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Commentary: The Invisible Majority

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By Gary Truitt

A chain is something most of us don’t think about; that is, until we need one. When you need to hang or haul something, having a good sturdy chain is vital to getting the job done. The key, of course, is knowing where your chain is when you need it. Keeping it in good repair is also important if it is going to work properly.  The radio industry and many agribusinesses have forgotten this important principle.

The farm media, both broadcast and print, are a vital link for agriculture.  Farmers rely on timely information; and, for decades, the agricultural media has been the link that delivers it to them.  That delivery used to come each month in the mailbox as the large-format, full-color, farm magazines arrived. In the 1940s, radio entered the mix with large regional stations dedicating long blocks of time to agricultural programs. In the 1950s, local rural newspapers found fertile ground in producing agricultural content. In the 1970s, radio networks started providing farm programs to groups of local radio stations.

Today the internet and social media are filled with farm and rural content; yet the local radio station and newspaper remain vital links used by farmers.  While not as trendy as Twitter, farm radio remains one of the primary media sources used by farmers.  Research shows that over 56% of farmers listen to their local radio station at least 3 times per week and over 60% tune in daily.  Local radio fits today’s farming lifestyle which is mobile, yet dependent on timely information.

While the slick, glossy, farm magazines are filled with pictures of new tractors, it is the classifieds and auction ads in the farm newspapers that farmers turn to when it is time to shop. As vital as they are, all these traditional media outlets are being ignored by marketers and broadcasters because they’re not new, cool, and techy.

While attending a broadcasters’ convention recently, I was told by several  stations who serve rural areas that they could not possibly air any farm programming because they would have to play one or two less songs.  Yet, at the same time,  these stations’ owners were complaining about losing listeners who were turning to satellite radio or on-line music sources like Pandora or Spotify.  They were blind to the fact that locally relevant content was their best way to keep local listeners. Most were unaware of the large number of farm families who daily switch on their station in search of local and farm-oriented programs.

The importance and impact of farmers and the agricultural sector are continually overlooked by the media, marketers, and lawmakers. While agriculture is an international industry, in the end it comes down to the local farmer listening to his local radio station, reading his local farm paper, and making decisions that have far-reaching consequences for the food industry, the environment, and the local economy.

The state-based, farm media is the link to reaching farm and rural customers. Stop overlooking this vital sector of your local economy and the chain that can help you reach them.