NAFB MEMBERS BUILD CONNECTIONS
by Jeremy Povenmire, Member Services Mgr, National Association of Farm Broadcasting
With so many hot topics today, it is hard to know where to begin to discuss the latest news in agribusiness. NAFB members meet each spring at the annual "NAFB Washington Watch" in our nation's capital to learn the latest developments in Congress.
This year's meeting showcased the power of farm broadcasting in getting the message out to rural America. The April 30 to May 2 gathering featured visits by and dialogue with Agriculture and Energy Secretaries Mike Johanns and Samuel Bodman, and key agriculture policymakers Sens. Tom Harkin, Saxby Chambliss, and Kent Conrad, with U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Bob Goodlatte.
So what is the latest with members of NAFB and how they are getting the issues and news of the day to their audiences?
OHIO'S ADVANCE BROADCAST & COMMUNICATIONS
The day starts pretty early for Andy Vance and Lindsay Hill of AdVance Broadcast & Communication, Ltd. They recently acquired another competitive network in their home state of Ohio, which has expanded their reach considerably in the marketplace. They are now up to almost 70 affiliates.
"Last fall Clear Channel an-nounced they were going to divest some of their properties," Hill says. "After some discussion, we decided to investigate what the possibilities might be. When the dust settled, we purchased the network and expanded our presence in Ohio significantly."
Most NAFB members know the pair as the young husband and wife team and founders of the Buckeye Ag Radio Network (BARN). They have branded the BARN as the "Next Generation of Rural Radio." With bringing both networks in-house, they plan to focus efforts with the BARN on a wider range of programming to the rural audience, with more of a farm-to-table approach. Meanwhile, the ABN will continue its focus of producer-oriented communication with a strong emphasis on farm news and commodity markets.
"This is an exciting time in our lives both professionally and personally," Vance says. "Both Lindsay and I have been in this business for several years. She is the detailed, businessperson and I am the entrepreneur. We actually met early in our careers while working at ABN. Being able to own the network now and deliver the news to Ohio's producers is a real milestone for us."
KFRM — POWER IN PEOPLE
Another leading member of the NAFB community is KFRM Radio in Clay Center, KS. The station signal covers 149 counties and more than 35,000 Class A producers, making it a virtual powerhouse of agriculture in the region and truly the "Voice of the Plains."
"If the KFRM coverage area seceded from the U.S. government and became an independent state, we would represent the largest state in cattle production, wheat, irrigated corn production, and harvested cattle production," says Kyle Bauer, General Manager. "There aren't many stations that can claim they represent/cover this large of a segment of the agribusiness industry."
Being in touch with the audience and their needs is always a focus at KFRM. In response to listener demand, the station has been streaming audio on their Web site for some time now. In addition to this change in technology, the station has also made their information delivery schedule and content what listeners need.
"To best serve our audience, we broadcast markets 22 times a day," Bauer says. "Plus we give analysis of what those numbers mean. You can listen on your radio or on the Internet at www.kfrm.com. We want to make it as easy as possible for our listeners to get the information and news they need."
Over the years KFRM has stuck to the role of "keeping producers company" in their coverage area. Some of the land covered by the station is sparsely populated and people often lead a fairly remote existence.
"KFRM is like a passenger riding along side you in your truck, versus someone who is just shouting information through a bullhorn," Bauer explains. "We have a strong relationship and provide companionship to many listeners who are in the remotest areas of the Plains. It is a great value our listeners always appreciate. KFRM isn't just me, or any of our other broadcasters, it is a member of the community that will live on long after we are gone."
SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL FARM BROADCASTER
Gary Truitt has been an active member of NAFB for over 25 years. In this time, his broadcasting efforts have gone from local coverage to multi-state regional coverage and now back to local coverage in his home state of Indiana.
"I started the Hoosier Ag Today (HAT) to bring my focus back to covering agriculture in Indiana," Truitt says. "Regional networks certainly have their advantage, but I wanted to get back to more local content. Indiana appears to be a big state geographically, but it really is just one big small town. A small town with a lot of news happening!"
With the new political administration, recent popularity of ethanol, and various other issues, the HAT is never short of valuable content for Indiana producers. He is now able to cover that news strictly from the local perspective.
