WILL at 100: A century of programming for the farming globe

When WILL-AM built its very first broadcast in April of 1922 (beneath the simply call letters WRM), it incorporated a converse on dairy farming, “Turning Product into Gold”. Rural audiences were being an essential viewers for early radio, which was seen as a way to bridge distances at a time when superior streets and thorough telephone company were nonetheless spotty in the countryside. 100 many years later on, agricultural programming continues to be a standard part of WILL’s agenda.

WILL’s ag programming has normally been practical programming. Professional radio stations furnished amusement to rural audiences, such as such legendary programs as the Countrywide Barn Dance on Chicago’s WLS and the Grand Previous Opry on WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. As an educational station that for yrs aired no well-known tunes at all, WILL concentrated its farm applications on data about escalating crops, increasing livestock and succeeding in the marketplace.

One portion of WILL’s farm programming carries on to be price updates on farm and related commodities: corn, wheat, soybeans, cattle and hogs, as properly as fuels: crude oil, diesel and natural gasoline. At this time, they can be heard just about every two several hours every single weekday, beginning with an opening report from a market place analyst just right before 9 A.M., and wrapping up with the closing charges for the working day, rattled off on the air by Todd Gleason at the starting of the Closing Marketplace Report just following 2 P.M.

Sector charges — bewildering for the uninitiated — are some thing that everyone who grew up on a farm might have reminiscences of listening to. That contains previous College of Illinois president Bob Easter, who commenced his educational job as an agriculture professor. Easter says he usually read farm studies from a San Antonio station though expanding up on his father’s hog farm in Texas.

“You know, I feel it was a resource of info,” suggests Easter of the position of farm broadcasting in farmers’ lives. “Farmers are normally fascinated in the weather conditions, so that would be 1 issue. But also marketplaces in our case, it was in addition to grain, and It was also cotton. Then the difficulty of hearing numerous industry experts provide opinions on how issues should be performed.”

“Illinois Farm Hour” Period

WILL Radio has relied on the University of Illinois Extension for its farm programming for a great deal of its existence.  Extension services were established up at the U of I and other land grant universities, to deliver useful expertise to rural audiences. The Illinois Extension took in excess of WILL’s farm programming in the 1930s. For several years, their main method on WILL was the 1 PM Illinois Farm Hour.

Only a couple of hours of recorded programming endure from the Illinois Farm Hour. They ordinarily feature agricultural gurus from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture.

A 1946 recording, preserved on a 16-inche acetate disc, features Bob Beeler, who oversaw WILL’s farm programming for the U of I Extension Provider at that time.

“It’s animal husbandry time now, and our speaker this afternoon is W.E. Carroll, head of the Animal Husbandry Office, below in the College of Illinois University of Agriculture,” Beeler says as the recording commences. “Dr. Carroll, I see by the software you’re scheduled to discuss the basic dilemma of saving corn by feeding hogs on pasture.”

What follows is an interview with Carroll, perhaps scripted in progress, about an technique to a significant difficulty for hog farmers in 1946. Corn charges ended up substantial, threatening to reduce any earnings for hog farmers who employed corn to feed their animals. Following speaking about the then-recent price tag of corn, and comparing it to sale rates for pigs, Bob Beeler asked Dr. Carroll about his choice to feeding pigs with corn, which was to put them out to graze in pasture as a substitute.

BEELER: “Well, I’d like to pin you down now, Dr. Carroll, on the quantity of pigs for every acre on these pastures.”

CARROLL: “Well our documents show that an acre of superior alfalfa will carry 20 pigs, which are receiving a total feed of corn and supplement.”

((For much more about WILL’s early agricultural programming, read through Katie Buzard’s report on the WILL Centennial internet webpage, right here )) 

The Illinois Farm Hour continued on WILL into the 1960s. At that time, WILL pulled back on its farm programming a bit, though the commodity market reports remained a day-to-day function.

Then, in 1985, the station’s farm programming grew once again, but in a new direction: growing the emphasis on covering the commodity marketplaces, with the addition of more evaluation aimed at helping farmers and other traders make the most of the markets. The change was led by WILL’s new agricultural director, Charles Lindy.

Charles Lindy Era

Lindy oversaw the improvement of the industry-concentrated applications that WILL-AM carries right now: the weekday afternoon Closing Marketplace Report, and the weekly Commodity 7 days system. His collaborators were Paul Coolley, an expense advisor with Archer Daniels Midland, commodity trader Paul Bates, and College of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel L. Good.

