To the editor:
It’s the end of an era in Wisconsin farming and agricultural journalism — the retirement of your longtime editor Jim Massey.
After retiring from an earlier career in the farm equipment business, I got involved in agricultural politics and business development work on behalf of family-scale farmers. That second career overlapped with Jim’s, almost perfectly, at The Country Today.
In my work, long ago, as a consultant helping build the CROPP/Organic Valley Co-op and for other Wisconsin cooperatives, as governmental affairs director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union in the 1990s and while running a farm-centered campaign for the state Legislature, I interfaced with Jim continually. My politics, railing against the corporate takeover of farming, challenging whether biotechnology would actually benefit farmers, rather than suppliers, and challenging some of the established political leaders, as the vast majority of Wisconsin’s dairy families were pushed out of business, frequently had me at loggerheads with industry-friendly journalists.
Jim Massey always represented the highest journalistic ethics. Although the paper was generally pro-agribusiness, its news coverage was almost always balanced, and its opinion pages consistently welcomed opposing views. That quality of journalism truly served, and continues to serve, the interests of Wisconsin’s farm and rural communities.
In the mid-1980s, when I still owned a Case-IH dealership and Jim was just starting with The Country Today, there were around 45,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin alone, averaging about 45 cows each.
Since then, we have both witnessed a disaster in our state and country. One of the few bright spots has been the shift to organic agriculture — at first ridiculed in the pages of many farm publications, and eventually embraced as it morphed into a $50 billion industry, where farmers and processors are making money. Sadly, organic dairy farmers are currently facing the same challenges with industrial-scale dairies managing more than 20,000 cows, eroding margins for organic producers.
For the past 14 years, I have helped run The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog. Under Jim’s leadership at the paper, organic agriculture has had prime coverage and always a fair shake.
I will miss Jim’s professionalism as an important statewide journalist. But most of all, I will miss him as a friend, where, I think, we were both able to speak our minds. And I knew that, doing that openly, I would always be treated respectfully in his coverage.
Wishing you and your family well, Jim! I will look forward to the occasional feature stories that you promised.
The Cornucopia Institute