An Interview with Max Armstrong
Talking shop with the ‘Voice of American Agriculture’
Max Armstrong and his Farmall H Tractor. “Interviewing Max was a real honor,” said Johnny Klemme. “He gave me some great advice as an agriculture professional and on life in general.”
Situated at the dead-end of a dirt road in North Carolina, his two Jack Russell terriers by his side and a view of his horse farm, Max Armstrong, spoke with me over the phone in his distinguished radio voice, “I’ve got to live out my childhood dream for the last 40 years.”
As a boy, growing up on the farm in Southern Indiana, the nationally-known host of ‘This Week in Agribusiness’ and the ‘WGN Radio Saturday Morning Show’ dreamed of reporting on the events, news and issues important to the Agriculture community. Now, some forty years later, he generously shared with me his good fortune, hard work, as well as the challenges and opportunities he believes we are facing in agriculture today.
“I am optimistic about the future of Agriculture,” said Armstrong, “I encourage producers, farm families, and everyone living in a rural community to promote the increasingly important role that agriculture plays in the state of Indiana.”
What excites you most about Agriculture today?
“Everyone talks about technology, and I am excited about the capabilities of producers to analyze fields with UAV’s, making better decisions with farm data, and their ability to address problems faster and more efficiently. Just as exciting is the generational shift to tomorrow’s farmer. Years of sustained profitability have helped farming families’ position the next generation to be successful – because it’s not easy being a new or young farmer!”
Max went on to commend younger producers for their willingness to embrace technology and maintain the values instilled in them from their parents and grandparents. “Tomorrow’s farming operation enters a time of greater competition, but with the right tools and work ethic, there is room to be successful.”
What are the major obstacles or challenges we face in Agriculture?
“More than ever, farmers, business leaders and members of the rural community should be engaged in the political process. Whether we like it or not, the Ag community voice needs to be heard. By the time you get to Washington D.C. there are precious few representing the Ag community, but at the local and state level, there is a lot of opportunity.”
Armstrong commented that spreading the message of Agriculture can easily become part of our daily routine. “Every time you see your local officials, whether at the coffee shop or annual parade, shake their hand, and remind them about the importance of the Ag constituency.”
What advice would you give to todays and tomorrow’s farmer?
“We all recognize that it’s a competitive market. But I hope and pray that we keep the ‘family to family’ and ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ philosophy alive. Building relationships is the key to success in more than just farming; you never know when the person you just met could be sitting across the table from you, in a position to help you.”
On many occasions during our conversation, we circled back to this philosophy on life. Max reminded me several times, “Take care of the people around you and you will be successful; both on the farm and off the farm.”
What advice would you give young people today?
“You get a lot of wisdom out of the classroom, but the best classroom in the world is on the knee of your grandparents and parents. Sit with your parents, and listen to what they have to say. Mom and Dad may not be a whiz with their iPad or smartphone, but their life experience is worth more than you may realize.”
We covered a lot of ground in our conversation, from the hard work it takes to be successful in Agribusiness, not being afraid to get your boots dirty, and we even shared quite a few laughs about his iconic mustache and a our mutual interest in antique tractors. The conversation continually circled back to Max’s philosophy and belief that we can all relate to; whatever your path in life, put in the hard work, resolve to help your neighbors, and you always get back what you put into something.
… And for those that may be wondering, Armstrong has only shaved his iconic mustache one time since graduating from Purdue in 1975. “The one time I did shave it, my wife and daughter were quick to tell me that I needed to start growing it back immediately,” said Armstrong with a laugh.
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About the Author
The Back Forty is regular column written by Published Author, Purdue Graduate and Farmland Broker Johnny Klemme. His reporting, interviews with Ag Experts and more can be found at www.PrairieFarmland.com/blog