“And people 3, together with Charlie, established about hoping to structure anything that would be really, really beneficial for producers,” mentioned Todd Gleason, who labored for WILL as a U of I university student at the time, “that would give them a daily taste of what was going on in the marketplace, and information and information and facts that they could use that day in their advertising conclusions.”

Unlike lots of farm broadcasters, Charles Lindy did not occur from a farming history. As a substitute, he drew on his knowledge as a reporter, and brought a rigorous code of journalistic ethics to his function. Gleason remembers him as both equally a mentor and a near friend.

“He would say, we are neither the farmer’s buddy or their foe” mentioned Gleason. “You listen to me each working day, you might imagine that’s the scenario. But actually, I’m there to produce to you information factually that is not bent in your favor or against your favor, because you just want the points.”

L-R: Charles Lindy, Todd Gleason & WILL Meteorologist Ed Keiser, broadcasting in the 1990s. (Illinois Community Media)

Lindy died of most cancers in 2002, at the age of 49. After his dying, Carrie Mohr, followed by then-WILL reporter Dave Dickey, oversaw agricultural programming, making on the framework Lindy experienced established. Doing the job with them was Todd Gleason, who was by then with the Illinois Extension. When Dickey retired in 2015, Gleason turned WILL’s sole ag producer, whilst he proceeds to be dependent at the Extension, exactly where he also makes ag functions for distribution to other stations.

WILL Ag Programming Right now

“Welcome to Commodity 7 days. I am Todd Gleason.” That is what Gleason says to open up every broadcast of Commodity Week, ordinarily recorded a working day prior to its to start with broadcast on Friday afternoon. “Our panelists right now incorporate Curt Kimmel. He’s at Bates Commodities our of Standard, Illinois. Wayne Nelson is with us from L&M Commodities in New Marketplace, Indiana, and we’re joined by Brian Stark nowadays, from The Andersons in Mansfield, Illinois ….”

Gleason often information WILL’s ag programs from his place of work, or on the highway at a meeting or agricultural truthful, working with his laptop computer laptop or computer, and bringing in visitors by mobile phone or videoconference. In this circumstance, he’s utilizing a hand-held digital recorder to history his attendees in person, at the Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign. Business is sluggish sufficient on Thursday afternoon that listeners may not have discovered that that they’re listening to a communicate demonstrate recorded in a bar.

Following the application is recorded, Wayne Nelson describes how the selection of panelists in any given month would make WILL’s ag broadcasts a lot more beneficial to farmers.

“Curt Kimmel’s a chartist,” explained Nelson of 1 of the other attendees on Commodity Week that working day. “I’m a fundamentalist. Other folks use 40-working day shifting averages. We expose the WILL listening crowd to all of all those unique items, to assistance them make their choices, to whether or not they wanted to provide grain, regardless of whether they desired to invest in an selection, whether they wanted to keep their grain. And we experience we gave them what may well have been a $500-a-yr newsletter for totally free, from WILL.”

Todd Gleason says by working with the Illinois Extension, Illinois Community Media is ready to give a wealth of information and facts to farmers and commodity traders that it could not give usually.  The station does a lot less these days in the way of market price tag updates and instruction on farming approaches. Gleason says seed, chemical and machines corporations now offer far more info on farming solutions … and commodity costs are now out there on the web and by satellite from services that specialize if providing those people costs in true time and in detail.

But when it will come to expert investigation of the marketplaces and temperature, Gleason thinks WILL has a support farmers can’t come across elsewhere.

“There are a lot of sources where they could go come across details about the market,” said Gleason. “They are not able to discover the in-depth investigation and surely they are not able to uncover the climate or the academic investigation of the marketplaces in just one consolidated sort, and the way they do, in a one Closing Current market Report.

In 1959, when WILL nonetheless aired the Illinois Farm Hour each weekday, Illinois had about 164,000 farm operators, according to the Illinois Office of Agriculture. By 2019, that variety was down to 75,087.

With much less farmers to draw in advertisers, there are much less commercial radio stations airing specialized farm programming nowadays. But WILL has continued its agricultural programming. Gleason says the way that farmers get their information and facts from WILL is modifying, on the other hand. He believed that about 50 percent of the station’s farm audience is now listening on the internet, both to a livestream of WILL-AM, or in the kind of a podcast. WILL’s ag programming world wide web deal with is willag.org. 



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