Farm Radio's Rich Heritage
By Chase Adams, NCBA Director of Communications
I traveled to Kansas City, Mo, this week to attend the 69th Annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) Convention. The theme for this year’s convention is “Our Rich Heritage: A Bridge to the Future.” For over 80 years, farm broadcasting has been an important part of rural America, providing an efficient means to connect farmers and ranchers with the news, markets and commentary that are so important to our daily routine.
Broadcasting information to farmers started just after the invention of AM radio. The first broadcasts began in 1921, when WHA in Madison, Wis., began broadcasting weather reports. Two months later, James A. Bush, a Tuscola, Ill., grain dealer, put WDZ on the air to bring grain market reports to his grain dealers and farmers. A few months later, KDKA in Pittsburgh put Nelson Gilpin, assistant editor of the National Stockman and Farmer, on the air to report markets. The farm broadcasting business boom had begun, and by 1922, 35 of the 36 radio stations licensed by the Commerce Department were approved to broadcast U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) markets. KFEQ, which was first licensed in 1923 to broadcast from Oak, Neb., and later relocated to St. Joseph, Mo., was one of the first stations to initiate live remote broadcasts three times daily directly from the St. Joseph Stockyards, and four times daily from the St. Joseph Grain Exchange. It was then that farmers realized they could receive frequent updates while continuing their daily work on their operations.
Despite frequent warnings that the media would not survive the advent of the internet or satellite or the next technology, the relationship of the farm broadcaster to their audience has remained strong. Even today, with media outlets allowing people to receive information 24/7/365, farm broadcasting remains a credible and respectable source of information for farmers and ranchers. Farmers and ranchers are heavy consumers of information from many sources. They not only rely on their own experience, but also seek input from others in agriculture. Farm broadcasters are established communicators in and for the agricultural community. They often serve a dual role in communicating not only to farmers, but also relating the agricultural perspectives on food and environmental issues to consumers. They communicate the news of agricultural science, technology, food safety and environmental issues. Farm broadcasters are advocates for agricultural producers and the products they produce for the world. In the beef industry, cattlemen and women rely on agriculture radio to not only provide them with news and information about agriculture across the country and around the world, but also to communicate to consumers about how the United States continues to be the leader in producing the safest, highest-quality beef in the world.
Agriculture is the backbone of America, and farm broadcasting is an important part of that history. I have for the last eight years attended the NAFB annual convention as a farm broadcaster while working for KBHB radio in Sturgis, S.D., and every year it has been a great homecoming to join the NAFB in Kansas City. It has always amazed me how as a broadcaster, we became a daily part of the lives of our listeners, just as I imagine many of you can think of a farm broadcaster that relates to your life and agricultural operation.
Now, from the perspective of NCBA, I can see just how valuable these relationships remain as we look to connect with and inform both our membership and our potential members. With our volunteer leaders and the help of our media partners, we were able to record interviews at this convention that will air across the country and inform listeners nationwide of work of our association in representing the beef industry. I am proud to have played a role in that effort.
It is important that organizations such as NCBA continue to harvest the power of farm broadcasting. Working with farm broadcasters allows leaders in the agriculture industry to convey their messages about policy directly to members of the agricultural community. Farm broadcasters are very visible at events on the local, state and national levels. Farm radio is deeply embedded in the farming and ranching lifestyle, and I hope that we can continue to share our rich heritage.