in South Carolina. Right from the start it rained, a common theme for the project as Freeman says he “brings the rain.” It would rain at 21 more barn paintings and even flood the resort in Hawaii where CAB hosted its annual convention in September.
“I kind of go into these jobs expecting the unexpected,” Freeman says of dealing with the weather. Not only did it rain, he also endured hail storms, howling wind, a few tornado warnings and an earthquake.
The painting jobs were scheduled to take three days, so rain or shine the work had to be done. “If it’s nice out, work, even if that means you’ve got to get up at two o’clock in the morning,” Freeman adds.
CAB’s brand is now on 40 barns, like this historic barn built in 1870 on Ulrich Farms in Pennsylvania, helping spread pride among producers and awareness to consumers.
In the first month Freeman would put more than 10,000 miles on his car driving across the Southeast to the Texas Panhandle and back home painting seven more barns along the way.
“I got to go to my first actual cattle sale, and that was an event, an awesome event. I’m kind of addicted to those,” Freeman says of a bull sale he witnessed during his barn painting at the Belle Point Ranch in Arkansas.
This would just be the start of his nationwide travels representing the CAB brand.
More miles would be put on his car and through the air as Freeman spent the rest of the year visiting farms and ranches as far west as Oregon, to the east in New York and everywhere in between.
Barns were painted at commercial cow-calf ranches, registered Angus seedstock operations and feedlots. Freeman learned about “all the different focuses” each individual farm or ranch has.
“It was interesting,” Freeman says. “Learning about the genetics was fascinating to me how you can basically dial-up the type of animal you want. I just think that’s amazing.”
With those differing types of cattle businesses there were also numerous types of barns. Many were sided with tin that had ribbing nine to 12 inches in space which Freeman says brought similarities. However, tin takes more time to prep than most of the wood barns.
“You figure some of those barns have been out there 10 to 20 years. They’ve got dirt, grease, cow poop, mold and oxidation from the sun,” Freeman explains. “You have to get it all cleaned off, sanded, primed and ready to go, so that takes about an extra day.”
Wood barns tend to be older and Freeman was never sure how they were painted in the past. This offered another layer of difficulty managing around the unknown.
One barn in Michigan was never painted in the entirety of its existence, a first for Freeman in his career of painting barns that dates back more than 20 years when he was in high school. Just putting down base coats nearly absorbed all the paint he brought along because the 120-year old wood was like a sponge.
“When you’ve got a guy that’s got a 120-year-old barn that’s never been painted who is honored to have this logo put on the barn ... it is almost like I’m christening the thing with the brand,” Freeman says.
By the end of the project, more than 175 gallons of paint were used on the 40 barns painted with the CAB logo and more than 2,900 people attended the events coinciding with the barn paintings.
All along the trip Freeman was in awe of the amount of respect families had for the CAB brand.
“They (CAB) exude excellence in everything they did, and they took care of me. I think that just made me want to go that extra mile,” Freeman says of the experience.
There was “pride and attention to detail” placed into the events held in conjunction with Freeman’s painting session.
That same attention to detail and focus on quality genetics have helped drive the CAB brand to record sales with 1.21 billion pounds sold during the past fiscal year. An increase of 8.1% during a span of 14 consecutive years increasing CAB volume.
CAB’s Brand The Barn campaign should help push more growth for the brand with the first barn at Baldwin Angus Ranch in Florida having an estimated 22 million drivers see it annually along I-75. Add on 39 more barns in 23 other states and it will just continue to drive the brand forward to consumers as CAB continues on for years to come.
Freeman and his family are a few loyal consumers that have been gained. “If I’m going to buy steak now, I’m not going to buy anything else,” he adds with a laugh.
For more on CAB’s Brand The Barn campaign read the following story from Drovers: