When I was in college and a member of the Illini Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Pam Smith came and spoke to our group.
I was in awe. She worked for Farm Journal. That was a real magazine. She was a real writer. A real editor.
She was living the dream. She started her career at Prairie Farmer, spent a long time with Farm Journal, and today she's at DTN/Progressive Farmer.
That evening at our ACT meeting, Pam shared what she did and in the course of the explanation, she told a story of trying to interview someone from her home office, with her two young sons at home and having to lock herself in a closet while they banged outside, just to get the interview done. I loved the story then because even though I didn’t have any idea what working with children was like, it was such a real thing for her to share.
Fast forward a few years, and I was working for Prairie Farmer and feeding my child a stash of midgee Tootsie Rolls, kept in a desk drawer, so I could finish an interview relatively quietly. (Because if they’re chewing, they’re not talking…a tip from me to you.)
In that moment, I thought of Pam. Her story showed you could persevere and get it done, one way or the other. And knowing Pam, she probably took that interview and turned it into an AAEA-award-winning story. Because she’s that kind of good.
In fact, she's won the American Ag Editors Association Writer of the Year award twice – a coveted honor, for sure. She was the first ag journalist to receive the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award, won in 2009 for her series on soybean rust. Those awards are but the tip of the Pam Smith writing awards iceberg. She's highly decorated and with good reason: she covers crops, technology, seed and farm business like nobody's business. If you're a farmer, the chances are good that you've read her stuff for years.
And here's what I've come to know about Pam in the years since our first campus meeting: she does it with tremendous heart. Her farm roots run back several generations in central Illinois, and she has a soft spot for little farm boys. I still carry a fuzzy bee in my camera bag, a memento from a Farm Progress Show conversation between Pam and my son, Nathan, several years back.
I suppose that's what I hope farm magazine readers understand: people like Pam are doing good work every day, sifting through information, putting together good reads, reporting on the business you're in. And always, always, with great heart.
It's what makes her an agriculturalist who influences.
Agriculturalists Who Influence: The Series
- Day 1: Introduction
- Day 2: Jim Evans
- Day 3: Becky Doyle
- Day 4: David and Nancy Erickson
- Day 5: Katie Pinke
- Day 6: Joe Hampton
- Day 7: Noreen Frye
- Day 8: Carolyn Olson
- Day 9: John and Kendra Smiley
- Day 10: Colleen Callahan
- Day 11: Neil and Debbie Fearn
- Day 12: Martin Barbre
- Day 13: Pam Smith