"Farm broadcasting has always been about the relationship with our listeners," Truitt says. "Over the years, some of the changes that have happened in the industry have affected the amount of time some broadcasters have to be out in their communities like they once were. I think the pendulum has swung back the other way for now. Broadcasters are getting back to attending local events and knowing more listeners on a first name basis."
Like many NAFB members, he has expanded his "touch points" with his listeners. In addition to his radio programming, he also produces podcasts, an e-mail newsletter, and is getting ready to start a blog.
HAT has also started a joint venture with the print publication Indiana AgriNews. The effort is called "From the Fields." It consists of interviewing producers who are planting and getting updates from them on how their efforts are going. HAT conducts the interviews and runs selected portions of the audio on the radio. Listeners can then read the full interviews in printed form in the Indiana AgriNews or they can also read them online at the www.hoosieragtoday.com.
"We are currently up to 30 affiliates on our network covering Indiana," Truitt reports. "With the new technology available today, we can go beyond the studio walls to broadcast remotely from just about anyplace. I recently did a remote from a truck stop out in the middle of nowhere that was opening a new biodiesel pump. Even our audiences in the urban areas that are covered by some of our 50,000 watt affiliates are interested in biofuels. They may not know where the truck stop is, but they were interested in hearing about the alternative fuel aspect of the story."
RED DIRT, COWBOYS AND FARM RADIO
It is no secret that agriculture is huge business in Oklahoma. In fact, gross cash receipts exceeded $4.7 billion in 2005 from a variety of livestock and crop enterprises.
Agriculture news in Oklahoma is synonymous with farm broadcaster Ron Hays, Director of Farm Programming for the Radio Oklahoma Network (RON). He is in his 33rd year of broadcasting, and has spent more than 30 of those years in Oklahoma.
"I made a transition about six months ago to simplify my broadcasting emphasis," Hays says. "Working for a regional network has some unique challenges. When you develop shows for a multi-state area you have to be aware of how you present content. Most listeners want to receive information that is disseminated with their local viewpoints emphasized. I am able to do this more effectively now since my coverage is strictly Oklahoma."
The RON has grown since he joined the staff. Affiliates increased from 20 to 35 currently. The network has also increased its interaction with the Oklahoma audience through his daily e-mail newsletter and interactive Web site www.oklahomafarmreport.com.
"The e-mail newsletter, called the "Oklahoma Farm & Ranch News Update," has generated a lot of interest from our audience," Hays reports. "In fact, I have some producers who rely on it primarily for their news from the network. Some of the reasons vary, but several of the subscribers don't have radio coverage in their areas and some just might miss the broadcast. I have more than 1,300 subscribers on my list now and it continues to grow every week."
Through all the touch points with the Oklahoma producers, Hays strives to make the RON the brand of choice for Oklahoma agriculture. His efforts have recently turned to another valuable medium, television.
"We just started doing a 2-3 minute program on Saturday mornings on the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City," he says. "It covers a variety of issues from hard agriculture news to issues that might also cross over to the rural lifestyle audience. I am excited about the potential to reach both rural and urban audiences with this opportunity."
Like all NAFB broadcasters, he knows his most valuable asset he has with his audience (and the people that pay for advertising to this group) is his personal relationship and credibility.
"Anytime we can connect with an audience it is a plus for advertisers, Hays says. "I like to tell people about some of the greats in our industry and how they connected so much with their audiences.
"Bob Miller with WLW in Ohio was a great example of this. He often broadcasted from the station's farm where many events were happening. It created the same relationship back in 1957 that it creates in 2007. When we are covering events they are more than just an appearance. They are often highlighting an activity or event that really benefits the rural community."
NAFB members are more than just "alive and well." They are "energized and growing." The events of this year's gathering in Washington D.C., were something that raised eyebrows with several attendees. Many were impressed with the amount of politicians and opinion leaders that addressed the group. While we know it is a reflection of the quality of NAFB broadcasters, it is also indicative of the amount of breaking news that is affecting our nation's agriculture and rural population.
The future of agribusiness continues to look promising for many generations to come.