He is a very well-known and respected radio personality who is dedicated to his community, educates the general public about the importance of farming in our community, and helps promote agriculture.
Dennis Webster is a lifelong resident of Jamestown, NY and a graduate of Jamestown High School, Jamestown Community College, Syracuse University, and SUNY Fredonia. He began broadcasting on WJTN radio while still in high school.
Since the late 1970’s he has been preparing a weekly agriculture program in conjunction with the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau. The “Farm Bureau Radio Show” features interviews with local agricultural producers and leaders, as well as farm spokespeople from across the region. Dennis dedicates much time and energy into his radio broadcasts by getting to know and understand the people he is interviewing.
Dennis supports the Chautauqua County 4-H Meat Animal Sale by interviewing 4-H youth on the radio and has featured his radio broadcast from the Chautauqua County Fair 4-H sale arena for over 30 years. He attends various agricultural programs throughout the county, and shares important information with his radio listeners – including agricultural producers and the general public. Dennis personalizes his radio broadcasts and helps simplify terms and information about agriculture to help the radio listener better understand the many facets of agriculture in Chautauqua County.
Dennis hosts WJTN”S “Saturday Breakfast Party” from Friendly’s Restaurant in Jamestown, which is a live, audience participation radio show. It has been a feature at 9 AM on Saturdays on WJTN since 1946. He also produces the “High School Bowl” academic competition, which encourages Junior and Senior High School children to excel at the academic level, and produces the Resource Center program “Share the Vision”.
Dennis is a second generation farm broadcaster. His father, Doc Webster, was the ‘Farm Director’ on WJTN from 1951 to 1972. Later this year, Dennis and his wife Sheila will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary. They are the proud parents of two adult children: Hannah & Claire.
Dennis Webster shared the following response after being presented with his “Friend of Agriculture Award”:
I am deeply honored to receive the Friend of Agriculture award at this first-ever Chautauqua County “Farmer Neighbor Dinner”. It is a climactic moment for a part of my career that could never have been predicted, or in any way 7 Extension Connection - August 2016 expected. After all, I spent my formative years in the city of Jamestown… never grew anything, never raised anything, and not involved in 4-H. But I did love the radio.
I had inherited from my father a fascination with the idea that you could speak in one place, and magically be heard in another. My dad, Doc Webster came here in 1951 to be an announcer, and ‘Farm Director’ on WJTN. I was aware of his work with agriculture, but never really thought much about it.
Then, as I was entering college… he passed away, leaving a huge vacuum in my life, and in the farm community. I finished my degree, and ended up back at WJTN announcing overnight and into the early morning. Not long after, the man who had picked up my father’s Sunday farm show, wanted to move on to something else. Some people at the station and in the farm community wondered if I would try it.
Nature abhors a vacuum. I said yes. Thirty-seven years, and 2,000 farm shows later… here I am. Farming does get in your blood… whether you’re doing it… or just talking about it.
I have been privileged to come to know some extraordinary people, with some exceptional stories of their love for the land, their life on it… the families they have raised, the people they have fed. To all those who’ve agreed to come on the air with me, thank you for adding great dimension to a city kid’s life.
I would also like to express my appreciation to WJTN and the Media One Group of radio stations for allowing me to continue this work… and to the people at the Cargill Jamestown Feed Plant. As a sponsor, they have supported my farm show for many years. A tip of the hat, as well, to the leaders of the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau for their ongoing guidance, and for allowing me to title my program ‘The Farm Bureau Radio Show’. And a special thank you to my wife and our… now... adult children for the countless times they allowed the family schedule to be rearranged so I could do this work.
Now… the work has certainly changed. In the 1950’s farm shows like my fathers were still a somewhat novel way for people in the rural community to get information about the weather, livestock prices, county agent news, and the like. Today that information is in the farmer’s inbox or smartphone first thing in the morning.
Something else has changed. I spoke earlier today with Blair Smith of the Ag Statistics Service in Albany. The last Census of Agriculture in 2012 counted 223 dairy farms in Chautauqua County. In 1978, around the time I started this work, there were 766. In 1954, a few years after my dad first came here, the census showed 2,915 dairy farms in Chautauqua County.
So, with fewer and fewer people ‘farming it’ over time, a gap has developed between those who work the land and raise the animals and those who do not.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Much of my farm radio work today is focused on re-connecting two essential audiences: those who grow and raise… and those who consume. I couldn’t be happier than to be recognized at this event… dedicated to exactly that same purpose.