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Eavesdrop on agriculture: Podcasts giving farmers a voice

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Eavesdrop on agriculture: Podcasts giving farmers a voice

Will Evans, who farms in northeast Wales in the United Kingdom, was honored as the 2017 Digital Innovator of the Year at the 2017 British Farming Awards. Evans, who started the Rock & Roll Farming podcast, was congratulated by Emma Penny, group head of content for Briefing Agriculture Media, and by James Greevy, head of product and marketing for HerdWatch.

BRADFORD, Ill. — Podcasts are finding not just a voice, but an audience in the farming community.

The digital audio talk shows that can be accessed anywhere via a smartphone app are allowing farmers and agriculturalists to discuss a variety of topics, some of which haven’t been addressed much or even at all.

“Anything that is kind of taboo or that people don’t want to talk about, we go right after it,” said Rob Sharkey.

The farmer and hunting outfitter from Bureau County has one of the best-known podcasts, the Sharkfarmer podcast.

But Sharkey didn’t start his podcast to shake up things in the ag community. He sought out a hunting podcast to boost his outfitting business.

“I didn’t fill my hunting spots, and I had never had to really try before, so I asked Carrie Zylka if she wanted to come down and do a podcast, since she had a lot of followers on Twitter. She did and we got to talking and she taught me how to podcast,” he said.

Zylka hosts a number of podcasts, including the HuntFishTravel podcast.

Sharkey talks to a variety of people on Twitter and in the world of agriculture, but the topics are far from cows, sows and plows. He and his guests discuss frankly some topics that formerly have been taboo in the world of farming.

“We’ve talked about mental health and anxiety. That’s one of those things in farming we don’t talk about since it’s seen as a weakness. But a lot of farmers out there are farming by themselves, and it gets to them. We’ve talked about parenting children with Down syndrome. Often, the host learns from his guests,” Sharkey said.

“I thought I was going to be doing an interview with someone about the struggles of raising a child with Down syndrome. Both Mandy Rizzo and Chad Ingels taught me that it was an interview about the joys of raising children with Down syndrome. It was definitely an education for me, and, hopefully, other people learned some stuff, too.”

Hot Mess Moms In Ag

When it comes to parenting and being a mom in agriculture, the trio of Jennifer Eck Campbell, who farms with her husband, Chris, in Indiana; Karen Corrigan, an agronomist and partner in McGillicuddy-Corrigan Agronomics; and Angie Setzer, a grain merchandiser and vice president of Grain for Citizens LLC, take on topics from GMOs and grocery shopping to Country of Origin Labeling, snack suggestions for toddlers and the challenges of being women in agriculture and parenting.

“When we talk about subjects, we talk about them as a grain merchandiser, an agronomist and a farmer, but we also talk as moms,” Corrigan said.

They use a hashtag on Twitter, #hotmessmomsinag, to show the real side of life.

“We use that hashtag to show that, OK, we’re all out here and in spite of what it looks like, none of us have it together and that’s OK. You don’t have to be the picture-perfect Facebook mom. Things go wrong, and we’re real about that,” Corrigan said.

They came onto the podcasting scene as an almost impromptu event.

“We had a private message group going on Twitter with Jen and Angie and me, Rob Sharkey, Chad Ingels and Shawn Harmon. We were joking that we should do a podcast like ‘The Five’ on Fox News. Right before we did, the boys all chickened out, so it ended up being Angie and Jen and I. We each Amazon Primed us a microphone on Wednesday, we got them on Friday and we launched the first podcast that Sunday,” Corrigan said.

Each podcast takes about an hour, and then Setzer edits them. Corrigan said the podcasts draw a diverse audience of women and men, within and outside agriculture.

“I thought our hot mess moms was going to be mostly women, but it’s really funny when the guys say ‘oh, I listen to that.’ It’s ‘hot mess moms,’ but it’s also just about parenting,” Corrigan said.

What makes the podcasts even more interesting is that many of the times the participants have never met in person, though their interviews sound like they’ve known each other for years.

“I’ve never met Angie in person, I only know her from talking to her on Twitter and then we started doing the podcast. At some point, we will meet up,” Corrigan said.

Rock & Roll Farming

Podcasts also are catching on with farmers across the pond.

Will Evans, who operates a cattle, grain and layer hen farm in northeast Wales, along the River Dee, also is the star of the Rock & Roll Farming podcast. The name came naturally, he said.

“I wanted something eye-catching and a bit different, that people would remember. Also, I’m a big music fan and I think farming’s pretty cool and what’s cooler than rock and roll?” he said.

Evans talks to people in agriculture from around the United Kingdom and Ireland each week. His focus is on the people who work in agriculture to produce food.

“I’m really trying to show off the range of cool and interesting people involved in our industry and just how many different types of roles and characters there are,” he said.

His efforts paid off when he was honored with the 2017 Digital Innovator of the Year award at the recent British Farming Awards.

Evans said one challenge he and his guests sometimes face is making contact.

“The biggest challenge for me is, 100 percent, poor rural communications. Every week’s a challenge in that either my or my guests’ broadband is an issue. They have a bad cell phone signal or, in some cases, even their landlines have problems,” he said.

Evans said that he believes podcasts are a way for people, whether they are involved in agriculture and farming or not, to connect without the need to travel.

“It’s harder and harder for people to get off the farm, and social media platforms like Twitter really connect you with people. It’s a brilliant soundboard for advice and ideas,” he said.

Jeannine Otto can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 211, or jotto@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Otto.

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