When National FFA President Taylor McNeel calls the 89th National FFA Convention & Expo to order this October, the TV cameras will be rolling.
RFD-TV, a longtime National FFA sponsor, airs each of the convention sessions through their gavel-to-gavel coverage – 30 hours of programming in total.
“Only 55,000 members get to go to the convention,” explains Patrick Gottsch, founder and owner of RFDTV. “We feel honored that we get to help make the convention and expo accessible for the other 550,000 FFA members at home who couldn’t go this year.” The RFD-TV crew will roll into Indianapolis with a production trailer and set up a stage. Beyond airing the convention sessions, viewers can see interviews with FFA members, learn more about the FFA program and the awards presented during the convention, and catch a glimpse of the excitement of the event.
Covering FFA stories is a major focus for RFD-TV, the nation’s only cable channel committed to rural America. It fits nicely within the network’s mission – to serve the needs and interests of rural Americans and to reconnect city with country.
That company mission makes sense when you consider that Gottsch grew up on a small farm in Nebraska, raising cattle, hogs, corn, soybeans and alfalfa. He knows agriculture.
And he knows technology too. His “a-ha” moment for building this new network came when he was selling satellite dishes in the 1980s.
“The farming problems of the ‘80s led to a lot of guys like myself going to find a job in town,” he explains. “I got a job selling satellite dishes in the Omaha area. This is when satellite dishes were big, 10 feet in diameter and cost $3,000 or more.”
He continues, “People loved them and the accessibility they finally had to great channels. But a lot of them said the same thing – I wish there was a network geared to rural life.
I heard that over and over again. One night I sat down and drew up a business plan for what turned out to be RFD-TV. And those were my two objectives – serve rural America and reconnect city with country.”
In the years since RFD-TV was officially launched in 2000, Gottsch and his team have done just that.
As satellite dishes became smaller and more affordable, RFD-TV began airing on those networks, then worked toward presence on cable networks. Today, the television channel reaches 50 million homes, and the media group also owns and operates RURAL RADIO on SiriusXM Channel 147 and a print publication, RFD-TV The Magazine.
“People in the city are becoming more interested in where their food comes from. It’s been a great advancement in connecting city to the country,” Gottsch says. “Today, our largest audience is in urban areas. We’ve found that a lot of people’s parents or grandparents had farms, but they live in the cities now. RFD-TV is the only network that helps connect them back to the past and really, their future.”
RFD-TV programming centers around agriculture, equine, traditional country music and entertainment, the rural lifestyle and Western sports. A recent addition has been a focus on news coverage, including the only primetime evening news show that focuses on the issues facing rural America.
“It’s been the right mix for us,” Gottsch says, adding that FFA fits nicely with each of those categories. FFA has presence in all these media, including a weekly radio show, FFA Today, on the SiriusXM channel. FarmHer, a new show premiering in early September, will further promote rural America, this time about women in agriculture. Many of the women being featured are FFA alumni.
“We’re helping put a face back on the farmer and rancher. And a face on FFA. I’m so proud of that,” Gottsch says. He can’t say enough about how he enjoys promoting FFA, often to an audience who knows little about the organization or rural life.
“I still read every email that comes to RFD-TV, and we get the most amazing letters about our FFA coverage,” he says. “People who had no idea what FFA is all about. They are excited to get their kids or grandkids involved, or get a chapter started in their area.”
RFD-TV Supports FFA
In 2014, RFD-TV committed to a five-year sponsorship with FFA that provides cash and in-kind support valued at $5 million over five years.
The agreement put RFD-TV at the highest level of corporate support within the National FFA Foundation. It is just one of many ways the company has supported FFA during their long relationship, providing opportunities to members and helping grow FFA and agricultural education.
The impact of the relationship is seen and heard throughout the country each October, when more than 30 hours of live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the National FFA Convention & Expo is simulcast on RFD-TV and RURAL RADIO SiriusXM Channel 147.
In addition to coverage from the national convention and expo, stories about FFA members, advisors and supporters can be heard weekly on “FFA Today” on RURAL RADIO, found on SiriusXM Channel 147. The show airs on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. ET and Sundays at 6:30 p.m. ET. Thank you, RFD-TV, for your continued support of FFA!