When I told my friends I would be spending the summer interning at a farming magazine, most of them laughed. “Farming?” they asked. This was then followed by the requisite, “I didn't know you farmed.” Then I laughed.

The fact of the matter is I don't farm. Until recently, I didn't know anyone who did. In fact, the most experience I have with farming is the occasional picking of vegetables from our 20-square-foot garden in my backyard.

Most of my journalistic life has consisted of interviewing politicians who seem to have a list of prescribed responses available to them for interviews with college newspapers. Finding genuine answers was like searching for buried treasure.

I was first introduced to journalism as a freshman at Auburn University, where I volunteered for The Auburn Plainsman student newspaper. I was hired my junior year as assistant state and local editor, and it was then that I realized how to learn as you go.

Because I was interested in government from my high school days, I figured that something as simple as city government would be a breeze.

As it turned out, it wasn't. I had to learn quickly how to keep up, and the people I interviewed didn't cut me any breaks.

If it became obvious that I didn't have a clue, I was told to call back after I had done more research. I eventually developed a fairly successful routine that was effective enough for me to get by, but every so often it did not work — and I was usually called on my mistakes.

While I have only written a few articles for Southeast Farm Press so far, I have experienced many differences in the entire production process.

But the main difference has been the people I've encountered. And let me just say the difference has been in my favor.

In one of my first articles I was particularly lost in the lingo of corn irrigation. At one point I was in so deep that I asked a question that gave me away as a novice on the subject. I cringed after realizing my mistake, but I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of being told to call back later, I was walked through an entire process that was baffling to me.

It was then that I realized how different the people I am now dealing with are. Simply put: They are nice. They meet me halfway, and I couldn't be more thankful for their generosity.

It's been clear so far that there are few if any hidden agendas. Honesty is not searched for in the depths of interviews — it is found swimming at the surface.

As I explore some of the pressing issues in the agricultural world this summer — the threat of drought, the possible elimination of illegal aliens from the workforce, and the rising cost of fuels — it is comforting to know that I can rely on the help of some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Matthew Dischinger is a senior at Auburn University majoring in journalism. He is completing a summer internship with Southeast Farm Press.