I met up with former Southwest Farm Press editor Calvin Pigg the Friday before Christmas. It had been several years since we’d had an opportunity to catch up, swap stories and discuss changes in agriculture and publishing since Calvin retired about 15 years ago.
He’s doing well. He and his wife, Tommie, still live in the Richardson home where they have been for the last 40 years, he told me. They travel to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, twice a year to visit their children and grandchildren.
We had lunch at one of his favorite spots, The String Bean, just a few blocks away from the Dallas branch of the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center on Coit Road, and we occupied a corner table for the better part of two hours, talking about the early days of the Farm Press titles. Cal helped launch Southwest Farm Press in 1974, he recalled, and I hired on as associate editor of Southeast Farm Press in 1978, just a few years after its launch.
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By the time Calvin started working for the Farm Press group he had already established himself as an accomplished and recognized farm writer and reporter. He worked as a daily newspaper farm editor and was a radio and television farm reporter. He worked for the Texas A&M agriculture communications service and for a private research firm before his 28 years as Southwest Farm Press editor.
He witnessed a lot of changes in agriculture—including the initiation of the boll weevil eradication program in the Southwest and the introduction of genetically modified crops and site-specific agriculture. Those changes continue with the near eradication of the boll weevil and widespread adoption of GMO and GPS.
We talked about how ag communications have changed. He asked how I deal with pictures and wondered if we were still using slides and prints and mailing them to the home office.
Digital, I explained, has replaced all that. We shoot everything with digital cameras, download photos to the computer, select and edit, write captions and email them to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the pages are made up—on computer—and sent to the printer, via email.
Calvin recalled that Volume One, Number One of Southwest Farm Press was due to go to press—from Clarksdale to St. Louis—by truck, but an ice storm kept the truck from making the journey. Farm Press owner and Publisher Bill McNamee, Calvin recalls, collected the pages and drove them to St. Louis in his personal car. A deadline was sacred. Still is.
We talked about the changing nature of publishing from print to electronic. We weren’t blogging or posting stories to the webpage when Calvin retired, and he’s not certain he would have enjoyed the transition.
We talked about the annual impossibility of traveling to every farm we want to visit, covering the meetings we need to make and writing the stories we need to write from an area as large as the Southwest.
“If I had it to do over I would have written fewer stories but better ones,” he said. I can’t argue that logic. We’ve all succumbed to the inevitability of deadlines with a bit more left to make a story better. That’s true whether it’s a print issue going out next week or a web post due in ten minutes. It’s often a writer’s dilemma—perfect or fast? We prefer both; we seldom achieve that.
Calvin and I had a great chat, a good lunch and an overdue opportunity to compare notes on a job we’ve both loved because of the chance it has given us to meet the amazing farmers and ranchers of the Southwest.
And Calvin sends his regards.