Thursday, October 13, 2005

Do farmers blog?

Do farmers and ranchers blog?

Off and on over the last several months I’ve searched for blogs that are primarily about agriculture. So far I haven’t had much success.

Sure I can find words like “agriculture” or “ranching” or “farming” in posts on some blogs out there, but to date I’ve been unsuccessful in compiling a list of agriculture blogs.

I have a theory about that. Farmers and ranchers probably don’t have a lot of time for such pursuits. Or if they do, the periods when they have time they may not have access to the Internet.

However, there seem to be blogs about virtually every other topic under the sun, so I’m guessing that somewhere in this big wide blogosphere there are a few people in the ag industry who take time to share their observations on what they know best.

So, I’m doing to turn to you for help. If you are here, you obviously have two key ingredients in this quest. 1) You have an interest in agriculture; and 2) you have Internet access.

So, if you stumble onto any blogs about agriculture, or you maintain one yourself, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment on this page or drop be a line via e-mail. I’ll be happy to share the sites readers share with me with all of you.

And together we can explore the world of what I’m choosing to call, “blogriculture.”

So send your ag-blog discoveries to
via e-mail, and we’ll see what’s out there together.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pendleton Round-Up offers glimpse at history

ECHO, Ore. – It was a return to the old stompin’ grounds. Familiar territory. The land of my youth and the place where I came of age.

The assignment: Cover the 2005
Pendleton Round-Up. They call it the Pendleton Round-Up, but it is the hometown rodeo for cowboys and rodeo fans throughout Northeast Oregon and Southeast Washington. I grew up here, a mere 35 miles west of the Round-Up Grounds and, like most families in the area, we attended some aspect of the Round-Up virtually every year. So going back this year was familiar, yet surreal and foreign. I don’t know if it was the event that had changed or me.

I covered my first Round-Up exactly 20 years ago, the 75th anniversary edition in 1985. I was a freshman in college, and working for my hometown newspaper the
East Oregonian. All summer long had been a build up to that one big week.

I spent the summer of 1985 learning about being a journalist and a newspaper photographer. I don’t remember the first picture I got published in the East Oregonian. But I do remember the first picture that I took that got sent out on the Associated Press wire.

It was, perhaps appropriately, from the Pendleton Round-Up. It was a photo of a guy riding in one of the rough stock events, saddle bronc I believe. He got bucked off and was falling backward onto the distinctive grass infield of the Round-Up Grounds, his mount still bucking and him hovering just off the ground, a fraction of a second before his posterior hit the turf.

I don’t know where else the photo may have been published, but it appeared on one of the Oregonian’s section fronts, which was pretty heady stuff at the time. I was on Cloud 9.

That was the summer I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I went back to Oregon State a week or so after Round-Up and soon changed my major from business to technical journalism. Newspaper ink got into my blood. And I didn’t know it at the time, but rodeo dust got in there as well.

I spend the next several Septembers covering the Pendleton Round-Up as an intern for the East Oregonian, now a sister paper of the
Capital Press.

In the years between then and now, I’ve worked all over the Oregon and California, with the bulk of my professional career spent at newspapers in California. And during that time I’ve covered rodeos in Barstow, Calif. and Springville, Calif., and attended the National Finals Rodeo almost every year since 1991 in Las Vegas with a group of rodeo fans, farmers and ranchers mostly, from Umatilla County.

But coming back to Pendleton for the 95th running of the Round-Up was odd, full of nostalgia and uncertainty, a homecoming equal parts bitter and sweet. Pendleton’s Round-Up is steeped in tradition. The event and the grounds have not changed too much. For hard-core rodeo fans, few seats offer a good view of the action. No matter where you sit, in one event or another, you are far removed from the action. Perhaps it will always be difficult to have an intimate spectator experience at a venue that seats 17,000-plus and which during most of the year doubles as a the Pendleton High School football stadium.

The grass infield at the arena makes it a challenge for calf ropers and steer wrestlers to turn out the sort of fast times they are accustomed too in the sport, but not impossible as Tommy Cook proved Saturday en route to his steer wrestling title with a 3.9-second run.

And for barrel racers, and their horses, they have to run much longer distances and a larger pattern than any other rodeo anywhere. I heard one contestant this week refer to Pendleton as an “old-timey rodeo.” That’s probably true and something of which Round-Up officials and fans are proud. But there are many better venues in which to watch a rodeo, including the arena for the
Farm-City Pro Rodeo just down the road in Hermiston.

But the Round-Up is not just a rodeo. It is a city’s identity wrapped around a series of events including the rodeo, Happy Canyon Pageant, Westward Ho! Parade, Main Street show and carnival, Indian pow-wow, a concert and Western exposition. But for many, if not most, non competitors it’s mostly a four-plus-day party for people from around the Northwest and the world. This year, a crew from Germany were among those covering the event.

