Rob Sharkey helps farmers tell their stories.
“I’m just a farmer out there trying to help other people get their message and their stories out there,” he said.
A corn and soybean farmer with 2,000 acres in Illinois, Sharkey produces the “Shark Farmer” podcast. He will speak at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the main ballrooms and 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room 402A and at 9 a.m. Thursday to FFA members.
Available for download on the internet, podcasts are pre-recorded shows similar to a radio show that can include news, interviews and commentary. They can be a few minutes long, or several parts of more than an hour each.
Sharkey’s been producing his podcast for more than three years.
“We’re all farmers, we all have different stories and they’re all pretty interesting,” he said. “Most times I hear people say, ‘Why would you want to interview me? I’m not that interesting,’ and it’s never the case.”
Sharkey started the podcast to talk about farmers — and not their farm.
“We want to learn about their life and what they’re going through,” he said. “It was kind of different from what other ag media was doing, where it was always markets, weather and maybe some production stories. We’re talking more about what’s going on in their life.”
The podcast is intended as a business-to-business podcast, primarily for farmers.
Sharkey estimates the podcast takes him and wife, Emily, about 30 hours each week to produce.
He’s been farming since 1996.
“Farming’s always taken priority; farming is what I want to do, that’s my true passion,” he said.
But as the podcast and radio show evolve into more of a business, he finds he has to carve out “significant” time for it.
“It’s definitely been a balancing act that we’ve had a steep learning curve on,” he said.
He gets about 20,000 downloads per episode.
Sharkey will also broadcast from the Spokane Ag Show as part of his related SiriusXM radio show.
“Basically (the show is) just getting the story of agriculture in that area out to the rest of North America,” he said.
In his talk with FFA members, Sharkey plans to offer encouragement.
“The world is their oyster,” he said, marveling at the technology available to today’s youth. “Back when I was their age, if you didn’t have a platform, or you didn’t have some sort of medium where you could get your voice out there, it didn’t happen. Nowadays, anybody can.”
It will be Sharkey’s first time visiting the Spokane area.
“It’s a lot of fun to get out and meet different types of ag,” he said.
Sharkey declined to name a favorite episode of his podcast.
“When you have someone there and they just tell you their story, and that’s not a comfortable thing for them to do, I hate to rank that,” he said.
Nor does he have a wish list of subject matter he has yet to tackle.
“To me, that’s the fun of it,” he said. “I’m not picking the topics, I’m just picking the people and I’m letting them talk about what they want to talk about. You never quite know which direction it’s going to go.”