I’m no stranger to the country life. I grew up on a dairy farm near Northfield in Jackson County, where neighbors helped each other out without being asked and children became best friends with the kids in the coulee. My three brothers and I milked cows, fed calves, cleaned calf pens, baled hay, cultivated corn and showed Holsteins at the county fair.
When I was a preschooler, my father worked at a feed mill and we lived “in town” — a burg of 35 people. A family friend encouraged my dad to move his growing family to the country where those rambunctious boys would have room to run around and attempt to stay out of trouble. We farmed for 14 years before my father sold his herd and land, going to work as a creamery field man for the next 22 years. All three of my brothers were farmers at one time or another; one still works in seed corn sales.
So yes, I was the black sheep in the family. Instead of the farm, I opted for the newspaper business. Allergies to first crop alfalfa made my eyes swell shut, a miserable existence for a farm kid.
I thought back to those days as I became editor of The Country Today last month. The move was a consolidation of duties with my role as editor of the daily Leader-Telegram newspaper in Eau Claire; the circulation and advertising functions of the two newspapers has been consolidated for years.
Our readers have noticed we now have two sections rather than four. We switched to two larger sections from four smaller sections to allow for more flexibility when designers lay out the pages. A large amount of classified advertising now could require a redesign of pages; larger sections can accommodate last-minute changes.
The number of pages in The Country Today has remained the same and we’ve maintained the Country Life, Country Yesterday and Farm Country pages — they are just in different parts of the paper. Our reporters and correspondents will continue to cover important farm issues, write features on innovations in the industry and talk with agriculture leaders. You’ll also see stories about rural life and rural people about those who don’t farm but enjoy everything that comes with living in the country.
We’ve added new story-telling columnists, including a New York Times best-selling author. We’re printing features from other Adams Publishing Group newspapers around the state to maintain a statewide rural perspective in The Country Today.
Like farming, the newspaper industry has been through some difficult times in recent years. And like farmers, we’ll continue to work hard to make the best product possible.
Gary Johnson is editor of The Country Today. He can be reached at gary.johnson @ecpc.com.