When I started at Farm and Dairy, I really wasn’t planning on staying. After all, who wants to write about cows and pigs all their life? Not me, man. I was headed to the bright lights, the big city. I thought I had put all that “farm stuff” behind me when I went to college.
Well, 25 years and 1,326 issues later, I’m still here. And lovin’ every minute.
It took me awhile, but I finally knocked that barn-sized chip off my shoulder and recognized agriculture and its players deserve some respect.
I was raised on a small farm in Holmes County, Ohio. God’s country, I call it, and to me, it’s still one of the most beautiful places on Earth. After graduating from Kent State University’s School of Journalism, I went to work for Abe and Fran Mast, owners of Graphic Publications (their three sons still operate the company). It was there, while working at their booth at the Holmes County Fair, that I met Tim Reeves, then-editor at Farm and Dairy. I hit him up for a job, because my husband, Head Chef*, and I were planning to move closer to his job and I wouldn’t be able to hack the hour-and-a-half commute to Berlin.
“We don’t have any openings right now, but send me a resume,” Tim said. “You never know.”
That was August 1985, and — yep, you never know — I started with F&D four weeks later, assigned to cover western Pennsylvania (to this day, I love my peeps from Beaver, Lawrence and Mercer counties, the first folks I met on the job.) Less than four years later, I was named the paper’s first female editor — right about the time the Alar on apples controversy hit the airwaves. Fun time to be a farm journalist.
That’s pretty much how I chronicle my life’s timeline, by ag events — droughts; the never-ending, will-they-won’t-they approve bST saga; floods; Dolly, the cloned sheep; GMOs; the mad cow who stole Christmas; Ohio’s Issue 2 … it’s all there in my yellowing paper, and now computerized, archive.
And I can chronicle my journalism tenure by a similar technology timeline. When I started, I typed my stories on a typewriter and gave them to a typesetter to retype. Stories came out of the Verityper machine in long strips of thick paper that we waxed on the back side and placed with precision on gridded pages. Every photo had to be resized and “half-toned” in the darkroom, then razor trimmed to size, waxed and also placed on the page. If you’ve ever seen how many photos we run in the print Farm and Dairy during county fair season, you’ll understand why I’m a whiz with an X-ACTO knife.
I’ve suffered witnessed countless computer progressions, learned typesetting coding, soldiered through a cold-turkey switch from an old-school DOS system to Apple computers, celebrated section-by-section and then complete computerized pagination (creating the printed page via computer), digital photography, and a move to computer-to-plate printing technology. Oh, and around 1998, I think, Farm and Dairy stormed the Web. Now, we’re Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging here on The Social Silo. And our Farm and Dairy YouTube video channel won’t be far behind.
Along this 25-year path, however, have been hundreds and hundreds of readers and non-readers, legislators and newsmakers, and strangers and friends. (No one’s really a stranger if you have Farm and Dairy or agriculture in common.) And it’s been those people — and their stories — who have kept me going.
Wonder what the next 25 years will be like…
*I lovingly call my husband “Head Chef” because he’s a much better cook than me. I do, however, make a mean cheesecake, and think cut-up cheese chunks are the best snack food ever. Must be the Holmes County dairy genetics.