For use in local newspapers, week of April 21, 2014:
The creator of the Farm Bureau’s weekly television program “This Week in Louisiana Agriculture” Regnal Wallace officially retired last week from radio station KMAR in Winnsboro, where he was the farm broadcaster for the last 16 years.
I say officially retired because Friday, April 11, 2014 marked the second time Reg Wallace retired. His first retirement as public relations director for the Louisiana Farm Bureau and former host of our TV program was March 31, 1997. After moving from Baton Rouge back to his hometown of Crowville just weeks after his departure, Reg stayed retired all of about six months. He was sought out by Tom Gay Jr., the owner of KMAR radio and persuaded to go back on the air with a daily farm program. That program, ‘Round Franklin, would be heard across Northeast Louisiana for the next 16 years.
Reg Wallace, who turns 80 in November, was a pioneer in the field of farm broadcasting. He came of age on the air during the time of Cronkite and Brinkley, his deep, resonating sing-song delivery bringing the news of agriculture to listeners across Louisiana, first on radio beginning in 1975 on the Farm Bureau Radio Network, then to television viewers across the state when TWILA signed on the air Sept. 24, 1981.
Wallace, who grew up on his family’s cotton farm in Franklin Parish, always understood the importance of agriculture. His father and his brother were farmers and it was the proceeds from the annual cotton crop that helped send him to Louisiana Baptist College after four years in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s. His Farm Bureau career would begin in the summer of 1969.
Having grown up on the farm, Wallace knew that sometimes farmers and ranchers were underappreciated in their tasks of feeding us day in, day out. His desire to create a television program that would, in his words, “tell the farmers’ story,” would go on to become the longest running, locally produced television program in all of Louisiana. And it all started with a man who knew deep down that agriculture had a story to tell and that we should all be thankful for the work farmers and ranchers do on our behalf season after season, good years and bad.
At a retirement celebration at Bobby’s Restaurant in Winnsboro last week friends and family reflected on Wallace and his accomplishments as the state’s premier farm broadcaster.
“He has a knowledge and an understanding of agriculture most of us really can’t comprehend,” said Tom Gay Jr., owner of KMAR. “As a farm broadcaster Reg was one of the best.”
Don Molino, senior farm broadcaster for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Agri-News Radio Network and long-time friend who for six years co-hosted TWILA, said he learned a lot from Wallace about the importance of farm news.
“Reg taught me a lot,” Molino said. “He was definitely a pioneer in farm broadcasting because there was a time when he was the only farm voice out there. I’m proud to call him my friend and colleague.”
When TWILA celebrated 25 years on the air Reg was asked about how agriculture had changed since his early days with the Farm Bureau. He said there was a time when people knew milk came from cows because “their father or grandfather had one. Today we’ve lost that, but that doesn’t mean agriculture is any less important.”
The agricultural airwaves of Northeast Louisiana are silent now as the man known as “the voice of Louisiana agriculture” took his final bow last week. I, for one, will never forget the contributions Regnal Wallace made to the farmers and ranchers he served for the better part of four decades. It was his commitment to their tireless work that helped all of us connect with, and hopefully better understand, those who call themselves farmers.
I’m certain the television program he created 32 years ago will carry on his mission to tell the farmers story; to be that singular voice which helps all of us be ever mindful that while the work of the farmer is never done, his story always deserves to be told. Thanks Reg.