Wednesday, March 02, 2011

NARFD or Not

The National Association of Radio Farm Directors (NARFD) was founded in 1943. These were very different years in terms of radio programming. In those days Billboard actually had a category for "Farm Programs" in their Best Local Program Competition. Today the format is leaner and more insular than ever. And from the start, their annual meetings documented the diminishing presence of farm programming. NARFD in some ways had the very basic purpose of changing that. They wanted to sell Farm Programs outside of their local markets. At a meeting in 1948 it was admitted that less than one third had managed to do so. NARFD had only 140 members in that year.
NARFD executives tended to serve repeatedly and often went into government especially the USDA whom they had close ties to. It's first President Chuck Worcester of WMT-AM was unseated in 1946 and Layne Beaty of WBAP-AM took over as Chuck moved down a notch to become VP. Beaty later served as an information advisor in Europe with the U.S. aid programs; and from 1954 to 1980. In 1949 Roy Battle of WLW became president and Phil Alampi of WJZ became VP. Alampi had his term at the helm a few years later. His wife Ruth read a poem at their 1947 banquet "The Lament of the Forgotten Women—RFD's wife."
That same year the USDA cut back on the funds it had been using to support agricultural radio programing and NARFD was caught off guard. They were powerless to change the decision so they issued a terse statement that blamed no one directly but instead mourned their collective shrinking importance.
"We regret the circumstances which have compelled curtailment of funds and personnel to an extent which severely limits the ability of the USDA radio services to adequately serve agriculture and which also limits assistance to radio farm directors in providing adequate farm service to listeners." 
While big market AMs bought FM sticks and expanded into TV NARFD stations barely limped along. Station managers dissatisfied with unprofitable farm departments cut them back or cut them off.  They needed a game-changer. In 1955 NARFD became the National Association of Television and Radio Farm Directors (NATRFD.) IN the move they increased their ranks to almost 500 members. membership to 500. The name changed in 1964 to the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB). In 2005, the name was adjusted to National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB)needling over grammar.
Chuck continued on at WMT into the 1950s. Fifty years later, President Chuck Worcester is not forgotten. They award Chuck Worcester Scholarships to this day. I haven't heard it yet, but his voice is recorded on the WMT Voice of Iowa LP released in 1962.