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Farm boy makes name for himself with Nebraska Farmer

Don McCabe

Don McCabe; Editor, Nebraska Farmer

By Melissa Keyes

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Growing up on a farm near Newcastle, Neb., was the basis of Don McCabe’s passion for agriculture. His knowledge of agriculture from being raised on a farm helped him get where he is today. McCabe knew from the start that he wanted to pursue a career in agriculture, but he realized that maybe he didn’t want to put in quite the hard labor and risks associated with the industry.

Instead, McCabe set out to be a writer, and he has since made a name for himself in agriculture journalism.

McCabe attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha for three semesters before transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, earning his journalism degree. He also supplemented his journalism major with a few agriculture-related courses here and there throughout his time in Lincoln.  After a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy, McCabe took a job with the York News-Times, a family newspaper out of York, Neb., where he wrote a lot of agricultural stories.

In 1977, McCabe began working for Nebraska Farmer, one of 18 publications under the Farm Progress Magazine Group. Farm Progress is based in St. Charles, Ill., but has publications all across the United States. A few states have their own magazine while some, without a heavy agriculture community, share with a region. In 2009, Nebraska Farmer celebrated 150 years of publication, which makes the magazine older than Nebraska itself.

McCabe is now the editor of the monthly publication and works with a field editor in Crofton, Neb., as well as other employees. A typical day for him starts out by reading the news on various websites to spark ideas for possible stories. Story ideas come from current events in agriculture at a state and national level.

A lot of the time, McCabe is on the road interviewing subjects. One of his favorite parts of his job is getting to travel the state and get to know individuals involved in the industry he loves. Depending on the time of the month, McCabe could be proofing pages, placing pieces or editing stories at any time of the day. The pages must be sent to Illinois to the Farm Progress headquarters to be proofed and put together before being printed.

With such current major issues in agriculture as the drought and the lack of a farm bill, McCabe is never at a loss for story ideas. The bread and butter of Nebraska Farmer is the wealth of new technology being introduced every day. Producers like to read about new things that could help them on their operations, and one source for them is this publication. University sources are often utilized to provide new viewpoints for readers.

McCabe’s advice for aspiring agriculture journalists can be directed towards other journalists as well.

“Read as much as you can, and be curious about the world.

“Get involved with groups and travel if you can.

“Love agriculture. It’s the industry that feeds the world.”

McCabe also advises journalism students to get writing experience outside of school and to find internships. He talked about the growing interest in social media and said it’s important to be proficient in those skills in today’s world.

With agriculture growing at the pace it is, producers are always looking for information and new technologies. Nebraska Farmer is the premier source in Nebraska for farmers and ranchers to do just that.

“Publishing is doing well because agriculture is doing well,” he said.

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