A Career Choice: Weather or Not

Dennis Michelsen’s career in the ag industry began as a meteorologist doing ag weather reports for the Tribune Radio Network as part of his duties at a private weather forecasting firm in the early 1980s.

“I would listen for Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson to finish, and then I would send my reports down the line to stations all over Illinois. Today, I get to introduce Max several times a day on WITY Radio (Danville, Illinois), where I was just promoted to farm director,” Michelsen said. “Let me tell you a little more about how I got here, ‘weather or not’ you want to know the details.”

Michelsen grew up in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines as a big sports fan, and it was a thrill for him to do play-by-play of many sports on WMTH, one of the best educational radio stations, managed by Daryl Shultz.

“My career path would take a detour because I also was fascinated by the weather. By pure accident, I was enrolled in both the School of Science and the School of Agriculture programs at Purdue. Dr. Dale at Purdue won me over due to the need for more agricultural weather experts, and my career was launched. It was fascinating to learn about the short- and long-term impacts of weather and climate on the ag industry. My radio background helped me land my first job in the industry after graduating from Purdue in 1982,” Michelsen said.

His career would take a different route when a position as an aviation forecaster came open at United Airlines.

“Forecasting for United was like getting the call from the Chicago Cubs to play center field. The tragic events of 9/11 dealt a severe financial blow to United Airlines, and the concept of having their own specialized weather department was considered a luxury. They outsourced our group on Groundhog Day 2006, and I was sent on another career path,” Michelsen said.

“I would spend the next 12 years covering motorsports and doing media coaching for young athletes, teaching them how to give their best interviews. Becoming a member of the National Motorsports Press Association alongside my idols David Poole, Monte Dutton, Steve Waid, and Bob Pockrass was surreal. As ESPN cut staff, I found myself in more and more competition with big-name broadcasters for work and soon took a job selling cars to make ends meet. While suspended from the car lot for being too nice, I discovered Danville, Illinois, and WITY Radio,” Michelsen added.

“Station Owner Dave Brown brought me back to the world of agriculture as the morning radio show host at WITY Radio in 2019, and I soon enjoyed working with this industry so much, I left the motorsports world behind. I took over the noon farm show duties last year and was promoted to farm director this year,” Michelsen said.

“It has been so enjoyable covering this industry the way it deserves to be covered with more than three hours of dedicated farm broadcasting every day. Being a member of the NAFB alongside so many of the greats of this industry is again quite surreal to this kid from Des Plaines who never dreamed he could really have a career in broadcasting! My wife, Stacey, and I just bought a 120-year-old house here in Danville, which we share with a temperamental cat named Rajah. We’ve enjoyed putting down roots in this amazing town and at this wonderful ag radio station, WITY,” Michelsen concluded.