When I’m asked to speak to an agricultural group, the request is almost always for a light-hearted, humorous talk that will entertain and “lift the spirits” of the audience of farmers in attendance. I’m happy to try and always enjoy myself as I get the chance to visit with other like-minded people across the country. In the past six months, however, I’ve been warned on two separate occasions, “Jerry, it’s a group of dairy farmers and if you can make them laugh, with what they are going through right now, you will earn every penny.”
There is no doubt that the dairy industry is seeing unprecedented challenges at this time with ultra-low milk prices coupled with record high input costs. I don’t know a single dairy farmer that isn’t losing money every week they produce, but at the same time, most were optimistic that those who could weather the storm, stood to thrive when things got better, and they laughed at my feeble attempt at humor anyway. Believe it or not, these two meetings were not the “toughest” gigs I’ve ever encountered.
It was about 12 years ago that I was invited to the corn belt to provide an evening’s entertainment to the annual meeting of a local, farmer-owned cooperative where most all of the attendees were hog farmers. This was about the time that large, corporate hog farms were beginning to take over the vast majority of swine production in the U.S. and the small independents were vanishing like a late spring skiff of snow.
I arrived early and was standing a few feet from the entrance door, visiting with a newly made friend. There, I could watch every single individual enter. When the first gentleman came in,  he appeared to be 70-something and was assisted by a walker. The next farmer was about the same age and using a cane. The rest of the crowd only got older and more feeble. I usually relate better to more elderly people and enjoy talking to more “mature” groups, but folks, I’ve spoken to younger audiences at the local nursing home.
After dinner, and before my little talk, the director of the co-op got up to make some remarks.
“First,” he began, “let’s all join our hearts to offer condolences to the Smith family for losing their patriarch, Old Jess, last week.” He continued by also acknowledging the death of a long-time board member, Mr. Jones. Then he choked up about losing a long-time employee of the co-op who had just recently died from a battle with cancer and mentioned their secretary whose house had burned last week. The director continued by relating that the recent rash of tornadoes had completely devastated the confinement hog barns of Mr. Lewis, Mr. James, and Mr. Davis, all of whom had only a fraction of the insurance coverage they needed. It would have been deafening silence except for the buzzing of a defective wheelchair motor.
In a short aside, the director quoted the state extension economist who predicted even worse hog prices for the coming year. Amid the moans and groans, he presented the annual financial report for the feed division of their co-op and reported net losses of $700,000, and that didn’t include the loss of the roof over the fertilizer storage that collapsed under the weight of last winter’s snowstorm.
After what seemed like an eternity (but probably more like 20 minutes) he adjusted the microphone and said, “But now we’ve got a real treat for you as Jerry Crownover is going to come up and make you laugh harder than you ever have in your life.”
If it hadn’t been for the shrill whistle and feedback of one old man’s hearing aid – I wouldn’t have gotten ANY response that evening.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry about his books, or to arrange speaking engagements, you may contact him by calling 1-866-532-1960 or visiting www.ozarksfn.com and clicking on 'Contact Us.'

Melissa FullerEditorial / OpinionsArkansasWhen I’m asked to speak to an agricultural group, the request is almost always for a light-hearted, humorous talk that will entertain and “lift the spirits” of the audience of farmers in attendance. I’m happy to try and always enjoy myself as I get the chance to visit with...The Ozarks' most read farm newspaper, reaching more than 58,000 readers in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma