Issue 4
December 1995

MAWG is Partner in New Farm Radio Network

By Tracy Sayler


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Prairie Grains is the
official publication of
the Minnesota
Association of
Wheat Growers,
North Dakota Grain
Growers Association,
South Dakota Wheat,
Inc., and the
Minnesota Barley
Growers Association.


The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers has joined with well-known area farm radio broadcasters to form the Red River Farm Network (RRFN).

Plans are being finalized to sign six to 10 radio stations in eastern ND and western MN to the network, which is scheduled to begin farm broadcasting on Dec. 4, 1995.

John Vasichek has been named president of the RRFN and Mike Hergert, vice president. Vasichek will head up advertising sales and Hergert will be in charge of programming.

Both are farm radio veterans, most recently working at KKXL 1440 AM Radio in Grand Forks, ND. The two helped KKXL establish a solid base of farm listenership in the Red River Valley, despite having less radio wattage or reach than competitors.

Jerry Fiskum, whose background includes almost 25 years of communications experience at Snyder Films and Video, Fargo; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks; and KKXL, has also joined the RRFN management team.

Hergert is one of the most respected farm broadcasters in the country, and his blend of agricultural promotion and in-depth farm journalism figures to be a key in the success of the RRFN.

"Radio is the medium of choice for farmers, particularly in the growing season. At KKXL, we were a hands-on farm radio station, and I’m proud to say that we became known to farmers as, ‘one of them.’ We hope to expand this rapport and bring news that farmers want through our new RRFN venture," says Hergert.

Establishing the RRFN will not involve bricks and mortar or the building of new radio stations. Rather, network affiliates— existing radio stations that previously had little or no farm news— will be offered 85 minutes of farm programming through the RRFN each day, Monday through Friday.

The RRFN will be based in Grand Forks, with Hergert broadcasting farm news to affiliates through telecommunications at first, and later by satellite.

MAWG drawn by opportunity

A desire to see more radio airtime devoted to farm information, over a larger area of the region keyed the MAWG’s involvement in the RRFN. A determination to become more directly involved with finding new ways to boost farm profitability was also a significant factor in the decision.

The MAWG assumed 20 percent ownership in the RRFN, which it plans to sell to grower-investors by 1997.

Jerry Nordick, MAWG president, says the partnership with an experienced broadcast management team is a cornerstone in the MAWG’s move to form a closed grower cooperative, with other profit centers to be included later.

"Definitely, the MAWG realizes that this is a bold, non-traditional step for a grower organization to take," says the Rothsay, MN, grower. "But a new geninvestment in double-digit numbers for RRFN investors; an outlook more promising than that of many value-added ventures vying for producer investment.

"There is also something to be said about farmers being a part of a medium that’s targeted to ourselves," says Riopelle. "A radio network that is owned by farmers will draw a stronger farm listening commitment, attracting ag advertisers, which in turn bolsters the farmer’s investment in the network. It’s something that’s self-perpetuating."

"A lot of information used on radio comes from our own farms, so by being part owners of the network, we’ll get a return on the information we contribute," says Riopelle.

Hergert says the only other farmer-owned radio arrangement in the country that he is aware of is in Lexington, Neb. Over 4,000 farmers own a 50,000-watt AM station there, although the primary objective is continued farm radio content, not investment gains.

More details about the RRFN, and how growers may invest in it, will be made available this winter.l

eration of MAWG leaders, supported by a new trend in agriculture, believes that it is important to take steps in influencing profitability not so much in the political arena, but in the marketplace."

Owning stock in the RRFN may be attractive to growers for several reasons, says Earl Riopelle, Argyle, MN, who serves on the MAWG board and on the start-up board of the RRFN.

Market research suggests a return-on-investment in double-digit numbers for RRFN investors; an outlook more promising than that of many value-added ventures vying for producer investment.

"There is also something to be said about farmers being a part of a medium that’s targeted to ourselves," says Riopelle. "A radio network that is owned by farmers will draw a stronger farm listening commitment, attracting ag advertisers, which in turn bolsters the farmer’s investment in the network. It’s something that’s self-perpetuating."

"A lot of information used on radio comes from our own farms, so by being part owners of the network, we’ll get a return on the information we contribute," says Riopelle.

Hergert says the only other farmer-owned radio arrangement in the country that he is aware of is in Lexington, Neb. Over 4,000 farmers own a 50,000-watt AM station there, although the primary objective is continued farm radio content, not investment gains.

More details about the RRFN, and how growers may invest in it, will be made available this winter.

Copyright Prairie
Grains Magazine
December 1995