Well, the Farm Show season was a non-event this year and it showed you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. Sitting in The Land booth and meeting our readers is not only fun, but thankfully our readers are quite willing to share their opinions as to how we’re doing our job. It seems like forever since the 2020 North American Farm and Power Show was scrapped because of Covid-19. (Come to think of it, it has been forever.) And how strange to be sitting at home the first week of August instead of touring the Farmfest grounds.
Readers of The Land did not disappoint, however, as we received many comments during our recent subscription drive. Some were written on scraps of paper or the back of a used envelope, some on store-bought cards and stationery, some on little note pads the author probably picked up at a farm show. Some are short notes written on a big sheet of paper; some are rather lengthy comments in tiny writing on a post-it note. The vast majority are hand written.
Looking at the numbers in the plus column and the numbers in the minus column, The Land swallowed hard and increased the price of a year’s subscription. If you’re a farmer, our way of saying “thanks” is to make the subscription fee optional. To our pleasant surprise, not only were readers generous about the price increase, many farmers sent a check along as well.
Yes, we had a reader quit his subscription, urging us to use “common sense” and rethink the subscription hike. Another reader took us down memory lane when The Land subscription was ten bucks. I’d like a lot of things to be the same as they were 40 years ago: my weight, my energy, my phone bill, my ability to sleep through the night. But things change. Last year, in an age of text messages and emails, I still spent over $100 on postage stamps. Judging by the response from our readers, they seem to feel they’re getting their money’s worth.
Many letter writers like to tell us their age — at least the ones in their 80s and 90s. One reader who is nearer 100 than 90 wrote a wonderful complimentary note. She asked for a primer on the modern farm equipment she sees in the field these days and marvels at the size of these machines. “I know I was 99 on Oct. 28, but I’m still interested in industrial hemp,” she writes. “It has turned out to be quite a crop if farmers follow rules.”
Now there’s a letter I never thought I’d see 10 years ago.
An 85-year-old subscriber loves the paper and is “…afraid our government is running our country into the ground.”
Whether it is the heat of the recent election or the helplessness of pandemic America, politics reigned in many of the letters we received. “Once again you allow another misleading and inept article by Alan Guebert grace your newspaper,” one reader wrote. “I sure wish you would suspend his garbage writings and employ more of Dick Hagen’s jottings.”
On the other hand, there’s this one: “Tell Alan Guebert he is a straight shooter and I appreciate his opinion column.”
Or this comment: “Alan is not an ag writer. He’s just another left wing political hack.”
The Land writer Dick Hagen has accumulated many fans over the years. No subscribers labeled him a “right wing political hack,” but Hagen’s conservative outlook and fierce patriotism strikes a chord with many readers. “Commend Dick Hagen,” one wrote. “Keep up the good work.”
Another subscriber urged us to “stop stroking Donald Trump!” I would have thought the recent election would have put him/her in a better mood.
And then there was this short note from a subscriber and regular “Letter to the Editor” writer: “Thoroughly enjoy your paper because it is non-political.”
So there you have it.
Many of The Land’s regular columnists are women writers and they all received glowing praise in our mailbox. A woman from Raymond, Minn. confessed, “I don’t read the entire paper, but enjoy the columns. My husband reads the rest.”
Some notes are good food for thought. One reader suggested we write more about “real farmers and not corporate employees.” Which got me thinking, what makes a “real farmer?” I suppose if you’re an employee you don’t have the skin in the game that an owner would. But I’ve met a number of people from all areas of the ag world — from big grain producers to five-acre CSA owners; FFA teachers, Extension educators. They all have different roles, but they also all have pride in what they do. And it’s real.
In January The Land General Manager Deb Petterson asked for readers’ help in filling out the subscription card and mailing it back in. Thousands of you did just that and many were generous with sending some dollars our way. “I was amazed by the response — especially with the pandemic and things being so tight this year,” she said. “I’m truly grateful for the support of our subscribers.”
Yes, The Land is a business and not all business decisions are fun or popular. But through the course of over 40 years The Land is also a family of sorts. And like the writers and the advertisers, our subscribers are part of that family. And like all good families, we want everyone to have their say. So keep the notes, letters and thoughts coming.
One of those notes was scribbled on the outside of the envelope — almost like a last-minute thought before putting it in the mail. “Enjoy your freedom while you still have it!”
A quick note before everyone heads out into the fields: If you haven’t sent in your subscription form, it’s not too late. The form is available on our website thelandonline.com. It’s important for us to have these forms on file when the post office wants us to prove we actually have subscribers. Naturally, we’d also like you to send a check.
Me? I like the notes.
Paul Malchow is the managing editor of The Land. He may be reached at editor@TheLandOnline.com.