‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: The Dumbing Down of the Indiana State Fair

Photo: C.J. Miller / Hoosier Ag Today.

The Indiana State Fair is entering the home stretch. For those of us who have regularly attended the Fair, there was something different about it this year.

I have been struggling to try and put my finger on it. I think it is not one thing, but a whole lot of little things that gave the Fair a different feel.

The demolition of the Swine Barn was part of it. Not having that building resulted in hog shows being moved to different days and locations.  Many other animals also found themselves in different locations.

The Agricultural/Horticultural building has very little ag or “hort” in it — mostly commerce.  The sudden appearance of alcohol vendors in several places around the grounds was a definite change.

There was also a lot more focus on food than farm. In her opening day interview with Hoosier Ag Today, Executive Director Cindy Hoye said, “Our research shows that food is the number one reason people come to the Fair.” It used to be animals were the main reason people came.  With the rearranged schedule, there were days it was hard to find any animals there.

There was no shortage of food, however, and a lot of it has little to do with farming in Indiana. Hoosier livestock groups did their best to serve up some ag education along with their pork, beef, dairy, and other items. The new, exotic, and just plain strange food concoctions got most of the media attention.

Speaking of media attention, the Indianapolis TV media hit a new low in coverage of the Indiana State Fair. WISH-TV meteorologist Randy Ollis showed up for a live shot at the 4-H dairy show in bib overalls!  During his other fair coverage, he had on logoed shirts, but someone at the station felt covering an ag event required a demeaning and stereotypical costume. Indy Style reporter Amber Hankins went Ollis one better by broadcasting from the Fair in “Daisy Duke” style, bib overall shorts!

So, while the Glass Barn was telling Fair visitors that farmers are high tech and Indiana Farm Bureau was trying to connect food to fork with Taste from Indiana Farms, WISH-TV was keeping the image of Green Acres and American Gothic alive.

The Indiana State Fair Board has done a great job in the past few years of keeping agriculture front and center at the Fair. In 2022, I think we took a few steps backward.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.

Molly Nichols Joins Hoosier Ag Today Team as Sales and Station Relations Director

Molly Nichols, Director of Sales and Station Relations for Hoosier Ag Today.

Hoosier Ag Today announces that Molly Nichols is now the Director of Sales and Station Relations. Nichols will direct all local and regional sales activities for Indiana, as well as throughout Michigan for Michigan Ag Today.

In addition, she will work with radio stations to increase network affiliation and to improve program clearance and affiliate compensation.

Nichols is an experienced sales and station relations professional, most recently with the Brownfield Network.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Hoosier Ag Today and Michigan Ag Today teams! I am proud to be working with these networks that are woven into the fabric of the local communities that they serve,” stated Nichols. “Gary Truitt, Andy Eubank, and the entire staff are passionate about service; and I intend to give 110% to the network advertisers and affiliates each and every day.”

“We are very excited to have Molly join our team,” said Andy Eubank, President of Hoosier Ag Today. “This is definitely an upgrade in our sales and station relations activities.”

“We view our relationship with our advertisers and our stations as a partnership. Molly shares that philosophy and will work closely with both to maximize the benefits of working with Hoosier Ag Today and Michigan Ag Today,” added Gary Truitt, founder of Hoosier Ag Today.

‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: Don’t Take Us for Granted

Hoosier Ag Today Chairman Gary Truitt.

Nobody likes being taken for granted. It makes one feel less important. Your work and accomplishments seem less important. Your efforts feel unappreciated, your opinions irrelevant, and your feelings insignificant.  In short, it is not a good thing to be taken for granted, but we are all guilty of doing it.

Those in production agriculture are especially prone to feel they are taken for granted. Most consumers give little thought or have little knowledge on how their food is produced: the work involved, the risks taken, and the investment made by producers.  In addition, consumers are quick to complain when prices go up and quick to criticize on environmental, nutrition, safety, and welfare issues. Most people outside of the industry are oblivious to how their lives are impacted by agriculture.

