Chipotle reimagines the future of farming

‘A Future Begins,’ featuring music by Kacey Musgraves, returns to the family farm.

More than 20 million acres of U.S. farmland has been lost — paved over for development projects, converted or fragmented — in the last decade, according to Chipotle.

At the same time, U.S. agriculture has also lost more than 40 times more farmers than it has gained over the last five years. 

Alarmed by those numbers, Chipotle wants to fight back. 

“That was a big wake up call: how do we support the next generation of farmers to continue our mission of real food and food with integrity?” Stephanie Perdue, VP of brand marketing at Chipotle, told Campaign US.

On Tuesday, Chipotle launched a new campaign, “A Future Begins,” a sequel to its 2012 campaign, “Back to the Start.”

Created in collaboration with agency Observatory, and directed by Johnny Kelly at Nexus Studio, “A Future Begins” features stop-motion animation of a farming family sending their child off to college. The parents try to keep the farm running but are forced to put the land up for sale. Meanwhile, their child is struggling to find his place at school. 

He has an epiphany and moves home to save the family farm. The man and his wife introduce new sustainable growing techniques and technologies used by actual Chipotle suppliers and partners, including solar panels, polytunnels, crop rotation and free-range livestock. At the end of the film, the man passes along his blue farming cap to his daughter.

Observatory wanted to expand the ad’s cast of characters to include the wife and daughter to symbolize the future of farming. 

“We created the wife character to counterpoint the traditional farming upbringing of the son,” Peter Skrumbis, senior copywriter at Observatory, said in an email. “His farm-savvy knowledge and experience combined with her tech-driven approach create a unique blend of innovative and sustainable solutions to revitalizing the farm.”

“We also wanted to nod to the rapidly changing face of the farming community,” he added. “At the end of our film, we see him symbolically hand over his father’s hat to their daughter, positioning her as the future owner of the farm.”

The film is backed with music by Kacey Musgraves, who covers Coldplay’s “Fix You.” Musgraves has previously worked with Willie Nelson at Farm Aid, Nelson’s annual benefit concert for American farmers. Nelson covered Coldplay’s song “The Scientist” in Chipotle’s initial “Back to the Start” campaign, which focused on the horrors of factory farming. 

Musgraves’ voice brought “incredible emotion” to the film, said Perdue, adding that the singer has always had an interest in supporting young farmers. 

“A Future Begins” will air during the Raiders vs. Cowboys game on CBS on Thanksgiving Day. 

Chipotle’s campaign expands beyond the film to an apparel collaboration with Carthartt, launching on November 19. The collection will feature custom pieces including an apron, jacket, hat and patches. Proceeds from every sale will be donated to the National Young Farmers Coalition.

The restaurant chain is also advocating for the 2023 Farm Bill to facilitate equitable access to one million acres of land for the next generation of farmers. Customers can sign the pledge at youngfarmers.org/onemillionacres. Signatures will advocate for Congress to invest $2.5 billion toward securing one million acres for young farmers and farmers of color. 

Over the next five years, Chipotle has committed $5 million to support the future of farming — a passion it hopes spreads. 

“As a generation ages out of family farming, we want to empower the next generation to pick up the mantle and infuse the sustainable and responsible farming practices of the last generation with the fresh thinking and youthful energy that drive progress and innovation,” said Skrumbis. “We also want to remind people to consider where their food comes from, how it’s grown, sourced and makes it to your table.”

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