She touched so many lives.
If anyone at DTN had forgotten that, we're learning it anew from the flood of phone calls, emails and social-media posts expressing grief over her untimely death.
Marcia Zarley Taylor seemed to know everybody in agriculture and everybody seemed to know her. Indeed, it sometimes seemed it was thanks to her that everybody knew each other. Marcia Taylor was a master of the art of networking. She connected people.
Jim Patrico, a senior editor of The Progressive Farmer, recalls that whenever he spoke of Marcia to top-flight farmers, he never had to use her last name. Everybody knew who "Marcia" was. As Jim puts it, "She was a one-name superstar to a whole industry."
Good journalists tend to be well-connected, of course, and Marcia was a good journalist -- one of agriculture journalism's "true giants," as DTN's Editor-in-Chief, Greg Horstmeier, put it in his moving tribute http://tiny.cc/…). Marcia, though, touched lives in ways few journalists ever approach.
She didn't just touch the lives of her sources, her readers and the journalists she led and mentored. She touched the lives of the farmers in the peer group she moderated. She touched the lives of those she led on trips to Brazil. She touched the lives of the ag professionals she brought together at events.
She touched my life. When, in early 2007, I realized she might be willing to entertain a job offer from DTN, I hopped the next plane to Philadelphia and met her in a restaurant. We talked for six hours. She wowed me with her ideas for improving DTN's coverage. I knew she would not only be a great editor, but a great advisor, a great teacher, a great friend.
And, it turned out, a great gate opener. Within weeks, Marcia was leading me on visits to farmers she knew in Illinois and Iowa. At one dinner with her sources, a farmer asked whether, now that Marcia was aboard, DTN would be doing "Marcia-stock."
You know, he said. Like Woodstock, except Marcia leads it.
What he called Marcia-stock, DTN/The Progressive Farmer ended up calling the Ag Summit. Editorially it was very much a Marcia creation. With her vast network of contacts and her keen understanding of what farmers want and need to know, she attracted the most interesting speakers and made sure they addressed the most pressing topics.
Word of the quality of this event got around, as word always did whenever Marcia was involved in anything. Attendance zoomed from 100 in year one to 700 last year, year 10.
Marcia Taylor touched lives.
When I learned Marcia was seriously unwell, I drove up to her hospital on Long Island. Thank goodness I didn't delay. She didn't have a lot of strength, but she could still talk for a few minutes about farming, farmers, old times. The day after my visit, she died.
One of the emails expressing shock and sadness I received was from retired Monsanto executive Jim Tobin, who sat next to Marcia at their Iowa State graduation and took pictures at her wedding. He closed with, "None of us know how much time we have."
Alas, so true. None of us know how much time we have. All we know is we don't have as much as we'd like. Marcia didn't. The passing of this living legend leaves a deep hole in the hearts of all of us whose lives she touched.
Urban Lehner can be reached at email@example.com
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