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Across the Editor's Desk: Mid-February 2008

Agriculture.com Staff 02/18/2008 @ 6:41pm

Tom Troland is among my favorite employees of my company, Meredith Corporation, which was founded by Successful Farming magazine in 1902 and is now a diverse multimedia company.

Troland's title doesn't say futurist, but it might as well. It is his job to spot and track emerging trends by sorting through complex data and also by studying what most people might consider obscure sources of information. He jokes that he's known as the guy in the company who every year tells managers that consumers are one year older.

In a recent meeting in New York, Troland showed a slide that presented the explosion of media options in recent years.

As a benchmark, he used 1966, which happens to be my freshman year of college. You could count the media choices on one hand. The list was newspapers, three-network broadcast TV, magazines, radio, and eight-track tapes.

By 1986, the list had expanded to 11 -- even as eight-track tape was deleted. Additions included cable TV, cassette tapes, Walkman, VCRs, the personal computer, console video games, and PC video games.

By 2006, the list had grown dramatically in number -- to 30 -- as well as in complexity of choices. Here are just a few of the additions: iPod, CD player, Internet, mobile Internet, satellite TV, cell phone, instant messaging, and social networks.

Note how many more of the media options are now two way or multiple way in nature. The buzzword is interactivity.

I reflected on that term a day after I returned from New York. On that day I crammed three meetings with farmers into what for me as a journalist was a great day of learning from a spectrum of readers.

As I visited with farmers, I was reminded of something that I had read recently. The writer was advocating the value and joy of people spending more time in face-to-face interaction and a little less with electronic interactivity.

I hope that you haven't shorted your time spent in farm meetings this winter. And I hope you haven't forgotten the value and pleasure of visiting one-on-one with other farmers facing the same challenges and decisions that you are.

Here are just three of the takeaways among dozens of observations and ideas that I harvested at my three meetings in central Iowa on January 26.

First takeaway: All corn and soybean growers owe a great deal to the volunteer farm leaders who helped ignite the new biofuels industry. I was reminded of that as I listened to Pam Johnson, chair of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, tell of her organization's efforts at a meeting of grower cooperators of Farmer’s Independent Research of Seed Technologies (F.I.R.S.T.).

Second takeaway: People skills, good neighboring, and your reputation matter a lot in helping you acquire rented land to expand your business. I gleaned that advice from farmer Wayne Johnson of Forest City, Iowa, at the Iowa State University Beginning Farmers Conference.

Third takeaway: Make time to enjoy your special passions with your friends. I observed that in bountiful measure at the Iowa Chapter 5 of the International Harvester Collectors Club winter meeting.

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