Viewers of the "Market to Market" television show, produced by Iowa Public Television, were shocked to learn of the sudden death of its personable host Mark Pearson last summer.
Pearson has been a frequent speaker at large gatherings of farmers - offering insight and advice, but also quick-witted quips, stories and jokes that entertained his audiences. He was widely known for his sense of humor.
He died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 54 and producers of the show were left wondering how to carry on. He had been the host of the program for 20 years until his death in June.
Prior to that Chet Randolph had been the original host and had presented the show for its first 17 years.
While it certainly wasn't planned, Mark's son Mike Pearson ended up taking over as host of the program in July.
Mike Pearson was in De Forest this week as a guest presenter in a Landmark Services Cooperative farm workshop and talked with Wisconsin State Farmer.
During his father's funeral Mike gave the eulogy and the producers of "Market to Market" were there. They asked him if he would consider stepping into his dad's shoes to host the show, which features insights into rural America and agricultural markets.
They gave him a tryout of sorts, with a producer acting as host and taping the show with guests; then everybody did the same taping again with Pearson. After a few weeks of proving himself, he got the hosting job.
"I thought this would be easy, but it's a lot harder than Dad made it look. It's difficult reading from the teleprompter and having someone talk in your earpiece," he said with a grin.
"I was shocked at how hard it was to do."
July 16 was his first show after two or three weeks of duplicating the efforts of the producer. "I love doing this. I like the science behind the markets," he said.
Pearson had been an economics major, dropped out of college for work in Arizona, then came back to Iowa to finish college - he ended up earning a degree in history. He landed a job as a mortgage and agricultural lender and was working at a bank when his dad suddenly died.
Mike and his wife Heidi own the Genuine Pearson Cattle Company in Grinnell, Iowa's hill country where they raise cow-calf pairs on a small farm. He's hoping that in years to come he'll be able to expand the farming operation.
Mike is the sixth generation of Pearsons rooted in Midwestern agriculture, growing up on his mom and dad's farm in Iowa. He said his mom was able to keep the farm near Winterset, Iowa and still lives there.
One of his agricultural claims to fame is that when he was 12, Mike raised and exhibited the Grand Champion Hog at the Madison County Fair. After graduating from high school in 2003, he managed his family's diversified grain and livestock operation while also honing his broadcast skills.
He did farm and market reporting for WOI Radio in Ames, Iowa and then decided to go to college.
"Market to Market" is the longest-running program of its kind, providing market insights and reporting on issues facing rural America.
In announcing Pearson as the new host of the program last July John Nichols, executive producer of the series, said that Mike was chosen for his substantial knowledge of farming and his keen understanding of rural issues.