Across the Editor's Desk: October 2007
I've heard it said that almost every bit of information in the world that you would want to know can be found on the World Wide Web. Indeed, it seems that an opinion -- if not an answer to most questions -- is just a Google away.
More than information, which is exploding in immeasurable abundance, we crave practical knowledge. That requires a certain amount of trust in the source.
Overwhelmed with information in our search for a little wisdom for decisions, we each choose filters to make the journey quicker and easier. We choose favorite magazines, Web sites, and other media. We also choose people we've met and know.
One rapidly growing source of farmer-filtered knowledge of recent years is the online community forum. At Agriculture Online, the Talk community includes 25 discussion groups of different topics.
One of the most popular groups is Marketing Talk. Discussion is insightful, vibrant and "maybe even a source of entertainment from time to time," says John Walter, editor of Agriculture Online.
A number of the Marketing Talk regulars have known each other by their online names since nearly the beginning of Agriculture Online in May of 1995. After years of trading information and challenging one anotherâ€™s views, you get to know your fellow posters pretty well. You discern whose opinions you most value and trust.
Still, knowing someone online is not the same as looking them in the eye. In early July, one of the Marketing Talk members, Frank Lechtenberg of Butte, Nebraska, suggested that the group's regular visitors gather somewhere, sometime for a meeting.
The Agriculture Online team assisted by finding a meeting room near Des Moines and also invited several speakers. On August 23, nearly 50 regulars from seven states came together to match a person with an online name -- such as p-oed Farmer and John from S. MN -- for the first time.
This summer, I also got to know a group that has been meeting continuously for 125 years. I spoke at the anniversary celebration of the Hayes Township Farmers Club in Buena Vista County, Iowa.
"We believe that we are the oldest club of our kind in Iowa -- or possibly the United States -- that has been in existence for that long," says Doris Rice of the celebration committee.
The club's history states the group was founded "to promote social and intellectual facilities and to gain more knowledge concerning farm family life."
Original club bylaws still in place limit membership to 20 families and ban discussion of politics and religion. Food, planned discussion topics and games are the core elements of meetings. Despite the many changes in agriculture and rural life over the past 125 years, one thing remains, says Rice.
"The heart and soul of the people who belong to the club is no different than the founders," she says. "They are hardworking, decent people who love their God, country and fellow man, and they enjoy the fellowship of their club members."