It’s tempting to say Pendleton is stuck in a time warp, with all the positive and negative connotations that may imply. But there have been changes. Team roping wasn’t always part of the event. It wasn’t added until 1991. The barrel racing event, now a staple, didn’t become a part of the Round-Up until 2000. The stage coach race, a longtime tradition, is no more. Gone also are the wild horse and squaw races.

The city and the event now have a brand of
Canadian Whisky named for them, and the chewing tobacco company and frequent rodeo sponsor, U.S. Tobacco Co., was noticeably absent from the grounds, banned from giving away free samples by the city.

The Pendleton Round-Up will forever be the community event and rodeo against which I measure all other community events and rodeos. Not many stack up to that prestige and tradition. Sometimes, not even the Pendleton Round-Up itself compares.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Website caters to those who find tractors sexy

Life can be lonely down on the farm. Just ask Pieter DeHond, who farms 200 acres in Canandaigua, N.Y.

DeHond, 41, a divorced father of two teenage sons, was featured recently in a story that moved on the Associated Press wire about his unusual method of finding a date. DeHond planted corn in a pasture to spell out a message. His message said “S.W.F Got-2 (heart) Farm’n” and then features a 1,000-foot-long arrow pointing to his house.

“I wouldn’t place a personal ad in the paper. To me it seems desperate,” he said. “This is more of a fun thing. I put this out in a field where nobody could see it unless you flew over it.”

Maybe someone should have told DeHond about a new website designed to help farmers, and farm lovers, meet.

The Internet has become a virtual one-stop shop for all sorts of things. Need a new tractor? You can shop everything from newspaper classified ads to implement dealerships online. How about a new cell phone? You can not only order one online, you can pay your monthly bill for it via computer as well.

All of that immediacy can seem a bit out of step with the rural agrarian life, where we are more likely to mark time by the season than the millisecond. But now even finding a date for the boots-and-buckles set has gone high tech.

Yes, if you are looking for that special someone to take with you to the next outing of the redneck yacht club, you may be able to find that country boy, or girl, of your dreams on a website. The site, called, sports the slogan “City folks just don’t get it.”

The site was the brainchild, and has become the passion of, Jerry Miller of Beachwood, Ohio, who runs an advertising agency.

But helping farmers and lovers of country living find someone to share their chosen lifestyle with has become Miller’s calling.

“It’s become my passion,” Miller said in a phone interview this week. “I really enjoy working on it. Instead of going home and watching TV, I’d rather do this.”

Miller, who does public relations for the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, said he got his inspiration from a female farmer that was having trouble finding the love of her life while working the farm. He said the woman turned to other online dating service for help but found that the people she was meeting didn’t know anything about or appreciate the farming way of life.

Miller tried to help the farmer find a service that would suit her, but when he couldn’t find a site that catered to farmers he built one.

“Even though the farming community is shrinking, there are still of lot of (people with) roots” on a farm or in the rural lifestyle, Miller said. “I want to build an entire community that understands each other.”

Miller launched his site in May, but growth was slow. Miller said it took more than two months to get more than 100 people to post biographies on the site.

He said before he started the site people told him there weren’t enough farmers with online access to make the site viable, but that is changing.

“It’s amazing who’s online now,” he said.

And his site is growing.

“Now in the last month I’ve had 300 people,” he said, including 50 in just the last weekend. “Just in the last week, things have really taken off.”

As of early this week, 450 people have posted biographies. It was also picked as the “Niche Dating Site of the Week” by this week.

So far, the women looking for a farmboy or a cowboy outnumber the men looking for cowgirls and farmgirls 3-to-2.

“The women e-mail me saying they need more men” to register on the site, which Miller said differs from most online dating sites where he said his research has shown men dominate the site.

People joining FarmersOnly are from all over the country – all over farm country. The people who have registered for the site cover a wide age range, from 19 to people in their 60s,

Some of those who have posted information on the site include women from the exotic locales of Porterville, Calif., Lacey, Wash., Twin Falls, Idaho, and Klamath Falls, Ore. And the men come from the metropolises of Nampa, Idaho, Richland, Wash., Hermiston, Ore. and Madera, Calif.

And for some reason, there are a lot of posts from Vermont, particularly Rutland, Vt. Rutland must be a very lonely place. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that a story on the site appeared in the Rutland (Vt.) Herald on Aug. 20.

Miller is offering a 45-day free trial to anyone registering with his site. And paid membership after the trial, which allows members to communicate directly with one another, will cost $9.99 per month, $19.99 for three months or $59.99 for one year.

But is the site making Miller any money now?

“Oh, no, are you kidding me?” Miller said.

Miller said people aren’t just finding dates on the site, they are finding friends based on their mutual agricultural interests and activities.

Do you think an agriculture journalist with a taste for country music and rodeos could apply?

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