By Jamie Cole, AAEA Board Member, Creative Director, Red Barn Media Group
What is your background? Were you a farm kid?
I was very involved in 4-H and FFA growing up, but that was more from growing up in a rural area; I wasn’t a farm kid. Some of my extended family farmed, and we always had big gardens, backyard chicken coops, and a tractor, but my favorite part about growing up where I did was having the freedom to roam the countryside on an ATV. We even worked it out—somehow—so that we could drive our ATVs to school, though I can’t imagine how that worked out on the adult side of the conversation.
So then how did you get involved in ag communications?
I always knew I wanted to be involved in media in some capacity, from a VERY young age. I’ve told the story before about creating magazines on my Apple IIc, making makeshift covers using PrintShop and typesetting in a very primitive software called Newsroom. And I was always writing. So college was very media-centric: I was editor of my student newspaper, and after grad school at Alabama (Roll Tide!), I even taught for a while. Growing up in Alabama, the only place I ever wanted to work was what was then called “Southern Progress Corporation,” the home of Progressive Farmer, Southern Living, Cooking Light… So much has changed in the media landscape since those days, but I interviewed for an internship and just fell in love with PF, in every conceivable way. The staff, the content, the opportunities… it was perfect. As an intern, I built and launched progressivefarmer.com, and never looked back. They hired me before my internship was up, and I spent the first dozen years of my career there, becoming Managing Editor before leaving for the adventure that is Red Barn Media Group.
What’s your favorite thing about the job?
It may sound hokey, but there’s a wood cutout over my desk that says, “Create.” It’s the first thing I see every morning. And I love making stuff. I leave it that general because every place I’ve ever worked, every person I’ve ever worked with, has given me the opportunity to wear a lot of hats and try a lot of stuff. Right now I’m deep in the world of multimedia storytelling, and owe a debt to every colleague, boss, mentor who let me pick up a camera or edit footage when I probably should’ve been doing something else. I’ve been digital, print, back to digital, and now at Red Barn we’re doing something akin to making mini-documentaries while still writing, editing, shooting, managing websites… I love it all!
This is your second go-round as a member of the board of directors. What are you looking forward to as you serve on the board?
Last time around, we were at a crossroads as an organization with digital storytelling emerging as a real factor, and we were addressing that as a board. Now I feel like we’re poised to help define this organization for a new generation of communicators. I was mostly an observer at this year’s AMS, and I left more excited and energized than I’ve been in a long time about where we’re going, mostly because the possibilities seem open and endless. We have more stories and more platforms than ever to tell them through, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that evolution