A recent report by the National Pork Producers Council showed that, “From farm to fork, the combined economic contribution from hog production and pork processing supports more than 600,000 American jobs and generates $178 billion of direct, indirect, and induced sales that equate to $57 billion in value-added GDP.”

Milk is one of the basic food staples found in most households, yet the dairy industry regularly has to go to extreme lengths to help people connect the dots between cows and ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. During a recent promotion in downtown Indianapolis, dairy producers had to bring two dairy calves to help consumers get the connection between why cows give milk and how that is turned into ice cream.

It is ironic, however, that some of the ag companies and farm organizations that complain the most about being taken for granted themselves take one key sector of agriculture for granted: the agricultural media.  Some ag companies refuse to advertise with ag media organizations then spend their dollars with non-farm media that are often the sharpest critics of farmers.

Recently, I became aware of one farm organization whose leadership bragged to its members that they did not need to spend any money with farm media outlets because they could get them to deliver its messages and news for free.

Many companies and producer groups appreciate the value the farm media brings to their members and customers. They know that these free services are made possible by sponsorships and advertising.  Unfortunately, this approach is not universal.

All sectors of agriculture must adopt a more collaborative attitude. We cannot afford to take each other for granted. We all need to invest in and support each other. Only then will we achieve the kind of unity we will need to address the issue of agriculture being taken for granted by consumers.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.

A Chance to Join the Hoosier Ag Today and Michigan Ag Today Team

Hoosier Ag Today and Michigan Ag Today have immediate openings for talented and hardworking individuals who are passionate about agriculture. Both positions are for Michigan Ag Today and involve both sales and broadcast responsibilities.

If you are interested in joining an award-winning team of professionals with a company that supports farm families and agribusinesses, this may be the right fit for you.

Our broadcast position involves reporting on news that is important to Michigan and Indiana farm families. This would mean attending meetings and events, and developing news sources within the farm community. The position would be based in Michigan. Radio experience is helpful but not required. Good written and verbal communications skills are required.

The sales position involves working with local and regional agribusinesses to help with marketing plans. Michigan Ag Today has a variety of products and platforms that can help businesses reach farming operations with their message. You will be working with these businesses to craft a marketing and advertising strategy that fits their goals, and budgets. Travel, good interpersonal skills, and organization are required.

For more information and to send an resume, please contact:

Andy Eubank

Hoosier Ag Today – Michigan Ag Today

Phone: 765-404-4159

E-mail: aeubank@michiganagtoday.com

‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: A Bad Week for Bridges

Baxter Black (Jan. 10, 1945 – June 10, 2022)

A bridge in Yellowstone National Park, a National Historic Landmark built in 1918, was recently washed away by flood waters that swept down the Yellowstone River. Further South in Benson, AZ, time, dementia, and blood cancer took another bridge.

The death of Baxter Black, internationally known cowboy poet, author, and large animal vet, has deprived agriculture of one of the most effective bridges to the non-farm public that we have ever had. Baxter could reach people using humor and common-sense insights and get them to understand and appreciate farming, ranching, and rural and western culture.

His books, newspaper columns, long running NPR radio show, and personal appearances stood out from the general noise of our world with a different perspective and commentary on everything from Presidential politics to livestock testicles.

He was a master wordsmith both poignant and poetic. He found the human in both farm and city life without poking fun at or belittling either. He connected producer and consumer at a level far above petty squabbles over GMOs and organic food. His firsthand, science-based knowledge of animal husbandry allowed him to expose and discredit the empty claims of the radical animal rights movement.

Always sporting his bigger than life mustache and cowboy hat, he was a kind, warm, and genuine individual, rare in the entertainment industry. I had the chance to interview him several times and was honored to call him a friend.

Agriculture will miss Baxter Black.

I hope his works will continue to provide a bridge of understanding between two groups that need to understand one another better. I also hope his example will inspire a new generation of bridge builders who will find new ways to bring rural and city folks closer together.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.

