Don Curlee: Farm Bureau big part of ag talk
Although farmers and farm groups are taking full advantage of digital social media and other new ways to reach the general public, more traditional methods of communication have been employed for decades.
Much of the effort has been led by the Farm Bureau, American agriculture's predominant membership organization and persistent advocate. It operates at the national level from Washington, D.C., and in each state, usually from offices in the state's capital city.
In the Golden State, the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) operates a sophisticated communications center from its headquarters in Sacramento. It began producing a weekly radio show in 1954, circulating it to stations throughout the state, and has grown with expanding television and film production capacity ever since.
The broad-based communications operation includes a weekly agricultural newspaper called Ag Alert, a weekly 30-minute television show called "California Country," a monthly magazine by the same name, and an online series of messages and news tailored to high school and college ag students likely to be future members of the Farm Bureau.
Running through all of these channels is the allure, excitement, challenge and independence of farm life. For the television show, add beauty as an ingredient as its cameras often cover floriculture flourishing colorfully in various parts of the state and pick up the color of ripening fruit or harvested vegetables.
Dave Kranz, who left radio to accept the position, is manager of the CFBF's Communications/ News Division. He recalls that the Farm Bureau has been interested in communications technologies from the beginning, sponsoring radio programs as early as the 1920s.
The emphasis then — as it is currently — is to transmit information to farmers and nonfarmers. From the 1950s through the '90s, the CFBF had its own radio network. Emphasis now is on producing segments for "California Country," showing audiences where their food comes from, and pointing out why it is important to know.
Several county Farm Bureaus support the theme by publishing their own newspapers and newsletters, circulating not only to members, but to local businesses and others with interests in farming, particularly schools.
At the national level. the American Farm Bureau Federation's location in Washington, D.C., places it at "politics center."
Deputy Director of Public Relations Mace Thornton explained that all members of Congress and many other political advisers in the nation's capital receive the organization's Farm Bureau News, which reaches 50,000 readers twice each month.
Current attention at the national level is being focused on the Farm Bureau's participation in and support for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an umbrella organization charged with bringing together all those players affecting food and agriculture policy.
Sponsorship of a weekly television series on PBS, called "Farm Country" nationally, is a primary and continuing outreach of the American Farm Bureau.
The national organization also strongly supports Agchat, which encourages farmers to take advantage of social media to establish communication with nonfarm friends through Facebook, Twitter and other digital means of communicating
And that brings the Farm Bureau full circle, from experimentation in California with radio programs back in the 1920s to Facebook and Twitter and a whole lot of written and spoken communication in between.
They used to say that talk is cheap, but spoken and written communication has been a major investment by the Farm Bureau for well nigh a century.
It can and should serve as a solid foundation for those who are experiencing the magic of modern social media. They are building on a foundation that might be larger than they imagined.
CONTACT Don Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org