Shooting Straight From the Heartland

Farmers, ranchers and others raise funds to help save PBS TV show America’s Heartland.

In its 6 seasons, "America's Heartland" has covered subjects as varied as soil research and farmers’ humanitarian efforts to old West cattle drives and ways to protect honeybees. Photo by Kelly Peterson.

In its 6 seasons, “America’s Heartland” has covered subjects as varied as soil research and farmers’ humanitarian efforts to old West cattle drives and ways to protect honeybees. Photo by Kelly Peterson.

The America’s Heartland television program was conceived, in part, to help reconnect non-farmers to those people who produce this country’s food, fiber and other related goods. Now, a grassroots effort is under way to help raise funds for the 6-year-old program, which airs on select public television stations, as well as RFD-TV.

Called Friends of America’s Heartland, the group is made up largely of farmers, ranchers and others in agriculture. Erin Freel Best, who is on the Friends’ steering committee and works on her family’s Florida ranch, says she got involved because the program is “supportive of American agriculture. I feel like we farmers are always defending ourselves, but when it comes down to it, most people like and respect farmers, especially after they see how hard we work and the good things we produce. America’s Heartland tells our story for us, and people love to watch it,” she says.

Best goes on to say that “those of us in agriculture have to support [America’s Heartland]. We just can’t ask others to do it.”

Produced by Sacremento, Calif., public television station KVIE, America’s Heartland has covered subjects as varied as soil research and farmers’ humanitarian efforts to old West cattle drives and ways to protect honeybee populations. In its 6 seasons, the show has crisscrossed the country, covering large as well as small agricultural operations.

According to Michael Sanford, vice president of content creation at KVIE, the program’s annual budget is $2 million. Friends of America’s Heartland hopes to raise a minimum of $100,000. In addition to that and donations from individuals, the show is also supported by a number of ag-related organizations and businesses, including the American Farm Bureau Foundation, the United Soybean Board and Farm Credit.

To learn more about the fundraising effort and the America’s Heartland television program, visit www.friendsofamericasheartland.org.

The seventh season of “America’s Heartland” begins airing September 5, with new episodes airing on PBS stations and RFD-TV into February 2012. To find a channel in your area that airs the program, check your local listings or visit www.americasheartland.org. See below for an excerpt from an “America’s Heartland” episode.