Two years ago, I began my career with Southwest Farm Press. When I was interviewed by Ron Smith for the position, he told me then, and several times since, “Shelley, this is the best job in agriculture.”
I have since found this to be true. True, because we get to interview America’s farmers, hear your stories and then retell them in paragraph form and capture them in photographs. True, because we get to travel the backroads of rural America and witness your hard work ethic, ingenuity, and grit. True, because we get to meet your families, sit at your tables, and my favorite, visit with your wives.
Last month I attended several producer meetings and farm tours, from Lubbock, Texas, to Hydro, Oklahoma. And as I did, I was reminded of another reason this is the best job in agriculture. Ron Smith.
He will be quite uncomfortable with me writing about him. But even Ron Smith has a story to be told. But this story is told by you.
Since 1978, Ron has been covering agriculture for Farm Press. While he began his career covering the southeast, he eventually moved to Texas and from 1999 to 2018, covered Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Today, he’s walking the turn rows of the Delta, interviewing their farmers and threatening to eventually retire.
Rarely do I attend a meeting, and someone not ask me about Ron. My favorite question is, “Are you the one who’s replacing Ron?” To which I reply, “Ron Smith can never be replaced.” And I mean it.
Often, after people ask about Ron, they begin to tell me stories, some of which can not be repeated. They talk about his kindness. One grower said how much he appreciated Ron coming to his farm and spending the day talking. Listening. When people describe him, they use words like integrity, funny, personable. They talk about his uncanny ability to write a story. I often hear, “I’ve known Ron for a long time—we go way back.”
In 1978, when Ron began his writing career in agriculture, I was a little girl playing with dolls in the basement of our Canadian home and by 1999, I was newly married to my handsome farmer and learning the ropes of being a farmer’s wife. Little did I know, someone was busy laying a foundation of trust, writing with integrity and building lasting relationships, so that one day I could walk in most anywhere and say, “I’m Shelley Huguley with Southwest Farm Press. I work with Ron Smith,” and immediately guards go down and people are willing to talk to me.
I often tell Ron, “When I grow up, I want to write like Ron.” While he has a way with words, it’s how he relates with people and the mark he leaves, that for me makes this the best job in agriculture.