One of the best things about being a farm reporter is when you get someone who is willing to share their story with you.

Although we have “freedom of the press” on our side, it doesn’t always guarantee us the interviews or the sources we want. Much still rides on the person’s willingness, or unwillingness, to share their story.

As this week and next week’s editions of Farm and Dairy hit the newsstands and arrive in your mail — you’ll be reading about people who shared their stories in our annual progress edition.

It’s a mostly feature-oriented section about different businesses and farms that have done key things to move their operation forward. There are many types and kinds of stories in the section, but the underlying reason any of them are there is because people shared.

Meet quickly

Whenever I call a farmer and he’s willing to be interviewed in a story, I often offer to meet him the very next day, if it’s available. Even if I’m not writing the story for a few weeks, I like getting it down as quickly as possible.

I crave “the story” and it’s “the story” that makes the work I do possible. The most frustrating thing is when I can’t get someone to share.

It can be for a number of reasons — as simple as they haven’t called back, they had a bad experience with media in the past or they don’t think it’s worth their time.

Over the years I’ve learned how to negotiate with sources to encourage them to share their story. But in the end, it’s their own decision that makes the difference.

In this year’s progress edition, there are a couple stories that are not there because they are either ongoing topics, or in some cases, the sources just didn’t commit to being interviewed.

A big difference

If they were stories of public record, I’d be calling the sources up each day and bugging them until they gave me what I wanted. Or, if need be, I’d make a visit to their office or their place of business for a confrontational interview.

But the reality is, when you want a farmer to tell you how his grain or dairy operation is going, you’re at the mercy of his willingness and your own ability to convince him that it’s worthwhile.

I once tried booking an interview with a guy who installed a robotic milker in central Ohio. He wanted to know how long it would take and I told him 45 minutes to an hour. And then he laughed at me and wanted to know what was in it for him.

He told that if he was giving me something, he ought to be getting something back in return — money or something else.

I ended up interviewing a different farmer who had installed a robotic milker and it was about two hours closer than the first guy, and I didn’t have to explain why we don’t pay our sources.

But to answer his question — what’s in it for me — is really two-fold.

Why be interviewed?

For one, farmers who share their story are helping other farmers, whether it’s through lessons learned, new ideas or just moral support. One guy’s experience can be another’s, or can be avoided if it was a mistake.

Secondly, sharing a story can help others understand what you do and why you do it. It’s your chance to sell yourself and be heard. There are plenty of others willing to tell your story for you, but no one can tell it as accurately and purposefully as you.

Sure, we don’t pay you to share, and it does take time and commitment. But when it’s a feature story about how progressive and good you are, consider it cheap advertisement.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
View all posts by Chris Kick

Related posts: