There are very few constants in life but the one thing that remained constant for me growing up and into adulthood was the morning show on WIBW with ag programing brought to our house by Kelly Lenz. I grew up eating breakfast while learning about the latest in ag news and notes, not just occasionally but every morning. He was almost like one of the family.
That was why I paused for a moment last week when Kelly announced he was retiring after 41 years on the radio. That was four decades of farm crisis, weather, embargoes, tariffs and a few good times mixed in, all described by the warm, familiar voice coming across the radio on our counter. Mornings meant coffee, eggs and Kelly.
When I was an Extension agriculture agent, one of my best moments came the first time Kelly asked me to be on “Ag Issues.” I felt like I had arrived. The truth of the matter was Kelly was a huge supporter of Extension, and he was always willing to help promote meetings or get timely information out to our producers. I also had the privilege of hosting several meetings with Kelly, and I always felt like my time with him was like being at the feet of a guru.
When I left Extension to farm, I wondered if he would remember who I was. After all, he met so many people over the years and most were far more memorable or important than me. Much to my surprise the first time I saw him after my career change not only did he know me, but he cared about what I had been up to. That never changed over time.
The secret to Kelly’s success was that he was one of us – a farm boy from Iowa – and that was something he never forgot. He knew what it was like to get up way before dawn on a bitter cold morning to milk cows or to sit on a tractor seat in the blistering August heat. He understood pouring your heart and soul into the farm because that is what he did every morning in his studio. I have known few who were as knowledgeable about such a wide array of topics involving agriculture. Farmers and ranchers were his audience and he kept us informed.
It’s going to be hard for me to imagine the airwaves without Kelly. No one outside of a dairy farmer has more richly earned the right to sleep late. Although like most retired dairy farmers, I suspect Kelly will still wake up long before the sun each morning out of habit. My friend I hope you understand just how much you have contributed and improved agriculture in Kansas and, more importantly, how much we appreciated it. I hope you enjoy a long, happy retirement; it is well deserved.