Sunday, 21 December 2014

A Voice for Agriculture

As a kid growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, I remember my dad, who lived in central Kentucky. I listened to farm reports on the radi and even though he wasn’t a farmer or a rancher, he raised tasty tomatoes in the back yard every summer. And he got a kick out of listening to ag types talking about the price of corn or beef or swapping farming tips on the air.
Well, there’s a new radio show out of Carbondale these days that I’m sure he’d listen to. It’s called the Ag Report, hosted by Jock Jacober, rancher and founder of Crystal River Meats. His wife, Lynett O’Kane, engineers the show.It airs the first Tuesday of each month on KDNK Community Radio.
Jacober said the Ag Report grew out of a desire to talk about local information.
“They’ve been growing food here since the 1870s and obviously farmers here followed the same patterns that they have all over the world,” he said. “Originally food was grown in an area so human beings could live there and survive.” Eventually, he added, excess produce, such as potatoes, became a cash crop.
And here he gives a little farming history.
“A lot of it had to do with the technology of transportation, the technology of growing,” he explained.
He added that men returning from World War I and World War II had the greatest impact on the farming economy than anything else in the United States.
“Men left the farms, went to war and came back and when they went back to the farms,” he said. “There was a lot of money from the government to support different programs. That has had a lot of impact on the land and the communities.”
The resurgence of CSAs, farmer’s markets and farm-to-school programs has brought with it the desire to know where food comes from.
“When you live in this particular valley and you have this high consciousness of the right egg or the right meat, I think there’s a need and an opportunity to extend that thinking into reality,” Jacober said. “What actually does a calf do that walks down Main Street or that you bump into with your bicycle when you’re riding in the woods or when you’re driving down the road and you see one right by the fence and it’s so cute in the spring?” He hopes the Ag Report will answer those questions and more.
Jacober and O’Kane hit the airwaves in November. I remember that show because Jacober went into a detailed description of how to tell if a cow is pregnant or not. He likes to start off each show with a sort of seasonal update and apparently November is the month when some ranchers do their “preg testing”. So, listeners got a full-on description of how it works.
The second show, which aired in early December, featured John Burtard, a longtime Roaring Fork Valley rancher.
The Ag Report is the first show of its kind to air on KDNK. And, personally, I think it’s about time. The ranching community is taking a back seat to a more urban culture in the Roaring Fork Valley, focused on arts and outdoor sports. This hit home in October as I observed the annual, local cattle drive through Carbondale. I don’t know about anyone else, but my heart beat faster at the sight of riders on horseback, herding cattle across Highway 82. But, this year, riders and animals had to negotiate construction equipment and workers at the new roundabout. The sound of beeping backhoes mingled with the whoops and whistles of cowboys and the clip-clop of hooves on pavement. The cows were funneled onto the backstreets of town instead of heading right down Main Street.
It all went off without a hitch, but I asked one of the Nieslanik boys what it was like to have to run cows through a construction site and through neighborhoods. His answer was a bit jarring. “I guess people don’t like cows much anymore,” he said.
Lynette O’Kane said bringing the agricultural community out of the shadows is one reason the Ag Report is important. “If one chooses these days to be in agriculture, it’s an interesting choice because it’s a difficult area to really make a living in,” she said. “There’s probably a lot of people who want to be in agriculture so I’m interested to know if they’re actually able to do it and how they do it.”
Jacober agrees.
“That’s a huge discussion for the Colorado River Valley, the Eagle Valley, and [Roaring Fork Valley] in particular because land prices and the attractiveness of the area effectively eliminate [ranching],” he said.
O’Kane would like to incorporate other ag-related topics. like saddle-making, into the Ag Report.
“Food is the broader picture of the show,” she said. “But ultimately, the show is about people.”
The Ag Report airs live from 4:30 to 5 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month on KDNK. Tune in at 88.1, 88.3, 88.5 FM or at www.kdnk.org. Past shows are also archived on the website

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