Reflections of a Farm Broadcaster

Taylor Hillman General

Wenger on the farm


California Farm Bureau Leaders and Young Farmers & Ranchers Make Strong Impression

By Gary Cooper, founder and president, AgNet Media, Inc.

Hats off to California Farm Bureau (CFB) President Paul Wenger and his family, and to the CFB Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) for their warm welcome and hospitality this past weekend at their annual meeting.

Two days of visiting area agriculture around Modesto, and being with the YF&R group Saturday evening, offered me a rare opportunity to tour Wenger’s farm operations and others around his hometown. The experience as a whole gave me valuable insight on the multitude of issues facing California farmers from Wenger himself, who is a strong spokesman for the state’s agriculture industries. He has served as CFB president since 2009 and is expected to “term out” of office near the end of the year.

AgNet West aired on radio stations throughout California in the summer of 2012. AgNet West is a division of AgNet Media, which has operated similar farm radio networks in the diversified agriculture states of Florida, Georgia and Alabama since the mid-1980s. I started those farm networks with seed capital from about three dozen Florida farmer visionaries who realized a need for independent farm radio news to serve their diversified production regions. A similar need here in California for an independent radio network to specialize in news about agriculture came about in 2012, and we decided to jump in.

There are many similarities among the ag issues in these diversified and high-value crop states, including labor, environment, trade and political misunderstanding, just to name a few. So we connected with a couple of good professional broadcasters in the Central Valley who, like myself, also grew up in and around families involved in local agriculture in the region, for which they now report the news full time.

I had met and heard Wenger speak a number of times at different news-making venues both here in California, and occasionally elsewhere, as he carries the ag message of his state to national venues when time and opportunities permit. His memory for detail and his incredible knowledge base on the key issues involving California agriculture is impressive, as is his ability to put facts together to make powerful points — most of the time from memory and without any script to speak of. He has been graciously available as a spokesman on our broadcasts too, working with our AgNet West Radio Network team of Sabrina Hill and Taylor Hillman as they produce the daily radio programs from the network’s home base near Fresno.

The invitation to attend the annual YF&R gathering, held this past weekend in Modesto, was an extra treat. I’ve been in farm broadcasting for more than 35 years. I got into the business after my parents retired and the family sold its winter vegetable farm in South Florida, as I was earning my degree in broadcasting. It’s always fun to visit the younger farmers and ranchers who will carry the torch of ag leadership forward. While interviewing both outgoing YF&R Chairman Tyler Blagg from Lodi and incoming Chairman Johnnie White from Oakville, the concerns about so many regulations continued to ring loud and clear. The ability of these young men to articulate those concerns is encouraging. You can listen to the interviews here:



Portions of these interviews will also be heard on more than 30 radio stations around the state in the coming days. AgNet West can now be heard on overlapping radio station signals from Shasta all the way down to Imperial, and most of the counties in between.

Finally, congratulations to Star YF&R Paige Bush of Butte County and the group of Butte County YF&R members who won top honors at the awards banquet. And kudos to all the others who competed in the discussion meets and other activities of this active group of young agriculturalists. Keep the fire burning!