I don’t understand how it happened. It seems just a short time ago that I drove to the Atlanta airport, boarded a plane, and flew into Lexington, Ky., on my first assignment as associate editor of Southeast Farm Press. It also was my first day on the job — no two-week orientation back in the day.
That was 39 years ago, as of June 19. As they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Some days are more fun than others. I hope Joe Outlaw doesn’t take offense at this, but sitting through an ag economics presentation is not as much fun as bouncing around in a pickup in farm country chatting with farmers or ranchers about — well, lots of stuff, including, but not limited to, production practices.
I have no idea how many farmers I’ve interviewed, or just had interesting conversations with, over almost four decades. But it has been a sizeable number.
I’ve met some wonderful people. I won’t attempt to make a list, since these commentaries are supposed to be limited to a tad under 500 words (which I rarely adhere to). But they include a lot of farmers, ranchers, Extension specialist, and research scientists from the Carolinas to New Mexico, plus members of various farm associations, employees of numerous government agencies, and even a few elected officials.
My colleagues at Farm Press are mentors and friends. Several who were on board when I signed on are still plugging away — Ann King, Sherry Cook, Sandy Perry, Glen Rutz, Hembree Brandon, and Ed Phillips, all of whom have saved my bacon at one time or another. Forrest Laws came on a year or two later and also has put out fires that I started.
I count among my good friends several writers, editors, and publishers of competing publications. You know who you are.
I’ve witnessed an evolution in agricultural technology and some notable alterations in how we cover those changes. A weekly trip to the post office was routine in 1978. I bought a lot of film — almost all of it black and white, large format rolls that fit a twin-lens reflex camera. As soon as I returned from a trip, I dropped the film at a processing facility and hoped to pick up proof sheets and negatives the next day, in time to make the post office run.
The weekly postal packet included typed articles, usually 800 words or so, double-spaced on about four pages that included unsightly blotches of white-out or hastily scribbled edits in the margins. I occasionally dictated stories over the phone.
Digital cameras and the Internet have made the job simultaneously easier and more complex. Publishing technology amazes and confounds me in equal portions. (I’ve just made several corrections to this article, with no white-out blotches.) Now, if I don’t lose my Internet connection, I’ll e-mail this commentary to Hembree for his always judicious editing and then, if all continues to work as expected (?), I can post it to our web page. I like the immediacy of new technology — mostly.
I notice that the word count already exceeds 500 — again. So, I’ll finish by noting that 39 years goes by faster than one can imagine, especially when having this much fun.