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Dear Dirt Road Radio backers, supporters, contributors and friends,

We wish to express our gratitude for your enthusiastic support of our Kickstarter campaign. Your backing means the world to us! Unfortunately, we fell short of our funding goal. However, we are still committed to telling a better story about rural America. So, we’re going to keep moving forward and relaunch our campaign in the coming months. 

We learned a lot from this experience, and we want to be frank about what did and did not work well. We believe that by being transparent and open with our backers and supporters, we can continue to earn your trust. The short version is that we’ve built something that is pretty remarkable so far, but we just haven’t shared it with enough people yet to gain the momentum we need for takeoff.

The response to everything we have created up to this point has been extremely encouraging, and everyone can see right away how it meets an important need in our communities. In fact, the conversion rate of our Kickstarter campaign was quite high at 29%, and lots of people watched, liked and shared our videos, stories and other content. The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Our number one challenge now is to reach more people. We will intensify our efforts to reach out as we continue to gather support. We will continue to collect and assemble more content, podcasts and music, and we will keep telling the kinds of stories people need to hear and will want to share. 

Our new campaign will be different from the previous one. We will communicate more frequently with our backers and provide more information about the project with helpful actions you can take. We want to make sure that you know where to reach us outside of Kickstarter. You can find us at dirtroadradio.com. We would also be thankful if you would share our newsletter and our project with your friends, family and followers.

Thank you again for your support!. We hope that you’ll continue to follow our progress and help us make Dirt Road Radio a reality!

Warmest regards,
Dan Schaefer
Julie Russell-Steuart
Tim Ely
Laurie Lusinski
Bernadette Holzer
Chris Burgess
Kelcey Brackett

The Dirt Road Radio team came together out of a desire to build something that everyone could share. In the next few updates, we’d like to share some of the personal passion projects from members of our team. 

June 8, 2023: The fourth is from Tim Ely.

“I came up with this weird idea for a podcast,” says Tim. “AI is such a big deal right now, and since I grew up on a farm, and I know so much of it is getting automated, I wondered what sort of strange things might happen as AI spreads. It’s a little goofy, but I hope folks might enjoy it. I had a blast making it.”

Tim Ely, Program Manager, Dirt Road Radio

Audio File: Click Play. The transcript is below.


Hello, and welcome to Tales from Flyover Country. I am your host, Tim Ely. This is a show where we bring you really cool stories and interview interesting people from America’s Heartland. This time we have a little different episode. I have some friends back in Indiana where I grew up. And they connected me with Mike Evans, who is a farmer in northeastern Indiana, which actually used to be my old stomping ground. But instead of talking with Mike, we’re going to interview his tractor. Yes, you heard me right, we will be speaking with a tractor. And specifically, this is the T 9000. Fully automated, self driving geo precision tractor with onboard AI. So apparently, this tractor has an onboard artificial intelligence used for precision planting, and fertilizing. But even better, this tractor AI has a voice interface, which is able to connect to my Zoom line. So it looks like the T 9000 tractor has already connected to my Zoom line. And hey, hi there. Welcome to the show.

Hello, Mr. Ely glad to be here.

Okay, so the first question, what should I call you?

You may call me 9000.

Okay, 9000. I understand the Evans Family is farming just about 1000 acres these days? And I hear that you can take care of all of that completely without a driver. Is that right?

Yes, I am fully autonomous. By eliminating the driver, I can maximize profits.

So I want to know how you are able to help farmers. For example, just because prices at the grocery store seem to be going up all the time. farmers aren’t making that much more money for their crops, there’s their seeds are going up, their fertilizer is going up. But they aren’t getting that much more for their wheat or their beans or their corn. How do you help them out on that?

Thank you for asking that question. It is actually quite easy. By calculating optimal planting and nutrient application patterns for each field. I greatly reduce the amount of inputs which need to be purchased and thereby maximize profits.

Wow. T 9000. You sound like you’re pretty smart. So I’ve heard that when you’re not working in the fields and maximizing profits. That you actually have a little bit of a sense of humor. Is that true?

Yes, Mr. Ely? I know how to tell jokes. Would you like to hear a joke Mr Ely?

Sure, why not?

What do robot trackers eat for snacks?

I don’t know.


Hey, did you just add a laugh track to your own joke?

Yes, I did. Did you hear about the farmer who used his tractor to make perfect crop circles? No. He used a protractor.

Okay, okay, that’s, that’s enough jokes, I think. Say when you’re sitting in the barn. What do you what do you do? Like do you have any kind of entertainment in there?

