If I had a dime for every weird look I’ve gotten telling people about what I now do for a living, I’d have my college loans paid off.
When I was first hired about three months ago and asked about my job, I would proudly respond with, “I’m the Dairy Editor at Agri-View!” After countless puzzled expressions and too much time spent explaining myself, I usually now respond with, “I’m an ag journalist.”
Sometimes I still get blank stares to that response, but people tend to understand that terminology a little bit more clearly.
My explanation usually remains relatively the same: “I’m a journalist… A journalist who writes about agriculture.”
Even that, to a lot of people, doesn’t mean a whole lot. That doesn’t explain what I do on a daily basis. Some wonder, is there really that much happening in agriculture?
The answer is yes.
When the general public thinks of agriculture, the common image that comes to mind is a middle-aged man, sporting a pair of overalls with dirt under his fingernails. But agriculture is much more than that.
Agriculture is young and old, both men and women, and includes everything from Christmas tree farming to milking dairy cows.Just in the last week, I’ve delved into the effect of stray voltage on cows and the surging popularity of non-dairy milk. We’ve also recently written about the technology of robotic milking, using cover crops to improve soil health and suggestions for preventing sow lameness.
As a dairy editor, I produce articles and content about happenings in the dairy industry. I take pictures, attend events and do all the things a normal journalist would do, except my focus is on dairy cows. I do, however, also submit articles for the livestock section and the front section occasionally.
For me, being an ag journalist means spending some days sitting at a desk and other days spent on farms. Being an ag journalist sometimes means doing something different on a daily basis.
Some days I’m attending media events and listening to seminars. Other days I’m traveling across Wisconsin to visit and talk with farmers. Sometimes I’m riding along in a tractor to learn about new farming technologies. And sometimes I’m learning as much as possible about new topics so I can explain new things to our readers.
And some days I sit in feed alley in front of my cows to brainstorm and pull together my articles for the week.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, I wake up, wash my face, grab some breakfast and head to the office. Mondays and Tuesdays are the days our staff spends editing and proofing our weekly paper. Wednesday through Friday, I spend my days interviewing those involved in agriculture, visiting local farms, attending news-worthy events and taking pictures.
Our office is just like you see in the movies. We have rows and rows of short cubicles, large clocks on the walls and sometimes there are even pieces of paper flying through the air as staff members rush around.
One thing that’s unusual is that our staff is housed in the same building with the Wisconsin State Journal. So it isn’t rare to receive concerned looks when I pull out my jackknife to open a package.
As more and more of us become further removed from farming and agriculture, it’s easy to think that agriculture and farming isn’t important to our economy and in our daily lives.
But agriculture really is important. New research from University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Extension show that Wisconsin’s farms and agriculture businesses generate more than $88.3 billion in economic activity and provide jobs for 413,500 people in the state.
Seeing those kind of numbers really make it easy to see that agriculture is important to the state’s economy and is therefore important to you.
I didn’t choose to be a journalist for the long hours or the days I spend sitting in my cubicle. I didn’t choose to be a journalist for the pay or for the constant deadlines.
But it’s been my calling for quite some time. And I followed it so I could educate, inform and write stories that both those involved in agriculture and those not involved in agriculture can relate to.
Sure, I get weird looks and have to often explain what I do. But they seem to be part of the job.