 

‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: The Conscious Connoisseur

When ordering a pizza on-line recently I noticed a new menu category called “The Conscious Connoisseur.” This section contained all kinds of choices that they felt were “sustainable and environmentally friendly.” Most of these were plant-based (not real meat) toppings because they felt that somehow these were more sustainable and better for the environment than livestock and dairy farming.

While the marketing people at food companies think this is going to be a big motivator for consumers, research says otherwise.  A recent report from Purdue suggests that, in general, consumers don’t give a hoot about food claims like sustainability and environmental impact.

According to the latest Purdue Consumer Food Insights Report, a monthly report identifying trends and changes in consumer food purchases and preferences, such issues as sustainability and the environmental impact rank very low in what determines what food people choose to eat. Sam Polzin, a food and agriculture survey scientist for the center and co-author of the report said, ”Most Americans understand their food choices affect the environment; but survey results also have shown that sustainability beliefs do not necessarily play out through consumer behaviors, and environmental impact is low on the list of purchasing considerations.”

There are persistent misunderstandings when it comes to food and sustainability, noted Jayson Lusk, the head and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue. “More people believe local food is better for the environment than believe eating less meat is better for the environment,” he said. “However, scientific studies show little evidence of benefits of local food production and significant evidence of the negative impact of meat production. To me, this highlights the need for consumers to have better access to information and more transparency in the food system, which is what we aim to do.”

So, if people are all that worried about the sustainability of the food they eat, what is the top concern: GMOs, animal welfare, carbon footprint? NO, none of the above. According to the Purdue survey, the top issue on the minds of food consumers is bird flu, and 60% of consumers are concerned about the impact of bird flu on food prices.

Yet, here again, misinformation and false impressions are at work. While disease is a serious threat to the livestock industry, supplies and prices have not been impacted greatly by the current avian influenza outbreak. Yes, poultry prices are increasing, but there are many factors causing this and the virus is a very small part of it.  The poultry industry and state and federal agencies have responded quickly to limit and contain the virus. The media reports on millions of birds being killed or euthanized, but what most people don’t understand that this is still a very small number of animals compared to what is in production each day.

So how about if we knock off the Conscious Connoisseur BS and instead stress being an Informed Connoisseur. Take a few minutes and learn what foods are actually non-sustainable, which really have an environmental impact, and what is really driving up your food costs.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.

‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: It Is Worth the Risk

Farming is a risky business.  We all know that all too well at planting season.  So, whenever possible, producers try to manage or minimize risks.  It is not surprising that, when it comes to talking to the media, many in agriculture would avoid talking to a non-agricultural journalist.

Fear-mongering about food is an easy way for media outlets to boost ratings and generate publicity.  In addition, activist groups regularly use media outlets to advance their agenda.

Recently, I was involved in teaching a group of agricultural leaders how to work with the media to tell the story of agriculture.  I sensed some resistance in the room, and it finally came out when someone asked, “Why should we even talk to them?  They are only going to twist our words and make us look bad?”

This is a legitimate question based on some of the smear stories, undercover videos, and downright lies that many media outlets have turned out about agriculture.  Yet, though hiding under a rock or flying under the radar may sound safe, it is not.  In today’s media-saturated, over-tweeted, bot-driven social media, hiding is impossible.  It is also impossible to control what is said about you.

So, my answer to the questioner was that it is worth the risk.

When talking to the non-ag media, keep your message simple, make it personal, and know your facts.  This will not guarantee you get a positive ag story, but if you don’t tell your story, I guarantee they will find someone who will, which may not be the story you want.

Keep in mind not all journalists are low life, blood-sucking, slimeballs.  Sometimes their misinformation on agriculture comes from just not knowing the facts.  The more we can make ourselves available and tell our story in a way that is relatable to their non-farm audience, the better the chances are they may get the story right.

We can also be proactive in our own local communities.  Take the initiative and reach out to your local newspaper, radio station or television station.  Offer to be a resource on agriculture.  Help them think of ag-related stories that are of interest to their audience.  If you don’t engage with the media, the real risk you run is not just an inaccurate story, but the risk of having your views marginalized and your way of life threatened.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.

