Using Facebook As a Farm Broadcasting Tool

Von Ketelsen (KCIM-KKRL-KIKD Radio, Carroll, IA) has spent his career in farm broadcasting and has seen many changes in agriculture and ways to better communicate its story. Von has several Facebook pages, which he constantly updates with farm information, as well as photos from events he covers. “When I started in farm broadcasting, there were computers, but they were large desktop machines, strictly for word processing. Of course when the Internet came along that revolutionized things,” he said. Even with tools like Facebook, Von emphasizes that some things haven’t changed in farm broadcasting. “One of the first things I learned when I entered broadcasting is the saying, ‘If you talk about them, they’ll talk about you’. Meaning, if you involve people in your broadcasts, through covering events, and mentioning names of local people on radio – they’ll tell their friends about you.” Ketelsen keeps a busy schedule both on the air and in the communities he serves.  

In addition to covering state and local events, he produces unique promotions he’s branded as his own. “Vittles with Von is where I take lunch to a different farm family each week during spring field work and during fall harvest. Area caterers prepare the lunches which I bring to each of the families. I interview members of the family on the radio about their lives. It’s amazing how many people who aren’t in farming follow Vittles with Von and listen to my interviews with the farm families. It’s a great way to thank farmers and have them tell the story of agriculture to non-farm listeners,” he said. Farmer Comments is another unique program Von produces. Every spring and fall, he drives the country roads searching for farmers. When he sees one, he gives them a snack and bottle of water. “Farmer Comments is listened to by farmers, because they like to hear themselves and people they know on radio. They like hearing how their neighbor’s fieldwork is coming along, if there are problems in the field, and what harvest yields are. Non-farm listeners like it, because they usually hear local farmers they personally know.”

Von is very involved with FFA chapters in his listening area. “I produce a weekly program called FFA Today, where I interview members about their FFA experiences. It’s a well-received program, and it’s rewarding for me to make friends with these FFA students and watch them grow,” Ketelsen added. Your Old Tractor is another weekly program Ketelsen produces. Every Saturday morning, he visits with tractor collectors about – you guessed it – their old tractors. “I ask them to tell me the stories behind their vintage iron, what’s unique about it. The highlight is at the end of the program when they get up on their tractor, start it, and rev it up!” With so many tractor rides going on during the summer, Ketelsen has taken the program on the road. “I have broadcasted Your Old Tractor live from tractor rides every week during the past couple of summers, from June through the end of August. People enjoy having their local tractor rides publicized that way,” Ketelsen said.

When he isn’t on the air, covering a farm event, or taking part in a radio station promotion, Ketelsen can be found singing and playing his guitar at a number of events. “I perform at county farm organization meetings, community events, and festivals. I’ll be performing at several county Farm Bureau meetings this month. I do songs people know and tell the stories behind the songs and the artists who originally recorded them. A lot of them have a positive message,” Ketelsen said. Despite new technologies like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Ketelsen says the personal nature of farm broadcasters connecting with listeners hasn’t changed.  “Farm broadcasters provide a vital emotional link between radio stations and listeners. And being an NAFB member adds credibility to the farm broadcaster and the stations they serve,” he concluded. Von joined NAFB in 1984, while he was a student at Iowa State University. During that time, he served a stint in the WOI Radio farm department.