American agriculture lost one of its best friends this weekend, when Mark Pearson, longtime host of Iowa Public Television’s Market to Market show, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. He was 54.
Pearson, who helped the world understand the complex world of agriculture through good and bad times alike, had a unique way of helping us all understand how factors ranging from local rainfall to global politics were affecting our food supply. A native of Central Illinois, he was a farmer himself, and it showed in his perception and passion as he hosted Market to Market for the last 21 years.
He joined WHO Radio in Des Moines 30 years ago and never left. In addition to the television show, he hosted WHO-AM radio’s “The Big Show,” which also focused on agriculture.
As recently as February, in an interview with AgWired’s Cindy Zimmerman, he quipped that he’d started hosting Market to Market when he was 11. That was the kind of humor his friends and listeners alike had come to expect of him. The interview was vintage Pearson, ranging from the “hang-on years of the eighties” to the potential for serving the growing middle class in China and Africa.
Few broadcasters can combine the credibility, clarity and humor that Pearson brought to to the agriculture beat. He could talk about ethanol, water and pigweed in the course of sixty seconds without ever missing a beat. And somehow, he made it all interesting, even to folks who weren’t farmers.