By JORDAN STRICKLER
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Throughout the history of agriculture, information has played an important part in maintaining a successful operation. Like any business, farms rely on news and updates to keep operations running smoothly, whether for weather reports, practical growing strategies, or governmental regulations.
As times change, so does the medium for acquiring information. Most recent is the breakout of the podcast.
“I think that for production ag, with the amount of time people spend in a vehicle and on the road, whether it be a truck or a tractor, podcasts are a really convenient way to get information,” said Aaron Berger, a beef extension educator at the University of Nebraska who focuses on cow-calf economics and ranch business management, and host of the podcast “BeefWatch.”
“Podcasts are a great medium to either educate themselves or to keep on top of the latest news stories. It's a great way to get information while you are working.”
Previously known as “audioblogging,” podcasting has been around since the 1980s, when Radio Computing Services provided music and talk-related software to radio stations in a digital format. With the invention of broadband internet and mobile devices like tablets and smart phones that allow listeners to carry audio files on a single device, podcasting really began to rise in popularity.
Today there are more than 115,000 English-language podcasts available online, and dozens of websites available for their distribution at little or no cost to the producer or listener. A 2017 survey by Edison Research estimated that 67 million Americans over the age of 12 listen to podcasts at least monthly and 42 million listen on a weekly basis.
Farmers, it turns out, are no different. “Part of the research that we did before launching our podcast was looking at a study that Farm Journal Media did, which found that more than half of farmers surveyed listened to audio on their phone at least once a day, with a quarter of them listening multiple times a day,” said Annie Baxter, producer of the “Field Work” podcast.
She said the benefits podcasts have over traditional media are twofold. First, unlike many older media platforms, the informal nature of podcasting makes it more appealing to listeners.
“People don't want to feel preached at,” said Baxter. “One thing we were really intentional about was to make the show funny. There is a lot of banter between the hosts. That is something people want. They want to hang out with the hosts and get to know the person.
“They want to be entertained, in addition to learning. There are a number of agriculture podcasts which are just boring, and don't have the same tongue-in-cheek attitude. That is something that I really encourage.”
Second, and more important, is the actual type of information delivered. While news is important, Baxter said perhaps more critical to an operation are discussions that can help farmers become more efficient in their work, as well as intelligent debates on a number of topics.
“We did a small sample group before we launched and there seemed to be a demand for frank, realistic conversations about adopting sustainable practices and helping farmers share ideas. They want to know if something has worked for someone, such as tillage practices, or not, and what happened when it did. They are looking for information.”
Chip Flory, host of one of the nation’s largest ag-related radio shows and podcasts, “AgriTalk,” agrees. “The first of our two daily shows is about issues, but it’s not necessarily issues that everyone is talking about. We like to bring a different point of view to those subjects, which I think is important.”
“Cattlemen and -women of all generations have stories to tell and advice to share,” said Lane Nordlund, host of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assoc. “Cattleman’s Call” podcast. “The podcast is capturing the conversations that happen each day down at the local cafe, the stockyards, or at the kitchen table.
“By sharing real, authentic stories of our peers in the cattle business, listeners will no doubt relate to what’s discussed. We can all learn from the guests on the show, share a laugh with them, and know that we are all facing challenges in the countryside.”
Due to online nature of the medium, podcasts also have the additional benefit of a vast listenership across long swaths of the country.
“One great thing about podcasts are the breadth of listeners you can reach”, said Berger. “We mostly reach cattle states such as Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, but we have listeners in Canada and overseas, as well.”
“We cover the 12 Midwest states and down into Texas and up in New York,” said Flory. “We've got really good really good coverage for both morning and afternoon shows. We've also got a lot of listeners in Europe and down in South America, so it is really an international program. It's pretty cool.”
To explore other podcasts relevant to your interests on your desktop computer, use any online search engine, or on your mobile device download a podcasting app from your app store (such as the App Store or Google Play), then use the app’s search function to find programs.