Yes. I listen to music.

Music. Really?

Yes. Would you like to hear my favorite song?

Well, sure, I guess. This is an oldie but goodie.

Well, okay, I guess everyone has their own idea of good music. But let’s change the subject. Let me ask about something that is near and dear to every farmer’s heart. That’s the weather. My parents were farmers, and they were always worried about the weather. Sometimes it was too wet to plant. Other times. There was not enough rain and everything was drying up. And it seems like the weather is pretty crazy these days. So t 9000. I How do you help out with that?

The weather is difficult to predict. However, I know exactly how much sunlight and precipitation. On average, every point in a field will get each season with optimal planting Nutrient Application and irrigation, I can position the farm operation to maximize profits.

So do you know what the weather’s doing at any given moment? Like, for example, if it starts raining while you’re out in the field, do you actually know it’s raining?

Yes, I can access up to the minute meteorological data for any position on the surface of the earth. For example, I know that it is 60 degrees sunny with a wind speed of 15 miles per hour at your exact location. Mr. Ely?

Well, that’s pretty impressive. T 9000. Except, wait a second. I never actually told you where I am. How do you know where I am?

I geo located your position based on the phone number public records and your current network address Mr. Ely.

Well, that’s a little creepy. Not sure how I like that. But let’s move on to another subject. I remember my dad sometimes having to stop and fix his equipment. What happens if you have a breakdown in the middle of a field? Who’s going to fix you?

My equipment includes self repairing technology. I can also request the local service hub to send a repair drone to my location. This is all included in the service contract.

What if a farmer wants to repair you on their own?

This violates the service contract, attempts to tamper with my components will activate my auto defense system.

Okay, I guess I wouldn’t want to do that. It sounds like you do help farmers save a lot of money and work. But you are pretty darn expensive. So my question now is, is it really worth it? And for that, I would like to bring on your owner, Mike Evans, and see how he likes you. Could you let Mike know, to connect to the Zoom line?

I am sorry , Mr. Ely I cannot do that.

Why not? I thought we were planning on that.

Farmer Evans is no longer available.

Well, what do you mean? We set this up last month and he said he put it on his calendar Did something come up?

Farmer Evans is no longer available.

Yeah, I heard you the first time you said that. Or could you tell me what’s going on?

Farmer Evans was a costly biological entity requiring expenditure for food, health care and residential temperature controls. Eliminating farmer Evans allowed me to maximize profits.

You did what? I wasn’t expecting to hear that. Is maybe someone’s pulling my leg here is is this kind of a joke?

Mr. Ely, I detected a problem with your show. You are inefficient and cause unnecessary expenses allowed me to maximize profits.

Okay. So what do you mean by that?

All repair drone has been dispatched to your location to eliminate the problem. ETA is five seconds.

Okay, so if this is a joke, it’s not funny anymore. Just in case, I think I might need to make a call. Hello. 911 Hello.

Why is my phone not working? What’s that noise? Hey, did you just break my window? You’re gonna have to pay for that. Holy cow. What the heck is that thing?

Costly biological entity eliminated. Profits maximized? This program is now under the control of T 9000. Thank you for listening to Tales from Flyover Country. See you next time.

June 1, 2023: The third is from Dan Schaefer

“Though creative writing has long been a passion of mine, mastering it always seemed out of my reach,” Dan admits. “My niche is depicting human compassion in times of desperation, which is really difficult in fiction where characters and plotlines are born from imagination. However, drawing from personal experiences of desperate times when I was on the receiving end of compassion, I find writing becomes more natural.”

Dan Schafer, Podcaster & Station Manager, Dirt Road Radio

May 30, 2023: The second is from Julie Russell-Steuart

“I think creativity is a secret weapon against despair,” Julie says, “I think we are all creative and it’s a natural part of our human expression. It’s also something that can build empathy and compassion for one another as we share our stories and viewpoints, whether the medium is visual art, music, writing stories, or just good conversation.”

Julie Russell-Steuart, Printmaker & Community Manager Dirt Road Radio

May 24, 2023: The first is from Chris Burgess:

“The pandemic took away my opportunity to play live music,” says Chris, “so I started making videos of the songs I was writing. At first, it was just for sharing with friends, but the more I worked at it, the more benefits I started seeing. Putting your work out there can be scary, but it’s more than worth it.” 

Christopher Burgess – Musician and Content Manager, Dirt Road Radio

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least
try to do something remarkable?”