I remember hearing DeAnna Thomas's name a few years ago, back when she was DeAnna Schertz. I didn't know her personally but knew she was an up-and-coming ag communications major who was clearly going places and ready to do great things. It didn't hurt that she started out as an intern for farm radio giant Colleen Callahan, either.
Earlier this year, DeAnna took over as agribusiness director for 1470 WMBD and 1290 WIRL in Peoria. I got to know her better when she asked me to be one of two farm wives in a regularly-featured segment called "Confessions of a Farm Wife," along with Emily Webel. It is a blast though I was nervous as all get-out the first time. (Oh yes, there's a reason I became a farm writer, not a farm broadcaster. She's got skills.)
Anyway, we have a good time on the air and the funny part is, DeAnna is a farm wife herself – though she laughs and says as a newlywed, she's a "farm wife in training." Basically, that means she knows what it is to pack lunches every day for forever and haul meals to the field…and that she knows all the good questions to ask.
DeAnna and her new husband, Braden, farm in the Illinois River bottoms near Manito, raising a bevy of interesting crops. Beyond corn and beans, they also raise green beans, peas and popcorn, with Braden's parents, Steve and Debbie. No livestock, but one much-loved black lab named Tess. Check it out – she made it into both the engagement picture AND the groom's cake! Farm dogs rock.
Their farming philosophy? They're the fourth generation on the farm, and like a lot of us, they feel a responsibility to keep the place going. They are concerned about the disconnect between farms and consumers and DeAnna sees that as the reason for a lot of unnecessary regulation and unrealistic expectations.
Their take on the inaccuracies and accusations levied at farmers? "You almost feel like you've been sucker punched," DeAnna says. "You think to yourself, really?!?"
"My first reaction is, why don't you come down to our farm for a day or two and walk around in my husband's work boots? Then we can talk."
It's one reason DeAnna closes every broadcast with this: "Agriculture is more than food, feed and fuel – it is the foundation of our future."
30 Days of Farm & Families
Day 1: The Webels
Day 2: The Mies Family