From Sportscasting to Farm Broadcasting

Leif Bakken (Northern Ag Network, Billings, MT) is a new farm broadcaster and NAFB member who grew up on a small cow and wheat operation north of Lemmon, SD, where they also raised sheep until recently. His parents, DeJon and Jeri Lynn Bakken, currently run around 120 head of cattle and grow wheat. From a very young age, Leif was involved in agriculture especially in 4-H and FFA. He showed chickens, sheep, and steers almost every year of his 4-H career. “In North Dakota 4-H, there was a communication arts program where I started doing public speaking, demonstrations, and a broadcasting event. That’s when I was starting to realize this might be what I wanted to do. As an FFA member in South Dakota, the fall Career Development Events have a competition called Ag Broadcasting where the judges hand you a stack of papers with weather, markets, and ag stories that you must compile together to make a three-minute ag cast.” The participant must also create an original ad for an agriculture product or business to insert at any point in the broadcast. “I competed in this event for three years in high school. Between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I produced an ad for the local Farmers Market that was starting up. Afterwards, the radio station manager, Mike Schweitzer, asked Leif if he was interested in a job.

Leif Bakken interviews Dan
Kolar of Northern Seed

Leif took the application and pleaded with his parents to allow him to work for the station. He created a presentation for his parents to show benefits of his working on the ranch and on the radio, and his parents let him apply. Leif worked for KBJM (Lemmon, SD) as a DJ, reading sports, news, and weather along with playing programs from the Northern Ag Network, Farm Progress America, and others. “This is when I fell in love with radio and knew this is what I wanted to do.” He quit the basketball team in his junior year and approached Mike about producing a junior varsity basketball game of the week for the basketball season. Mike said if Leif could get the sponsors to pay for the phone line and his time that he could do it. “I went across town asking businesses to sponsor games and came up with the money to do it. I was the only one in the state of South Dakota announcing junior varsity athletics on the radio. I was lucky enough to get sponsors through my senior year and the program continued for another year after I graduated.” From his love for broadcasting, he decided to go to college to become a broadcaster. He attended Minot State University in Minot, ND. “I went to the athletic department and asked if they had a play-by-play announcer for their sports. They asked if I had ever done volleyball. I told them, no, but I could try.  I watched a couple hours of volleyball on YouTube and then did my first volleyball game. They gave me the job. I then was approved to announce basketball in the winter and softball and baseball in the spring.” He continued, “My sophomore year, we added women’s soccer to the list. My junior year, they let me do football. I was officially the online-voice of the Beavers. While at Minot State, I learned the radio and TV sides to broadcasting.” He earned his degree in broadcast production with a minor in marketing and a concentration in sportscasting. In the spring of his senior college year, he was looking for jobs and saw a Facebook post that a farm broadcasting position was open at the Northern Ag Network. “I applied since I was searching for a job. I did not want to return home and ranch right after college and this seemed like a great opportunity to work for a company I had grown up listening to my whole life.” He applied, interviewed, and was hired. He concluded, “Now I’ve been working here (Northern Ag Network) for two months and I’m loving it. As many people know, you can’t truly get out of agriculture, no matter what you do.”