STATIONS STILL GOING STRONG AT 75
KBRF, FERGUS FALLS, MINN.
For a good portion of its 75 years on air, Minnesota’s KBRF Radio’s call letters were KGDE, which first stood for "Kills Gloomy Dull Evenings" and later, "Keeps Gaining Daily Enthusiasm."
Farm director Charlie Kampa carries on the tradition of that second slogan with continued enthusiasm for his work after 13 years of broadcasting farm news for the station in Fergus Falls, Minn.
The third-oldest station in Minnesota, KBRF’s news-talk-information format offers what most listeners want, "a nice mix of news, weather, sports and farm news," Kampa says.
KBRF’s signal covers western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, including the metropolitan Fargo, N.D., area, some 50 miles north. Fergus Falls is in Ottertail County, the state’s second largest dairy-producing county. However, Kampa says he has more non-farmers listening than farmers. He often gets responses from "city folks," so he approaches his news stories from the consumer side first.
"The farmer probably knows more about the topic at hand than the general consumer, anyway," he says. "I try to educate consumers. I’m on the National Association of Farm Broadcasters’ farm-city committee and, as a result, I’ve learned consumers are interested in what’s happening in agriculture. They just need to understand all of the intricacies."
His farmer-listeners are concerned about the whole gamut of issues, including stories about the spread of foot-and-mouth disease or a local cheese plant closing.
Farmers’ priorities have changed over the years, Kampa notes.
"Marketing now is first and foremost on their minds, where they used to just be concerned about production," he says. "Now they need a consultant or risk management training."
Kampa broadcasts farm news for KBRF weekdays from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and at other times later in the day. He also broadcasts market updates for two other stations that are part of the five-station Lakes Radio group.
One of his biggest challenges at KBRF is not having enough time to cover all the news he’d like to.
"I could turn this into a 24-hour farm-news station," Kampa says. "The challenge is to be concise."
While Kampa doesn’t feel his role as a broadcaster has changed much over recent years, he has become "attuned to the specialization of a farm broadcaster," he says. "We’re not like any other broadcaster. If you can build a good program on farm news and not alienate the urban listener, you’ve achieved something."
KFEQ, ST. JOSEPH, MO.
While technically KFEQ went on the air two years earlier, the station this year celebrates 75 years of broadcasting from St. Joseph, Mo.
Begun in Oak, Neb., in 1924 by an amateur radio enthusiast, KFEQ was moved to St. Joseph at the urging of a group associated with that city’s livestock and grain exchanges. The group’s goal was to get market prices out to area farmers.
In the 75 years since, KFEQ has never missed a day of broadcasting the midday market update, according to Farm Director Tom Brand, although there were some close calls.
"There have been some times we’ve chewed our fingernails thinking, ‘How are we going to get that market report in there?’" says Brand, who in August celebrated five years at KFEQ.
The station has grown over the years, adding three other stations and starting the Ag Info Center network in 1997 to provide market information and ag news to nearly 20 affiliates in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Last year, all four stations moved to a new facility featuring five broadcast studios and a production studio.
Brand handles most of the farm broadcasts for KFEQ in an early-morning report from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and again in a midday farm report from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. He works with 35-year farm-broadcast veteran Rich Hawkins who takes care of the majority of the network feeds.
During his nine years of covering farm news, out of a 12-year broadcast career, Brand says he’s come to realize farm broadcasters are more than information sources.
"We’re advocates for agriculture," he says. "We support the lifestyle of the farmer. I’m not sure everyone realizes that when they get into farm broadcasting. I feel I’m an advocate for agriculture by helping the farmer do his job better and more efficiently and then by telling agriculture’s story to those who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to know about what a farmer goes through." AM
Debby Hartke is a writer and communications consultant based in St. Louis, Mo.