By STEVE BINDER
URBANA, Ill. — A group featuring Illinois’ top ag broadcasters and economists talking about the industry’s outlook for 2013 will highlight the first “Voices of Illinois Agriculture” dinner in central Illinois later this month.
The affair also will feature the 2012 Illinois State Fair Grand Champion Hog, which was purchased for about $625 by the group of professionals led by WILL AM 580 radio’s Todd Gleason.
“What’s really fun about this event is that it is a fundraiser put on by the hospitality management program … and it’ll be a white-tablecloth kind of event, but it’ll be café-style seating. We wanted it to be family-style so that everyone will have fun conversing the whole time,” Gleason said.
The event is $100 per person, and will benefit the University of Illinois’ Agriculture Communications Endowed Chair and the Hospitality Management Program, both in the school’s College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Services.
In addition to Gleason, the event will feature WGN Radio’s Orion Samuelson, widely considered the “dean” of Illinois agriculture broadcasting and author of a new book, You Can’t Dream Big Enough: The American Farmer’s Friend for Over 60 Years.
Also featured will be Paul Coolley, Wayne Nelson, Jackquie Voeks and the U of I’s Gary Schnitkey. Coolley is a retiree of Archer Daniels Midland Investor Services of Oakland, Ill.; Voeks is with Stewart Peterson in Champaign; Nelson is a 1974 U of I alumnus and with L & M Commodities in New Market, Ind., and Schnitkey is a U of I professor of ag economics.
“Anytime you can drop Orion’s name for something, it will draw a lot of attention,” said Gleason, noting Samuelson will personalize copies of his new book for every dinner guest.
The book, released late last year, delves into Samuelson’s life story with the key message of “thinking big.” In an interview with Farm World late last year, he said, “I grew up on a 200-acre farm with 90 tillable acres. We had 30 cows, six sows and 200 chickens.
“Sitting on a milking stool in the barn, I never dreamed that I would travel to 43 different countries, meet seven presidents and have dinner at the White House. You can’t dream big enough.”
The ag broadcaster is a native of Ontario, Wis., but now splits time between Huntley, Ill., and Scottsdale, Ariz. He is a co-host of the weekly program “This Week in Agribusiness” on RFD-TV and continues to produce daily ag reports on WGN Radio in Chicago. He has served as the station’s agribusiness director since 1960.
Gleason said an open conversation about 2013 and the ag industry during the dinner will let guests ask any questions of the experts. The registration deadline is Jan. 16 and can be completed online at www.willag.org or by calling 217-333-9355.
The dinner will take place at the Spice Box restaurant, 905 S. Goodwin Ave., in Urbana. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., with dinner set for 7 p.m.