Farm Show Set to Return to Grand Park in Westfield; Exhibitor Reservations are Now Open

A look from atop the Indiana Farm Equipment & Technology Expo taken from ag tech expert Chad Colby’s drone.

The Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo announced that it will return to Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana from December 13 – 15, 2022.  The three day Expo features a showcase of the latest agricultural technology as well as one of the largest displays of farm equipment in the Eastern Corn Belt. Exhibitor reservations are now open, and contracts can be obtained at indianafarmexpo.com

The Expo moved to Grand Park in 2021 after a 43 year run at the State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.  The new location and venue received rave reviews by exhibitors and by the more than 6000 farmers that attended the show last year. Several new features and services are being planned for the 2022 event.

NEW for ‘22

Several new services have been added to make exhibiting at the Expo easy and convenient.

  • Free use of fork lift equipment
  • Free Pressure washing station
  • Free designated exhibitor parking area
  • Food exhibitors now allowed on the show floor

In 2021, all available exhibit space was used, and several interested exhibitors were turned away.  With even more and larger equipment expected for the 2022 show, those interested in exhibiting should make commitments early.

A promotional video highlighting the Expo and the Grand Park facility can be found below:

About the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo:

The Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo is the joint venture of the two largest, agricultural media organizations in Indiana: Hoosier Ag Today and Farm World Newspaper. In 2018, the two organizations formed Midwest Ag Events, LLC and purchased the Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment and Outdoor Power Show from Richard Sherman, who had owned and operated the show for 40 years. The show’s name was changed and its focus expanded to encompass new developments in technology that impact production agriculture. With expanding show attendance and the increasing size of farm equipment, the Expo decided to relocate to the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana. The Expo is held in December each year after farmers have completed their production season and as they begin to plan for the next year. More than just a trade show, the Expo features a free seminar series with informational programs covering top issues and also new trends and developments in agriculture. There is no charge for the three-day event. More information can be found at indianafarmexpo.com.

‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: Déjà Poo

I came across a new word recently, Déjà Poo — simply defined as “I have heard this crap before.”

This perfectly sums up the current furor over the price of gasoline.

Most motorists erroneously believe that the price of oil directly impacts the price of fuel at the pump.  Just as with the price of food, what determines the price of gas is varied and complex.  Yet, to hear most Republicans tell it, President Biden has a dial on his desk in the oval office that sets the price of gas for the whole country.

Last week the President announced the rollback of some unnecessary and outdated federal regulations on the sale of E-15 gas.  This bit of flimflam was designed to reassure motorists that the Biden administration actually has an energy policy and that the President was responding to concerns about high gas prices. The reality is that this action has been called for by the ethanol sector for several years. Yet, both the Trump EPA and the Biden EPA have refused to take this step. While this will certainly help improve the use of a 15% blend in the fuel supply and will lower prices to a degree, it is not the silver bullet that will send pump prices back under the $2 mark. It is akin to President Jimmy Carter telling Americans to “put on a sweater” during the heating oil shortage in the 1970s.

The only time you hear Americans or their elected officials talk about energy policy is when fuel prices go up. Then the public demands energy independence, and politicians do a quick step, blame the other guys, and throw some knee jerk policy plan together to bamboozle us unto thinking they are doing something.  The truth is, there is one step that could be taken to make the U.S. energy independent, but Washington is unwilling to take it.

The engine specifications for cars, trucks, and most surface transportation vehicles are regulated by the federal government. Automakers have long had the technology to build higher compression engines that would significantly increase the fuel efficiency of cars. Yet, regulations prevent this from occurring.  While a benefit to motorists, higher mileage engines would not benefit Federal and State governments or the oil industry. If motorists had to refuel less often, tax revenues would go down and oil profits would decline.

This is an oversimplification of the situation, but it does point out how government regulation and corporate monopolization of the fuel market has led to higher prices and less innovation in the market.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.