Stu Ellis is a new kind of Extension educator.

Like the first county agents, he travels widely, talking to farmers and bringing them new ideas. Like those county agents who went from farm to farm in their Model T Fords meeting up with farmers in their fields and barns, Ellis is a symbol of technological advance in American agriculture.

But Ellis travels the country on the worldwide Web, and he meets up with farmers in the fast-growing dimension known as the blogosphere. Ellis is a blogger. He writes The Farm Gate, an educational blog for Midwestern farmers published by the University of Illinois.

Ellis has 30 years of experience in farm journalism and ag education — the ideal background for an Extension blogger, says University of Illinois economist Scott Irwin. “We were plain lucky that the right person was available to be our blogger.”

Ellis, 59, grew up on an Illinois grain and livestock farm and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in communications from the University of Illinois.

He began his career as a farm broadcaster in Decatur, then became marketing director for the American Soybean Association and also developed a variety of educational programs for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

When Ellis was approached to write The Farm Gate, “I couldn't even have told you what a blog was,” he says. But he was soon hooked by the powerful new medium.