Root Recommends Seeing Where Life Leads

Few of us know exactly what we are going to be when we are growing up. Life changes and opportunities, both good and bad, present themselves in infinite ways, affecting our professional paths. Ken Root is no exception to this.

“I’m not sure any of us can plan our future employment. We can just prepare for a positive outcome and see where life takes us,” said Root, who is now retired after a long, successful career as a national leader in farm broadcasting.

Root’s words are not only a statement about his personal life but may also provide some inspiration for people who are still finding their way.

Root began to find his way as he attended Oklahoma State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education.

“I graduated in 1972, taught vocational agriculture for two and a half years in a little town in Western Oklahoma called Union City. I then had the remarkable opportunity to be able to go to the biggest television and radio station in Oklahoma City,” Root said.

Under the tutelage of farm broadcasting pioneer Russell Pierson at WKY, Root’s work as a farm broadcaster began to take form.

“I worked there for seven years under Pierson,” Root said. “I learned a great deal from him and from the news department in television. Then that station shut down their farm programming, and I began moving around America.”

His next venture would be to work for Kansas Agriculture Network in Wichita, Kansas. His mentor there was Rich Hull.

“Mr. Hull was much closer to my age and a very different reporter than was Mr. Pierson. He was the farm director, and he was more involved in the community activities of the area that we were broadcasting in,” Root said. “Rich was more of a news reporter about agriculture, and we got into all the issues of agricultural journalism.”

This work would also lead Root to faraway places that he never expected to go.

“We went all over the world trying to get more people to be customers of the United States farmer, to buy US products and to learn more about the differences,” Root added. “We went to China, the Soviet Union. We went to South America. We went to countries in Europe and Asia, and it was just a remarkable time to say the least.”

In 1984, Kansas Agriculture Network was sold, and Root, along with Hull, moved to KWCH Television in Wichita and Hutchinson.

“We established a farm department there, and I did more traveling and reported on a broader range of journalism,” he said.

In 1987, Root moved to American Cyanamid, a company specializing in the manufacturing of agricultural products.

“I was in the public relations area there for a brief period of time before I moved over and started a new organization of agrochemical retailers called the National Agrochemical Retailers Association,” Root said. “I then moved it to Washington, D.C., to a place that was a lobby organization for the people who were small ag retailers in rural America.”

Root’s next career decision would bring him back to the Midwest, where he started a new radio show with Rich Hull and Mark Vail.

“AgriTalk was a type of long form talk radio,” Root said. “We had a one-hour program each day that was from 10 to 11 a.m., and we discussed issues that were important to people who lived and worked in rural America, and for the next seven years I did that.”

After becoming executive director of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) and working at WHO Radio in Des Moines, Root went on to start the Iowa Agri Business Radio network, working with Russ Parker.

“Mr. Parker and I put that network on the air in 2010. I also worked for the Agri Business Association of Iowa at the time, which became a very strong supporter of the network; and along with that, I started a daily television program, 6:30 a.m. and Noon each day on WHO TV,” Root said.

The television program was a success and continues to produce content to this day.

“We hired a number of awfully good people, some of them still involved with NAFB; and in 2020, I officially retired from farm broadcasting,” he said.

The winding river of life can have some unexpected turns, but Ken Root is a great example of how we can make the best of the time we have here on earth.

“I would have to say that in my career I’ve been extremely fortunate to have people that I interviewed, or I worked with that, I remain friends with to this day.”

Root currently has two podcasts, Better than Nuthin’ and Root of the Matter, both of which can be streamed on standard podcasting services.