From 1945 to 1961 Howard Langfitt was in charge of agricultural programming at WJDX radio and then WLBT television in Jackson. He used the media to connect farmers to agricultural experts, portrayed many Mississippi farmers as modern and innovative, and encouraged other farmers to follow their example. He also supported agricultural extension work and 4-H Clubs.
Langfitt grew up on farms in Iowa and studied speech and radio at the University of Iowa. He first lived in Mississippi during World War II when his Army Air Force Squadron was stationed in Jackson. He and his Mississippi-born wife, Gloria, moved to Iowa briefly but returned in 1945 when Langfitt was offered a job as Farm Services director at WJDX. In 1954 Langfitt’s job expanded to cover farm services for both WJDX and WLBT, which reached most of the state’s televisions.
Langfitt started a daily television show, RFD Televisit, which combined farm news with Agricultural Extension Service advice. In 1955 he began a more unusual program, Farm Family of the Week, which offered personal and detailed portrayals of farmers, especially smaller farmers, who used innovative agricultural techniques to thrive at a time when agriculture was becoming dominated by larger plantations. Through personal accounts, the program offered stories about diversifying crops and mixing crops with livestock; relying on government experts; economizing in farm production and at home; and taking part in contour farming, flood control, and numerous other innovations. Langfitt’s show usually focused on white small farmers, and he took care to show them in the fields, at home, and dealing with government and university experts.
- CHARM (newsletter of the Consortium for the History of Agricultural and Rural Mississippi), Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University
- Michael Dodson Thompson, “Educating Mississippi’s Farmers, 1944–1961” (master’s thesis, University of Mississippi, 1995)