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Celebrating Ron Smith, 42 years covering agriculture

After 42 years with Farm Press Publications, Ron Smith is retiring, effective Aug. 7.

Ron Smith, editor of Delta Farm Press, is retiring from Farm Press Publications on Aug. 7. He is highly regarded in the Sunbelt states by farmers, Extension specialists, scientists and industry representatives.

He started as associate editor at Southeast Farm Press in 1978 and later was editor of Southern Turf and Landscape Management and Northern Turf and Landscape Management, editor of Southwest Farm Press, and senior content director for Farm Press/Farm Progress.

"Thanks to Farm Press Publications for giving me more than 40 years to wander around the Sunbelt and talk to farmers, ranchers and a few turf and landscape managers about how they perform miracles on a daily basis," Smith said in a recent column.

"I could not have chosen a better employer. Farm Press editors and publishers offered me uncommon freedom to travel where I needed to go, interview people who could offer insightful information and to use a bit of creativity to tell their stories.

"Thank you to the many Extension and research scientists who spent time explaining agriculture to a liberal arts major — with exceptional patience.

"Thanks, too, to commodity organizations that always made time to provide information I needed to cover agriculture.

"Perhaps most important, thanks to the hundreds of farmers who trusted me to tell your stories. You welcomed me onto your farms, often into your kitchens and living rooms, sometimes onto your combines and cotton pickers, and explained how you did your job, often against incredible odds of bad weather, breakdowns and poor markets. I treasure your friendship.

"I have left few farms without thinking as I drove away that I had not only just gotten the necessary ingredients for a good story but also that I had just made a new friend," he wrote in another column.

"I consider myself a fortunate man to have friends scattered across rural America from the Southeast to Southwest and a whole lot of acreage in between."

In retirement, Smith plans to travel extensively with his wife, Pat; spend more time with his grandsons, Aaron Jones, 18, Hunter Jones, 16, and Walker Lewis, 6.; and pull more fish from the lakes and rivers of eastern Tennessee.

Co-workers' farewells

As a farewell to Smith, this gallery is filled with photos and well-wishes from men and women from throughout the agricultural industry. His co-workers shared favorite memories and offered him their best wishes in the following statements:

"There are so many stories that I can share, but one that stands out is when Ron attended a conference call for all Farm Press in a boat on a lake or river sometime in the '00 decade. For 30 minutes, Ron was providing detailed weather reports including how the fish were biting that day. I kept prompting Ron with more and more questions around his exploits on the lake. I thought it was one of the best Farm Press conference calls that we ever had." — Greg Frey, Senior Vice President, Operations

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Ron Smith and Greg Frey, senior vice president, Operations, Farm Press.

"I have worked opposite Ron Smith for many years. When Farm Progress was acquired by Penton in 2012, one of the first messages I got was from Ron asking, 'Can we be friends?' I have always respected Ron for his excellent sense of humor and his love of agriculture and even as competitors we have been friends. While I know he's taking the retirement road, I do expect to see him in the future." — Willie Vogt, Executive Director, Content and User Engagement – Farm Progress

"Ron's footprint on Southern agriculture is immense. The thousands of stories and pictures over the last four decades are the record for that. Those of us who've had the good fortune to work alongside him are better for it. Ron has a particular trait I admire: Work and laugh as often as you can.

"Even though he is retiring, going off to catch up on catching fish, taking longer hikes (or naps) or attending to whatever honey-do Pat has lined up for him on any particular day (and I hope they are many), we'll still be seeing and talking with Ron. You can retire, but we all know you don't leave agriculture. It's a family and it's in the blood." — Brad Haire, Senior Content Director

"My favorite thing about Ron Smith is his gift of sarcasm. I'm not sure he and I know how to relate without it! One of my first memories of Ron is sitting in a restaurant in Mississippi where I had ordered fish tacos. His response? 'I only order fish where I can see seagulls flying!' (I ordered them anyway!)

"It's rare that I attend a meeting or visit a farm that I'm not asked about Ron Smith. He is dearly loved and respected in these parts! I've always said, 'You can't replace Ron Smith,' but rest assured I've tried to learn all I can from him so I can continue his Southwest legacy. Ron, thank you for mentoring me, challenging me and making me a better writer! Most of all, thank you for always making me laugh! The Huguley family wishes you the best!"  — Shelley E. Huguley, Southwest Farm Press Editor. 

"When Ron Smith joined the Farm Press editorial staff, he was young and had very little journalism experience — particularly when it came to agriculture. He did have enthusiasm and an out-going personality and that quickly raised the learning curve as he covered farming in the Southeast region.

"It was his move to the Southwest that I think framed his career, however. Covering Texas and Oklahoma for Farm Press as a one-person staff was a huge assignment, but he took on the challenge and handled it well. I would say he matured in all phases of life and this allowed him to later take on a leadership role with the editorial staff.

