I've been attending a few family and friend events lately where I run into people I've never met and inevitably we get on to the question of "what do you do?" At that moment, I have to try to explain my job after I say "agricultural journalist." Like every one of my farmer-readers I immediately have to start explaining my work so they get past some built-in stereotype of a "journalist" scurrying around to get the news.
Of course, I have a pretty good job getting to meet readers, visit field days, drive brand-new equipment and generally follow one of the fastest-changing industries in the country. I actually have to explain things about agriculture to them just as I'm sure you do when visiting city "cousins."
It's a challenging experience. You get a lot of smiles and nods. And you hope you've opened their eyes to what modern farming is all about. I often think that when I say "agricultural journalist" the first thing that pops into their heads is "why isn't he wearing overalls?" Or in their mind's eye they're visiting Grandpa's 120-acre farm and remember those pigs and chickens running about.
Interestingly, in most cases, I don't get hit with "so why do we need all those chemicals?" I actually think that on the whole, the average consumer is happy that there's always food available that's reasonably priced. They express genuine concern for farmers facing the drought. And they nod and smile when I suggest that now would be a good time to stock up on beef.
As for explaining the rest of my job - like why do you travel so much? Or getting to the details of working with a team of editors across the country. Eh, that's just run-of-the-mill work. They'd rather hear about the new Case IH RowTrac tractor I just checked out, or new all-terrain vehicles I drove in the mountains (more on that later). In the end, they have some better understanding of ag, and what I do. And I hope I've done my part to show that what you do is essential.
This week I'm already looking ahead to next week, when I - along with several thousand of my closest friends - travel to Boone, Iowa for the 2012 Farm Progress Show. We'll be checking out the latest and greatest in ag technology from seed to soil enhancement, tractors to combines, and plenty more. Make plans to join us. I'm planning to update Farmer Iron every morning - so check back on the days you're not coming to the show. I'll do what I can to help you keep up on what's happening.
It's our third year at Boone, Iowa, and the site has really come along in the past six years. And for those of you who ask about the corn: It looks good. And you can check it out every day by visiting the show webcams. Hope to see you there! The show runs Aug. 28-30. Learn more at the show website.