Growing up on a family farm operation in central Missouri, Charlene Finck spent her childhood tending to row crops and cattle. This hands-on foundation in production agriculture, combined with a passion for communication, shaped the path she would follow to become the editor of one of the most revered publications in agriculture — Farm Journal.
After graduating from high school, Finck knew the University of Missouri was the next stop, but was not sure which degree would be the right fit. When she arrived at her advising appointment at Mizzou, she sat down with a list of majors and chose Agricultural Journalism.
“I trusted my gut a lot, probably more than I should’ve,” Finck said. “I enjoyed the program from the very beginning and took off running.”
She received her degree in Agricultural Journalism in 1985 and immediately moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to be an editor with Successful Farming, a Meredith Corporation publication
“I got out of Missouri as fast as possible, then boomeranged right back,” Finck said. “I actually live about two miles from where I grew up.”
It was when she returned to Missouri that she found a role at Farm Journal. In 1989, she took her first job with the magazine as a machinery editor. Adapting and taking on new roles was key in her advancement within Farm Journal. Today Finck is senior vice president, editorial and content development. While she has been at Farm Journal for 25 years, Finck says those years have flown by.
“It’s nice to interact with farmers and have a career that is mission driven,” said Finck. “I get up every day and know that I am going to do something that will help my audience. I live and breathe production agriculture.”
It is that appreciation for production agriculture that led Finck to found the Farm Journal Test Plots program in 1992. According to her biography, Finck founded the program with Farm Journal field agronomist Ken Ferrie. Through this program, Farm Journal provides its readers with unbiased information based on cutting-edge, on-farm field tests where the end goal is data and knowledge rather than dollars or market share, according to an article by Aimee Cope, Farm Journal test plots director.
“The service is what drives me as a journalist,” Fink said. “Testing technology on real farms, with real farmers and real equipment, helps fill the gap of declining funding with extension offices. No other media company has a program like this. It’s good for farmers to learn and stay up to date with new technology.”
As senior vice president of Farm Journal Media, Finck oversees the company’s five magazines and works closely with the editors of Farm Journal Media’s other outlets. These include AgWeb, Pro Farmer, AgDay, and U.S. Farm Report. In 2006, she became only the ninth person to lead Farm Journal as editor.
Even though Finck has a degree in agricultural journalism, it is the hands-on part of her job she enjoys the most. She said she absolutely despises paperwork and would much rather be out on the farm.
Finck’s accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. She was awarded the prestigious Citation of Merit in 2009 from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Alumni Association. She has also been a Professor For A Day at Mizzou and has taken part in several advisory roles at the University. In her time as editor, Farm Journal has earned two Grand Neal Awards, recognizing excellence in business-to-business publications. To cap off a long list of accolades, Finck was named as one of the charter members of FOLIO magazine’s Top Women in Media as a corporate visionary earlier this year.
Linda Sowers, instructor in the MU Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, has known Finck professionally for many years. She stressed Finck’s importance to agriculture and her demand for quality.
“She knows her stuff, so when you talk to her, she expects you to know yours as well,” Sowers said. “She is intense and will know if you aren’t prepared for the job at hand.”
Through her years of experience, Finck has undoubtedly learned what is most important for a journalist in the field of agriculture.
“What you need the most is practice, practice, practice,” Finck said. “If you get a role that allows you to have a lot of practice, you will move farther, faster.”