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Changing shingles on the Western Farm Press door

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  • Hold on tight. There are many more great stories coming about the fascinating business called Western agriculture.

One of the best Old West steakhouses in the greater Phoenix, Ariz., area is Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, famous for its scrumptious steaks and barbeque. The restaurant is also known for its founder – cowboy Bill Johnson himself.

About 50 years ago, Johnson launched the restaurant and a rebel radio program in a makeshift cell in his original restaurant on Van Buren Avenue. Celebrities, musicians, actors, politicians, and cowboys stopped by for on-air chats.

This restaurant is where Western Farm Press Editor Harry Cline and I met about seven years ago for a fine dinner with all the fixings. The Big Apple was one of Harry’s favorite restaurants during his early journalism career in Arizona; prior to his move to California more than three decades ago.

During the feast, Harry lassoed a hired hand to join him at Western Farm Press to dole up more heaping helpings of Western farm news. A farm journalist myself, I was not looking for a new job. Yet after an hour, my feet were tied together like a calf. This new recruit was taken (very willingly though) to the Farm Press bunkhouse.

I read about Bill Johnson online recently and learned that Bill and Harry have much in common. Both were innovators. Bill started the radio program which became widely popular. Harry was one of the founding editors of Farm Press publications. Bill wasn't afraid to tackle controversial issues. Harry has never walked away from a good challenge via words.

Seven years have since passed since Harry and I first met up. I am very grateful that Harry brought me into the Farm Press fold and owe him a huge debt of gratitude. It has been an incredible adventure.

Writing about a buffet of agricultural commodities – the 400 crops grown in the West – is a farm journalist’s dream; issues ranging from ways to survive prolonged drought, to food safety challenges, to advances in disrupting crop pests through sterile-insect technology.  

Harry announced several weeks ago in a commentary about his plans to take down his Farm Press editorial shingle for a well deserved semi retirement. He will focus the remainder of this year on his always interesting commentaries, plus further work on the online continuing education platform, www.pentonag.com, which he launched, before taking down his shingle for good.

I am very fortunate to have been selected as Harry’s successor, changing my responsibilities from associate editor to editor. My newly-cut shingle now hangs (and still sways) on the Farm Press door. I welcome the exciting challenge ahead. A new associate editor will be hired soon and will be based in California.

Hold on tight. There are many more great stories coming about the fascinating business called Western agriculture.

The next chapter will be a great read.

cblake@farmpress

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