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Randolph, Chet

Published onJul 30, 2021
Randolph, Chet

(December 29, 1925 – January 2, 2002)

Quick Facts

Farm broadcaster best-known as the award-winning host of public television’s Market to Market program for 17 years.

During much of his 30 years in radio and television, Chet Randolph also was a serious after-hours farmer who specialized in raising Suffolk sheep on the family’s small farm north of Des Moines. In fact, he had the oldest production-tested farm flock in Iowa. It is doubtful if many of his listeners and viewers knew that the native Iowan for many years was a hands-on agriculturist and an Iowa Master Sheep Producer.

This farm broadcaster is best-known as the award-winning host of public television’s Market to Market program for 17 years. He combined several talents – a good broadcasting voice, a congenial demeanor, and a vast practical knowledge of farming and agriculture that at times more than equaled that of his program guests and specialists. This combination of qualities earned Randolph and Market to Market a large viewing audience and many awards in the 20 states where the program was dispatched via satellite.

Randolph confided that the high caliber and tone of this weekly 30-minute farm report was seen by many as “doing more for the image of farmers” than any direct Madison Avenue sales pitch. “What this show does is repeatedly portray to viewers that what happens down on the farm ultimately affects us all because food is everybody’s business,” Randolph once wrote about the agricultural centerpiece. When the show received a Merit Award from the Soil Conservation Society of America, the citation credited the program with “consistently focusing the attention of Midwesterners on soil and water conservation and land-use issues, and on the hard decisions to be faced.”

During the 1980s, Randolph and his program sounded early warnings of the mounting farm debt problem that led to the worst farm crisis since the 1930s. He anchored a special four-hour public television broadcast from a one-day Farm Crisis Rally on the campus of Iowa State University in February 1985. Of the 263 calls received during that broadcast, Randolph related, 68 inquires and comments came form non-farmers.

He made numerous speeches and public appearances across the Midwest to explain the situation and hosted two state-wide “Ag Crisis” call-in broadcast programs in Iowa and another in Nebraska. Then, during the drought of 1988, Randolph was a special guest twice on the Ted Koepel network television program as well as on Canadian television and the Geraldo Rivera Show. Undoubtedly, few Iowans ever had such opportunities as Randolph to help communicate the story of agriculture and farming.

Before turning to broadcasting, he was the chief executive of the American Soybean Association as well as its director of foreign market development. Here he greatly expanded the membership base, brought in new leadership, and developed an international marketing program that began with Japan and extended to 14 countries. He made additional contributions as a livestock judge, commodity futures broker, host to foreign students, and leader of Farm Bureau tours to foreign countries.

Randolph also helped promote the image of agriculture as the first full-time director of Living History Farms in Urbandale. Beginning with a log house and team of horses in 1973, he helped lay the foundation for the popular open-air agricultural museum that now tells the story of Midwestern agriculture from a Native American village to the present day. Through all his many activities, Randolph has been a true friend of Iowa agriculture.

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.
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