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At 38 years and counting editor still has much to learnAt 38 years and counting editor still has much to learn

Ron Smith 1

June 15, 2016

3 Min Read
<p>On the job in Lamesa, Texas, with good friend Shawn Holladay.</p>

On or about June 17, 1978, I made my first out of town trip as a Farm Press reporter. I flew out of Atlanta, Ga., to Lexington, Ky., rented a car and caught up with a group of University of Kentucky Extension agronomists, farmers, industry representatives and others on the first weed tour I had ever covered—or heard of.

I soon learned just how ignorant I was about the complexity of agriculture—even after spending almost two years as an Extension and Experiment Station editor at Clemson University. I found that I did not know the names of all the weeds, much less all the chemistry available and being developed to keep them out of cropland. I heard the word dinitroaniline for the first time in my life—had no idea what it meant.

In the following weeks, I covered another weed tour—this time in the Deep South—numerous field days, and farms. Typically, Farm Press editors spent Monday through Wednesday in the field collecting information, shooting photos with a twin lens Yashica “box” camera loaded with black and white film.

Thursday and Friday was devoted to writing as much and as fast as possible (on either a portable manual typewriter or the crème-de la crème IBM Selectric), getting  film processed, and packing it all up in a manila  envelope and mailing it to Clarksdale, Miss., in hopes of getting it to my editor the next Monday.


Between stories, I had to line up interviews for the next week—we published weekly back then—and arrange travel. It was a busy time. Oh, and I was also relocating from a small town in Upstate, S.C., to the bustling burbs of Atlanta.

In the 38 years since, I can’t even guess how many field days, tours, farm visits and conferences I’ve attended. I can’t enumerate all the bad hotel beds I’ve failed to sleep in, and I can’t remember how many bad roads I’ve been lost on.

I also recall that I didn’t assume in 1978 that I would spend most of the next 38 years as an employee of Farm Press Publications or that I would never learn as much as I need to about the complexity of agriculture. I didn’t understand that the farmers I interviewed would become friends, some almost like family.

I didn’t realize then that my colleagues at Farm Press, several of whom have been here longer than I have, would also become valued friends. We’ve watched each other’s families grow up and have welcomed grandchildren. We’ve survived numerous ownership changes and have evolved from typewriters, black and white photography, and transmission via U.S. Post Office to a 21st Century, multi-platform agricultural communications company.

It continues to be a wonderful ride, and I continue to be amazed at the increasing complexity of agriculture and the adaptability of farmers and ranchers to use technology to become more productive and more efficient.

After 38 years, I still get lost on bad roads; I still fail to sleep on bad hotel beds; and lord knows I still have a lot to learn about agriculture.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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