|By SUSAN BLOWER
CLERMONT, Ind. — Gary Truitt is on a mission “to tell the story of Indiana agriculture” through his new radio network, Hoosier Ag Today (HAT).
“Radio goes to everybody. It reaches the entire community,” Truitt said Friday after the first two busy weeks of broadcasting farm news through the new network.
Truitt said 20 radio stations have signed on to broadcast his farm news segments. Most of them have never broadcast ag news before, he said.
“Agriculture is now a hot topic with renewable fuels and bio-energy in the news, as well as food safety. It’s of interest to (radio’s) entire audience. Part of telling the story of Indiana agriculture is talking to nonfarmers,” Truitt said.
Truitt has helped start two radio networks in the past for larger companies, which ended up selling the network to other large companies. One of them, AgriAmerica, was acquired by the Brownfield Radio Network several years ago and remains on the air today as Truitt’s top competitor.
“This time I’m doing it for me. This product was born out of real passion. The industry in Indiana is changing. We have a new Department of Agriculture, renewable fuels, new products. There wasn’t a focus on that (on other networks),” Truitt said.
Convinced that local news is relevant to his listeners, Truitt believes Hoosier Ag Today will fill a void in farm broadcasting. He is traveling to events around the state to broadcast live programs.
“I believe it’s important to be out there, visible with the audience. I don’t just want to talk to experts and leaders. Farmers talking to farmers is important,” he said.
Right now his studio is clearly visible in his home in Clermont, Ind., but Truitt said he wants to move the studio to a broadcast center eventually. He’s running a family business, much like the family farm, he said.
His wife, Kathleen, is his business partner, his daughter, Anne, is the office administrator, and everybody pitches in when times are busy.
Hired hands make the work go more smoothly. Truitt has hired commodity broker, Jim Riley, and commodity analyst, Gary Wilhelmi, who will report live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. In time he plans to hire a team of 3-4 farm broadcasters.
In the first weeks of his program, he has met with the Chinese delegation to Indiana and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
“We are building from scratch. We’re doing programs, hiring staff, and setting up the bookkeeping,” Truitt said.
He wanted to be on air in time for harvest to catch farmers in their combines and advertisers in their most active season. Truitt started out as a radio announcer in a rural community in Illinois.
“I soon realized that the main interest and main industry was agriculture, so I explored farm broadcasting and fell in love with the people on the farm. It’s a wonderful industry, exciting, and the listeners relied on what you said (on air). It wasn’t just entertainment,” Truitt said.
Truitt said he learned the trade through hands-on interviews, meetings and reading - what he calls “practical education.”
All of those contacts have come in handy in launching HAT. Indiana Farm Bureau has signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement.
“One of Indiana Farm Bureau’s strategic goals is to build a positive image of agriculture and Farm Bureau for our members and other key publics,” said Lew Middleton, IFB director of information and public relations. “We believe our partnership with Gary Truitt and Hoosier Ag Today will help us achieve that long-term goal.”
HAT’s programs include weather, markets, ag topics presented by commodity groups, and an in-depth report on a new issue each day.
An on-staff, in-state meteorologist provides the agricultural weather advisories. In addition, Truitt has enlisted the help of a national sales service, J.L. Farmakis.
As is characteristic of a forward-looking broadcaster, Truitt has his eye on the future.
His immediate goal is to grow his network to 25 stations.
“Two-thirds of the state is covered well,” he said. “We still need to grow in the northwest corner of the state and in eastern Indiana.”
For those who aren’t reached by radio or for those who miss a broadcast, HAT can be accessed via the web.
On HAT’s website — www.hoosieragtoday.com — listeners can hear radio broadcasts or subscribe to a podcast. Schedules of the broadcasts and radio affiliates also can be found on the website.
Truitt has gotten good feedback from farmers, radio stations around the state, and state departments.
He said Indiana Farm Bureau, the Indiana Soybean Growers and Indiana Soybean Board have been supportive from the start.
“People have said they like the programming. It’s refreshing, different and focused on Indiana. It’s casual but information rich,” Truitt said.
This farm news was published in the Oct. 4, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.