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Serving: West

Reflecting on my first 10 weeks as Dakota Farmer’s editor

Sarah McNaughton Sarah McNaughton In field with dog
REMOTE WORK: Working from home in North Dakota makes it easy to find and follow stories around the region.
New job comes with learning, mentoring and fun on the farm.

It’s only been 10 weeks since I took on the challenge of editor of Dakota Farmer. In these weeks I’ve learned so much about editing, gotten to work with an incredible team, and realized college can’t teach you everything. Add into that challenge transitioning to a fully remote job, preparing to move to central North Dakota and trying to finish a graduate thesis.

While my degree is in agricultural communications, I took more animal science classes than communication or writing classes. I also always chose to take agriculture elective classes, and even my communication adviser asked me why I’d take dairy evaluation instead of other media options. As a mid-20 something who is well-versed in ag but just learning editorial work, I love being a part of a team who brings so much experience to the table.

The Farm Progress team I work with bring decades of experience to help me learn more about the job and covering Dakota agriculture. Our weekly editorial meetings consist of sharing what we’re doing, upcoming stories and, of course, multiple questions from everyone.

These meetings consist of our fearless leader Mindy Ward, who is the editor of Missouri Ruralist on top of any number of other responsibilities she has within Farm Progress. Curt Arens is the new editor for Nebraska Farmer, who was formerly the staff writer at the same publication. Kevin Schulz is the senior staff writer for both Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer, and brings years of experience and expertise to both publications as a former editor and longtime writer.

Challenging but worth it

With every new job or position, there will always be a less-than-fun part that is human resources training and courses. Every job I’ve had, there have always been plenty of questions about what makes an insurance plan best or how much to contribute to a 401(k). Stress and uncertainty of sorting through this process is usually the hardest part about starting a new job. Aside from those topics, my days are spent brainstorming new story ideas, making sure I’ve signed up for all of the relevant listservs and setting up a game plan for the rest of the year.

As a freelance photographer for most of my adult life, the change from getting a creative shot of a rodeo or senior session to capturing editorial images has been an adjustment. Most of my photos could hang as an art piece or be displayed among other family photos, but magazine covers don’t have the same feeling. Luckily I have guidance to help me learn to shoot fantastic photos that you’ll soon be seeing on the cover.

A highlight has been completing layout for my first issue of Dakota Farmer, planning out cover stories and getting back into visiting with old colleagues in ag media. I don’t want to be writing stories about just anything; I want every story that hits the website and magazine pages to be interesting, relevant and helpful for producers. One of the things I like about Farm Progress is that editors and writers work remotely to have the best ability to connect with the ag industry in their regions.

Most importantly, days spent working with producers and writing about their stories never feels like work. The latest farm visit I did was of a 1,500-head dairy that had all kinds of interesting stories within its farm history. Having the chance to meet with outstanding producers really makes my entire week when I get to visit a farm. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn in this position, and maybe even find my way onto your farm in the future.


TAGS: Farm Life
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