WHEN I first started in the newspaper racket — gosh, back in the mid-1960s — everything was "hot type" — heavy lead that was inked and positioned on the presses so the newsprint (the paper that would become the newspaper) would roll over the type and print the paper.
It was alphabetically organized type, by the way, to which American revolutionist printer John Peter Zenger referred when he said: "I have 26 little lead soldiers with which I can conquer the world." The power of the Fourth Estate has always been tremendous.
In the press room, when the presses were ready to roll, a number of bells would ring to caution people to get out of the way. When the presses were rolling, the press room was a dangerous place to be.
I also thought of the bells as the final signal that deadlines had to be met, that stories had to be written, edited and set in type. The bells were absolute, even for reporters.
This is my last market report. After 35 years at Feedstuffs and 45 years in journalism, I'm slipping out for retirement.
I want to thank all of you who have helped me over the years deliver the news. I want to thank all of you who have been subscribers and read the news. Your cards and kind words and even some parting plaques and presents over the last six months have been greatly appreciated.
It has been quite an experience — one that began when I took a position with Feedstuffs that, in my mind, would be temporary until a job opened up at one of the "real newspapers" downtown. I could not see myself writing about corn, cows, pigs and chickens for the rest of my life.
Jobs on the real newspapers opened up a few times, but each time, I decided to stay with Feedstuffs. I learned quickly that I could make some lasting contributions as a staff writer — that I would be able to cover an industry in which farmers and livestock producers were transitioning into professionals.
I have been across the country and around the world. I have reported about companies and people who have developed and practiced the highest levels of animal welfare, environmental stewardship, food safety, community relations and sustainability. I have reported about adopting ethical principles.
It has kept me busy.
At Feedstuffs, our own ethical principle is that we report about an industry, not for it. This requires deliberate, determined work to gain the confidence of people who will answer questions even when it's inconvenient, even when they would rather not, to get the information needed to report correctly, factually and fully.
I really believe I have done that. I really believe my fellow reporters at Feedstuffs have done that. I really believe we have documented an industry that is meeting the increasing responsibility to produce an abundant, affordable supply of high-quality, safe food and to do so with modern technology.
It will be different for me, now, to observe this rather than report it. However, I am sure that the challenge will be one to which agriculture will rise.
I don't have any plans for my retirement. I haven't really had time to make plans or think about what I want to do.
As I noted, I just wanted to take this occasion to express my appreciation for everyone's help. I could not have done what I have done — and we, at Feedstuffs, cannot do what we need to do — without your confidence and support.
For me, there's a badly neglected house and yard to tend and books to read.
However, there will be no more 3 a.m. wakeup calls, nor notes to take on restaurant napkins, nor stories to write at 30,000 ft.
Nor bells to answer.