Most people in east central and northeast Wisconsin recognize Bill Jartz as a news anchor since 1998 at WBAY-TV (Channel 2) and from an earlier stint as a sports reporter at the station starting in 1983. Some would know that he is the public address announcer at Green Bay Packer home games, and a very few might remember that he once took a stab at selling investment securities.
What most people probably don't know is that he grew up on a small farm near Clintonville west of Green Bay and that he nurtures good relations with neighboring farmers from his residence near Maribel in northern Manitowoc County. He's also a member of Ducks Unlimited and Whitetails Unlimited.
That Jartz knows a lot about farming was evident in his humor-laden presentation as the guest speaker at the luncheon accompanying the Green Bay Catholic diocese's Rural Life Day at St. Edward Parish.
He told his audience that he wasn't going to dispense any knowledge about increasing alfalfa yields or lowering somatic cell counts. Instead, Jartz asked the farmers in the luncheon crowd to indicate if their favorite tractors were John Deere, Case IH, New Holland or Allis Chalmers. On that point, he recalled an older farmer telling him that "the worst thing that ever happened to farmers was putting lights on tractors."
In contrast to the announced "Living the Good Life" title of his presentation, Jartz acknowledged that farmers are at the mercy of the weather, face numerous risks and tend to have equipment breakdowns just as the black clouds of an oncoming storm appear on the horizon.
But there's a unique twist on "the Good Life" theme in how farmers rally to help one another after a fire, tornado or other disaster, Jartz remarked. "Tragedy brings out teamwork in farming."
In many other sectors of society, a similar event often elicits a reaction of "I just lost my competition," Jartz said. "But farmers help one another get back into business."
Jartz was 12 years old when his father died and the family, including an older brother, had 10 cows to milk. The "cows have to be milked" scenario instilled the lifetime lesson that he had to his job every day rather than look for excuses. Jartz mentioned Packer player Jordy Nelson, who grew up on a farm in Kansas, as an example.
The "how smart do you have to be to drive a tractor?" question that is sometimes leveled at farmers is not appropriate, Jartz said. He cited new technology such as the global positioning system, attention to the precision planting of crops and application of fertilizer as evidence that "not everybody can be a farmer."
"A lot of kids can't wait to get off the farm" but it's not unusual today to have some of them reconsider and start farming, Jartz observed. In some cases, this can be traced to wanting to take over a multi-generation farm.
Whatever the circumstances, Jartz pointed out that farming offers "an up close and personal" experience with birth, life and death. Because of a bond with Mother Nature and the animal kingdom, "it hurts," in ways in addition to financial losses, to lose a calf, cow, pig, or chicken.
Jartz complimented farmers for providing a bountiful supply of food from a decreasing amount of cropped land. But "people need to find out where food comes from," he said. He recalled how his wife didn't think about where milk came from other than being able to buy it at a Sentry supermarket in the Milwaukee area.
Too many youngsters have "no clue that milk comes from cows" or that chickens have bones, Jartz said. To people who complain about the smell of manure, he suggests asking "do you like to eat?"
Jartz completed his presentation with a showing of the "So God Made a Farmer" video that Dodge RAM truck sponsored as a commercial during the 2013 Superbowl. The narration was a portion of news broadcaster Paul Harvey's speech at the FFA national convention in 1978.