When "Farm Bureau Roundup" aired on 67 Texas radio stations on May 22, 1954, audiotape was a relatively new technology. There were more than 4 million farms in the U.S., with an average size of about 300 acres.
Todaysome 50 years lateraudiotape more and more is becoming a thing of the past. And although the number of acres farmed is the same today, there are now fewer than 2.5 million farms with an average size of more than 500 acres.
One thing has remained constant, however, for a half century. Farmers and ranchers continue to depend on "Farm Bureau Roundup" for the latest agricultural news in the Lone Star State.
"We don't know of a farm radio program in America with more longevity," said Don Kyser, "Roundup's" current producer and host. "The format has been pretty consistent through the years. It's a weekly snapshot of agricultural activity and issues all across Texas."
Bill Hoover, Texas Farm Bureau's director of Information from 1952 to 1990, conceived the idea when he learned of the new, more portable audiotape technology available in the early 1950s. The show's first reporters sent their stories through the mail on audiotape reels.
"I didn't know how long it would last, but it proved and continues to prove the need for reliable information on farming and ranching," he said.
Hoover persuaded 10 radio farm directors across the state to help with the project and recruited Waco radio personality Goodson McKee to anchor the show. McKee was the host until 1991.
Today, the format remains much the same. Only new generations of farm reportersrapidly becoming endangered species themselves have taken up the challenge of telling agriculture's story.
"We don't have farm broadcasters across Texas like we did at one time," said "Roundup" Reporter Barry Mahler of Iowa Park. "Therefore, programs like `Farm Bureau Roundup' are much more important to get the story of agriculture out there. And, as this industry changes and farm broadcasters dwindle in numbers, `Farm Bureau Roundup' is going to take even a bigger place as far as telling the story of agriculture in Texas."
Farm broadcaster and "Roundup" Reporter Jack Dillard says there's good reason for the show's longevity.
"This is a class program," he said. "This is a class organization. It's good to be proud of something and we're proud to be part of this `Roundup.'"
One thing has remained constant, however: the need to reach people who don't understand agriculture and rural Texas.
"Years ago we were trying to tell the urban people the story of agriculture," said "Roundup" Reporter Bob Walsh. "We're still trying, because people don't quite understand."
Don Kyser is the program's 10th producer and third anchor. Gary Joiner succeeded McKee and hosted the weekly show until 1997.
Kenneth Dierschke, president of Texas Farm Bureau, marked the show's half-century mark by saying, "Farm Bureau has a long-term obligation to provide quality information in a timely manner to farmers, ranchers and consumers. `Farm Bureau Roundup' is part of that commitment."
Today, 'Farm Bureau Roundup' is produced in the TFB's state-of-the-art radio studio in Waco.
Four other radio shows are produced there as part of TFB's broadcast partnership with the Texas State Network.
The more things change...
By Gene Hall
TFB Information & Public Relations Director
The Hindus were reportedly the first to say, "The more things change, the more they remain the same." When looking back at the first half century of our TFB radio program, "Farm Bureau Roundup," I think that's the phrase that fits best. According to our research, this radio program is the longest running radio farm program in America50 years, or 2,600 weekswithout missing a single broadcast.
Since I've been involved with the show for about half of its life, I've been asked several times, as we prepared for this landmark anniversary, why it's been so successful. The answer is that "Roundup" has never forgotten its reason for beingto tell the remarkable story of the farmers and ranchers of Texas.
The 50 years that have passed since the first program aired on May 22, 1954 have marked a phenomenal amount of change. The science and the practice of agriculture have changed at lightening speed. There are far fewer farmers, actually growing more and in greater harmony with the environment.
Our TFB public relations effort has changed too, and the radio production methods we use now are far more sophisticated. The first show was produced with mailed-in reels of audio tape, spliced together with the aid of razor blade and splicing tape. Audio tape was a new technology, without which, the program would not have been possible. The tapes sent to radio stations had to be copied one-to-one, one at a time, a process that stretched across 12 hours, after which the tapes were taken to the post office for their journey across Texas.
Today, the reporter's stories are sent in mostly as email computer files. The show is edited on a computer and instantly distributed by the Texas State Network's satellite.
Yet, as I listened to that first radio show, dug out from our archives, I am struck by how the Farm Bureau leaders of that time were dealing with many of the same issues President Kenneth Dierschke wrestles with today.
On that first show, there were reports on a brief respite from the great drought of the 1950s. It sounded eerily like the 1990s to me! There were farm program issues, Farm Bureau meetings to address policy and reports on TFB's youth programs.
I guess that's the thing about this show that feels comfortable to me. I think one of the reasons for Farm Bureau's organizational success is a somewhat unique ability to draw strength and resolve from the traditions of the past, and yet be able to affect change in a positive way. This old, yet new, radio show has threaded through our past, with its reporters observing, recording and reporting our history. Next weekend, like clockwork, it will be heard across the state, starting the second half century of one of Texas agriculture's most successful communications efforts.
Find Your 'Roundup' Station
|Big Spring||KBST||Saturday||7:15-7:30 a.m.|
|Colorado City||KVMC||Saturday||6:15 a.m.|
|Dumas||KRME/KDDD||Saturday||Btwn 9-11 a.m.|
|El Campo||KULP||Saturday||6:00-6:15 a.m.|
|Haskell||KVRP||Saturday||Btwn 6-7 a.m.|
|Memphis||KLSR||Excerpts during the week|
|Mount Pleasant||KIMP||Saturday||12-12:15 p.m.|
|New Boston||KNBO||Saturday||6:15 a.m.|
|San Antonio||WOAI/KKYX||Mon-Fri||Btwn 5-6 a.m.|
|Sulphur Springs||KSST||Saturday||6:45-7:00 a.m.|