- Published on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 15:33
Former Elk Citian writer takes post promoting Oklahoma Agriculture
Daily Elk Citian
A 2004 Elk City graduate is now a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.
Kirby Smith recently graduated from Oklahoma State University with a master's degree in agricultural communications and recently was hired as public information manager under Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese.
Smith grew up in western Oklahoma, where both of her grandfathers were farmers.
"But I only had the opportunity to meet one, and only for a while. So when I get to visit these guys' farms I don't take that lightly," she said. "When someone opens up the gate or the door to let you onto their land, that their blood, sweat and tears is in, that they've raised their family on, that they take such pride in - I don't take that lightly.
"When I get to meet with these producers, I can't help but think of my grandparents and I can't help but think of their stories that I didn't get to experience. But I'm getting to experience it this way."
She said she has wanted to work for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture since she was 16.
"[J]ust because I think there's no greater pursuit than agriculture," said Smith. "It affects everyone, whether they believe it or they don't. It does. I love Oklahoma and I love Oklahomans. And this allows me to work for those two demographics."
Smith got her start at the Daily Elk Citian when the paper was just a weekly.
"I was the original 'Hall Talk' girl," she said.
Back when she was about 17, Smith was working at a local grocery store. That's when Co-Publisher Holli Manning, who had been Smith's English teacher, approached her and asked her to come write for the fledgling paper.
"I was thinking, 'What? I'm at work. You cannot recruit me from this place,'" she said, laughing. "But at the same time it was pretty exciting because the idea to have your own thoughts and for someone to read them and think that they're quality, that's a pretty exciting thing."
Back then, and especially when Smith came back to work for Holli and Derek Manning during the summer after her first year at OSU, she got a taste of writing, photography and other journalistic jobs - her first shot at "backpack journalism."
That's where I got my first taste of layout and design, which I would say is probably my first love now," she said.
And now, in her first professional job out of college, Smith has seen how media has changed.
"What I do here is what I did for Derek and Holli - a little bit of everything. I shoot photos, I write press releases," she said. "And as communication changes, what we do changes and so I do a little bit of social media. I also follow around the secretary of agriculture, which is very cool."
That helps keep her out of the big city enough to hold onto her rural roots.
"We are in the field a lot, which I love. And I told myself I need to start keeping a journal because of the different places I get to explore," Smith said.
And being in the field helps connect to the people she identifies with.
"I think agriculture and producers are attacked in the media a lot, and I see these folks who work tirelessly to do things correctly, to make sure we have a safe and abundant and affordable food supply. That's what drives it home for me, that we have a state full of people like that," she said. "And I can't help but think I have something in common with those people."