"It has always been a pleasure to work with Ron — now a seasoned and well-respected ag journalist. He will be missed, but I wish him well in retirement." — Glen Rutz, Senior Staff Writer

"I remember the first time I met Ron in-person as if it were a year ago, which it was. We had been emailing and talking over the phone back and forth over a few weeks, and when I got the job as a staff writer, Ron emailed me that he would like to take me to lunch to tell me more about the job and get to know me. He also added this piece of advice, 'Never turn down an opportunity for a free meal.'

"I knew we were going to get along well. Through talking about books, writing, and life in general, Ron is not only a colleague and mentor but a dear friend. He has challenged me to be a better writer through his wisdom, or in his words, through the fine art of 'smoke and mirrors.'

"Congratulations on your retirement, Ron. Enjoy more time to go fishing without a deadline hanging over your head and, of course, spending time with family and friends. Congratulations, you are one of the best in the business."— Alaina Dismukes, Staff Writer

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Farm Press staff, from left, Ron Smith, Dave Noland and Greg Frey.

"Inevitably, when discussing ag journalism or specific ag stories in the Southwest, someone would say, 'Do you know Ron Smith?'

"To be perfectly honest, unless I had a specific task that interacted with the press, I tended to avoid the press (and, that's right, I was in communications, ha!). I'd push a grower or a spokesperson in front of the reporter. But there were a few people in the ag press that I covertly observed and read as much as I could — Ron was one of those guys.

"I worked a portion of Ron's territory while he was in the Southwest and would occasionally see him in action at meetings in San Antonio or Lubbock.

"Ron was always on task yet making the most of the encounter. He would be doing an interview, and really enjoying himself — making that task as fluid and seemingly effortless as possible. He has a genuine interest in what he is doing, regardless of the situation.

"His writing style is fluid and easy to follow, like sitting in a boat and going with the flow — not too fast and not too slow. You generally know the way he's going and enjoy the ride. Sometimes he'll throw you a curve in a commentary, but it's always worthwhile to see his point.

"I've learned a lot about his humor while working with him this past year. It's self-deprecating, reasonably relatable and always cued up.

"It's been a blast working with him for this past year and a half. I just wish I could have worked with him longer." — Brent Murphree, Farm Press Content Director

"Ron Smith is the Nolan Ryan, the Tiger Woods and the Michael Jordan of farm writers. He is among the best of all time. And just as Yo Yo Ma makes beautiful music with a cello and Itzhak Perlman makes beautiful music with a violin, Ron Smith makes beautiful music with the English language.

"More than that, Ron is a true friend. He is Mr. Farm Press. He will be greatly missed." — John Hart, Staff Writer

"It's been a pleasure working with Ron over the years. I've always enjoyed his quick wit and storytelling abilities. He will be missed!"— Cindy Hubbard, Inside Sales Manager

"It has been an absolute pleasure working with Ron. He is full of stories whether it is ag-related or his favorite hobby fishing. Good luck and now go bait your hook!" — Baker Patton, Account Executive

"Thirty-four years together! I love his humor, his book, his fishing stories and him. Especially loved our times with Ron and Pat at SCPA. Ron, keep hiking and enjoying God's creation." — Darrah Pierce, Marketing Manager.

"Working with Ron has been my privilege since I first came to Farm Press 14 years ago. He taught me so much and even though we disagreed a few times, we made the best of our 'oil and water' positions! I wish him continued success and good health!" — Cheri Knoy, Director, Strategic Accounts

“I can’t believe Ron is retiring, mainly because he seems so young! It has been a pleasure to work with Ron and I really admire all his positive traits… not only love of the work he does with reporting on our Farm Press regions’ growers, but also the love he shows for his family.” Dave Noland, Director, Strategic Accounts

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Farm Press co-workers, from left, Sandy Perry, Ron Smith and Cheri Knoy.

"Ron Smith is a great communicator. If you've ever heard him speak at a public meeting, you know he's a natural. He can hold an audience for 20, 30, 40 minutes or whatever he is asked to do.

"For years Ron was one of the editors who presented the High Cotton awards to farmers in each of the regions served by Farm Press. Since Ron was the editor of Southwest Farm Press, he usually was the third editor to speak at the ceremony. Sometimes the program would start to drag a little after the first two awards, and we could always count on Ron to pick things up with a good joke or story about his winner that hadn't appeared in the Farm Presses." — Forrest Laws, former Farm Press Editor

"Ron and I began our careers with Farm Press at about the same time. During that time, we've worked together on several publications and I've always appreciated his tireless production of quality editorial. He's one of the best writers I've worked with during this time. And, he's been a special friend. One of our favorite family photos is of him reading a book to our two small children during a visit to our home. Mary Ruth and I wish him and Pat the best in these coming years." — Ed Phillips, Senior Staff Writer.

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