Sign Along I-90 Gets Out Agriculture's Message

Sign Along I-90 Gets Out Agriculture's Message

Copyright Seattle Times, Seattle, Wash.: Jan 15, 1998. pg. D.6

GEORGE, Wash. - The AgFARMation electronic billboard along Interstate 90 recently was recognized by the American Farm Bureau as one of the nation's top agriculture education projects for 1997.

The 40-foot-tall sign flashes short messages about agriculture to about 25,000 passing motorists each day from its site near the George freeway exit. People also can turn to 1610 AM, a low-power radio station, that broadcasts more in-depth information about the messages.

Organizers of the project will be in Charlotte, N.C., this month to assist other farm groups interested in having a similar sign.

"This gives AgFARMation some national recognition and an opportunity to promote the concept," said Bob Holloway, one of the original organizers. "If someone in Ohio steps up and does this and someone from California and Florida . . . then perhaps we will have some real impact."

Tom Flint, who first suggested the sign idea two years ago, said he would like to see similar signs up along I-5 in the Seattle area and in other areas of the country.

"It's been one of our goals to duplicate this in other areas," he said. "We hope other states see the benefit it has and try to replicate what we've done. We're just a drop in the bucket, but if two or three or more states do this, then the impact multiplies substantially and that's what we want to do.

"Our goal with the AgFARMation project is to have it make a difference, and the more projects that are out there in different states and communities the more impact it will have," he said.

Flint, an Ephrata-area farmer, now serves as president of the AgFARMation organization.

"The goal of the project is to bring the non-ag community and the ag community together," Flint said. "The sign and the radio station are tools to accommodate that."

A group of 21 area farmers and business people formed a nonprofit corporation to finance the $370,000 project. They began constructing the sign in March, and it began flashing messages to people traveling along I-90 late last spring.

AgFARMation is prohibited from including advertising on the billboard by the federal and state Departments of Transportation. Messages include such information as the average age of American farmers, how much wheat the U.S. exports and the value of the state's apple crop.

"I have to think that most people in agriculture are concerned about getting the right story to people," Flint said.

"This is a way farmers have that they can do themselves and not have to worry about someone interpreting what they're saying."