Friday, October 20, 2006

It's an education

I thought I'd kick off my first blogging attempts by telling a bit about myself and my agriculture experience.

When I tell civilians (non-farmers) that I work for an agriculture newspaper, a common comment is, "Gee, you must know a lot about farming." Well, no, I reply. But I'm a good listener and usually know how to ask the right questions and to write about it in a readable way. It's what I went to newspaper school to learn, and what I'm paid to do now. I could no more run a ranch or raise a crop or diagnose plant diseases than pitch a World Series game.

For example, before I started working for the Capital Press I had no idea there were multiple varieties of filberts (all right, hazelnuts). To me, they all looked the same, sitting at the bottom of the nut basket at Christmas time. Then Ennis and Barcelona entered my vocabulary. I had never seen a sugar beet until two years ago on a working trip to Idaho to visit staffers Pat McCoy and Dave Wilkins. Some of'em are the size of footballs, I discovered. And then there are nematodes, the existence of which I hadn't a clue in upwards of a half-century spent walking on them.

My connection with ag pre-Capital Press was tenuous at best. I was born in Bend, Ore., and spent my first 10 years being a kid there. All I saw growing in the summer were a few scrubby backyard apples and sunbaked gardens. We moved to the Willamette Valley in the spring of the year so my dad could finish college in Monmouth. I thought we'd entered the Garden of Eden. There were things growing all over the place. And fruit? There were even grapes. Heck, I'd always thought grapes grew on trees. I got a job delivering newspapers in the mornings. As I pedaled along my route, the newspapers in my bag dwindled and were replaced by freshly stolen (er, freshly picked) apples, cherries, peaches, grapes and whatever else were in season. Those were my snacks for the rest of the day.

I tried my hand at picking strawberries, green beans and cherries to make a buck, but wasn't any good at it. I always rode my bike to the strawberry fields instead of taking the picker bus because I knew I'd probably get fired well before the bus returned to town. And I was usually right. In high school I worked summers bucking hay for area farmers such as Marv Jenkins, Russell Steele, Alan Horton and Les Versteeg. I learned to drive via hay truck, and piloted my first tractors cutting and swathing alfalfa and grass hay. I worked for a man named Frenchy at Derry Warehouse in Rickreall one summer, cleaning and bagging grass seed, a hot and dirty job if ever there was one.

I learned from the farmers I worked for the value they placed on hard work and the long hours they were willing to put in to support their families. I also learned that farming was not something I wanted to do for a living because it's way too hard.

As someone with a love of learning and the attention span of a gnat, journalism turned out to be the perfect profession. There's so much to learn, and I don't have to dwell on one subject for very long. That's true at the Capital Press, where I'm constantly amazed at the myriad topics that fill the pages of the paper each week and get posted on our website on a daily basis. I'm in awe of the knowledge of most of the people we write about, and I have a great deal of respect for my newsroom colleagues who, unlike me, really do know their onions. Because of them, you're getting a first-class news product.

Now I have to go and think about nematodes some more.

1 comment:

Gary L. West said...

Tim, welcome aboard. What a nice first post!

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