Suber retires his weekly column
by Frank J. Buchman
The most profound spokesman for farmers has rested his pen.
That is an understatement. One of the most knowledgeable, straight-forward spokespersons for farm and ranch profitably, land, water and air conservation, livestock rights, and still the proudest American, genuinely concerned for its future, yet with the utmost wisdom, love for family, life and the deepest faith, has stopped writing a weekly column.
The first week of the month, Jim Suber, perhaps best known by most in recent years for his newspaper syndicated column, “The View from Rural Route #8,” decided abruptly to stop producing the editorial piece.
“I’ve been doing it 40 years, writing columns and stories of one form or another, meeting press deadlines, and I just decided to stop,” Suber concisely explained.
“I need and want to slow down, enjoy and take care of my wife, Jeannette, my aging mother, my sons and grandchildren. Actually, it’s been building inside me. I can’t do it all anymore, or I decided I didn’t have to,” Suber justified.
“It’s a bittersweet thing for sure, but I don’t have any deep regrets about deciding to stop the weekly writings. Still, I really haven’t missed a press deadline in my entire career, except one time when I was stranded overseas,” Suber admitted.
However, those dedicated readers of his heartfelt agriculture service career telling the farmer’s story to the rest of the world, while keeping producers themselves informed, have expressed disappointment and concern that unique public information source is being hushed.
“Jim Suber is always willing to say it without the slightest reservation, exactly like his heart and mind believe it for the betterment of all mankind, farmers, their production and their land,” one non-acquaintance, longtime reader observed.
Another contended: “I could learn more and the truth about farm programs, what might be going on behind our backs, what the production was really going to be, and where the markets were likely headed from Jim Suber’s columns, than from all those other reports I’d see and hear, some that even cost me a lot to get.”
While production agriculture seemed Suber’s emphasis of writing, it has been far from all he reported. Every tangent of the country’s leadership, politics, human interest, friend and acquaintance influence on him and the world, even faith, and on and on have been reflected.
As example, a more recent piece was heavily flailing how deer populations have been allowed to expand, severing crop production and morbidly, increasingly endangering drivers.
“I’ve always tried to keep myself informed on the changes in farm production, government programs, and the impact of politicians on the agriculture industry. I subscribe to several worldwide sources trying to be aware of the possible effect on our local farmers and ranchers,” Suber said.
No one has ever questioned Suber’s dedication and concern for farmers and ranchers. It is a lifelong passion beginning as a farmer’s son in Georgia.
With not the slightest regret or remorse, Suber revealed: “We were poor farmers, that’s just the way it was. But Daddy made sure we had a home, food and clothes.”
From almost the time he was big enough to be in the field, Suber was working beside his Daddy to support the family including Momma and two sisters on their small diversified farm. Today’s almost fond memories of that truly hard labor was far from pleasant more than a half century ago.
“It was pretty tough. I planted more than a million pine trees helping Daddy when the Soil Bank was instituted by the government to pay farmers for retiring land from production. I still have scars to prove it, and that’s my excuse that I can hardly stoop anymore,” Suber confirmed.
His family was pecan growers, too. “We cared for 3,000 trees. There are lots of stories I can tell you about that, as well, the equipment, harvesting pecans with shakers, picking them up, selling nuts, tragic accidents that happened and turned out all right in the end, and much, much more.
“But, I wouldn’t trade those years working with and for my family in agriculture,” Suber verified.
Graduating from high school in 1964, Suber attended some college, had various employments, served in the Navy and later visited friends in Kansas. “I loved the state, worked on harvest crews, so admired the hard working farmers, and I just stayed,” Suber reflected.
With a family, Suber worked for a dairy farm at Quinter, was employed by Ideal Industries building Flex King land sweeps, had other jobs and decided to continue his education at Kansas State University.
“I’d always liked to express myself, and wanted to help others to be sure they knew what was going on, so I majored in journalism, graduating in 1973,” Suber noted.
He worked for the Salina Journal four years, earning national respect for his reporting, covering all areas, yet with an often notable slant towards agriculture. He was recognized for his writing by claiming several Harris News awards.
“Somehow that gave me encouragement that I seemed to need,” Suber confessed.
Then, he moved to work for the Topeka Capital-Journal, again serving all news beats at one time or another, but with inward emphasis toward agriculture, and a regular highly-acclaimed farm column.
A respected source for farmers, and other news people throughout the world who needed an inside interpretation of agriculture situations, Suber took another turn in life in 1998, leaving the city newspaper position.
Living by that time for a decade on the 80-acre home place at “Rural Route #8,” Maple Hill, Suber syndicated his weekly column to nearly 50 publications throughout the country.
“My wife was a pharmacist in Topeka, and we have a vegetable garden in the bottom lands, and peach trees on the hills. I’ve had a couple part time jobs sometimes, too,” Suber related. Other farm acreage, mostly grass, has been rented to neighbors.
Changes continue, and as publications ceased or changed ownership, column circulation shrank some, and Suber developed additional interests.
“My concern for the Flint Hills, my community, and the whole country led me to try to do something, my small part, to make it all better,” said Suber, who served 12 years on the Maple Hill Township Board.
He’s now in his second four-year term as a Wabaunsee County Commissioner. “I am a forward thinker and care about the future of our county, and anticipate the Monday meetings to work for its betterment,” Suber stated.
With his life’s closeness to farming, and dedication to understanding every aspect of the agriculture industry, Suber said emphatically, “So much of what I know about farming is no longer true. I really don’t know much about agriculture.”
Without apology, Suber defended: “I heard that at a Farmland Industries meeting 30 years ago, from an old boy who was about my age now, and it fits me today.
“The industry has become so technological, and continues to change at such a rapid pace, it’s just impossible to keep up,” he added, admitting that communications methods have also changed markedly in his lifetime, from linotype-letterpresses to everything on a cellphone at fingertips.
While his regular writings have now ceased, and vast in agriculture hope that might change back sometime in the future, Suber said, “I’ve never tried to pretend or misrepresent myself in my writing. I’ve always presented the facts, and sometimes analyzed them and their outcome the way I interpreted them. I’m still pleased about that.
“I make no apologies. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I care about my country, am concerned about its farmers and their land; I love all of my family, and I love the Lord. I want this to be a better place for us all,” Suber concluded.
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