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“How could they do this just before Thanksgiving, when we were already on hold with our holiday questions?” a customer at the Sebastopol farmers market asked as she mourned the abrupt cancellation of “The Good Food Hour” by Maverick Media, owner of KSRO AM.

Of course, listeners weren’t literally on hold when the news began to spread but such is the popularity of the long-running program that listeners were indeed planning on calling with questions for host Steve Garner and co-host John Ash, as much a holiday tradition to some as, say, sourdough stuffing and cranberry relish.

Just two weeks ago, G & G Market hosted the 25th Annual Good Food Hour Recipe Contest, which Ash and Garner launched their first year on the air. As always, there was a standing-room-only audience to watch the four eager finalists and, once prizes were awarded, taste the entries. This year’s theme was bacon and entries included persimmon-bacon strudel, Thai salad with fried eggs and bacon, Cheddar bacon grits souffle and apple bacon fritters with maple, pecan, bacon ice cream.

I was a judge, as I have been for many of the contests, and what struck me most this year was Steve Garner’s astonishing memory and equally astonishing files. When he introduced me, he pulled out an article I had written about bacon more than a decade ago from an enormous stack of clippings that he carries to every show, depending on the topic. Next to his chair were piles of manila file folders, labeled “bacon,” “sour cherries” and what have you, research archives for both “The Good Food Hour” and the two-hour “Garden Talk,” with co-host Gwen Kilchherr, that airs–or aired–prior to “The Good Food Hour.”

Both shows have been cancelled and replaced with syndicated content. In addition, every trace of the programs have been removed from the web site, leaving dozens of recipes and valuable information inaccessible to listeners. Wine guy Tom Simoneau and morning news co-anchor Curtiss Kim are also gone.

One has to wonder why? Money? Really? That’s the reason given by station representatives, who also axed the morning news anchor, Curtiss Kim.

Steve Garner is one of the all-time great radio hosts. Yes, he has a fabulous voice but it’s more than that that makes him so good. It’s his low-key graciousness, his ease on the air, his intelligence and his vast curiosity about the world. He is my radio mentor and when I launched my show “Mouthful, the Wine Country’s Most Delicious Hour”on KRCB FM 17 years ago, he was my first guest. He has returned nearly every year for an anniversary episode and this year was no exception. You can listen to that episode here. Garner puts a guest at ease like no one I’ve ever met. He makes a topic both accessible and compelling and keeps things lively, no matter the topics. He is aware of trends but is not trendy and he doesn’t mug for the microphone. His authenticity and ethusiasm are irresistible.

Steve Garner, left, and Les Blank, right, on Mouthful's first anniversary show, October 31, 1996

I met Garner shortly after the publication of my first book, A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma, in 1990. I was new, nervous and worried that I wouldn’t rise to the occasion of a radio interview but all of my fears vanished within a minute or so, as Garner’s warm and friendly expertise put me absolutely at east. Over the years, I’ve been on dozens of radio shows and have rarely encountered a host as talented and engaging as Steve.

The first few times I was on Steve’s show, his co-host, Chef John Ash, wasn’t around–he was traveling a lot at that time, teaching all over the world–and so I came to think of “The Good Food Hour” as exclusively Steve’s. But over the last number of years, John has been around more and more and I have come to appreciate and admire what a wonderful pair they make. John is a tad more low-key than Steve, a consummate educator who is knowledgeable on virtually any food topic. The two play off each other with a light-hearted ease that welcomes the listener to the table with them. It’s like you’re sitting around with your second cup of morning coffee.

I think it’s a real tragedy that these shows have been cancelled. Although both are entertaining, they provide so much more than entertainment. “The Good Food Hour” itself is an archive of history, of Sonoma County and the North Bay, of our changing appetites, of our discovery as a food mecca and so much more. “Garden Talk” dispenses some of the best advice on local gardening available anywhere.

This advice, knowledge and wisdom, given so generously for two and half decades, is invaluable to thousands of listeners. It’s what put and keeps the station on the map. I hope KSRO AM will rethink these cancellations and return two of our finest programs to the air, where they belong.

It never hurts to let a station manager know your response to changes in programming. Kent Bjugstad is both general manager and program director and you can write to him at Maverick Media, 1410 Neotomas Ave., Suite 200, Santa Rosa CA 95405 or email kentbjugstad@maverick-media.ws.

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Comments

10 Comments

  1. John De Salvio

    Radio stations are being taken over by media corporations offering the lowest common denominator in content. Why offer a menu of real taste when you can offer canned goods at a much lower price?

    November 18th, 2012 3:27 pm

  2. Kathy

    I am outraged and saddened that Maverick has done this. I did email Kent right away and he replied that they would be talking with Steve and Gwen after Thanksgiving to see if there was a way to continue the show financially. I don’t know if that extends to the Good Food Hour also, and I have to wonder if he meant it–why wouldn’t they just rerun old shows then, and why would they erase all trace of the shows on the website??

    I feel so helpless, first we lose Traverso’s, then my beloved farmers market is thrown into chaos, then goods start disappearing from the shelves of Pacific Market, and now this. At least Pacific Market has new buyers who say they’re committed to maintaining that store’s excellence, but for long-time residents, these have been changes for the worse.

    I just hope and pray that Steve will find his way back on air somehow, on KSRO, a competitor station or maybe via the Internet, for both shows. My Saturday mornings won’t be the same.

    And, Michele, your column really spoke to/for me and how I feel about the broad talents that Steve Garner brings to the air. I can’t believe that I won’t hear him and John review their fave cookbooks of the year in a few weeks time.

    November 18th, 2012 3:56 pm

  3. Joan Saxe

    Such a sad day – so many of us share your sentiments. Two more eloquent ambassadors for living the good life in Sonoma County, I cannot imagine. And Steve gave a forum to so many entrepreneurs, small and large, who live and work here – it allowed the loyal listeners to meet their neighbors! The cancellations were so poorly handled, with no respect for Steve, John or Gwen, let alone the public, that I call it witless and heartless. And I sincerely hope that some other station with better sense picks up these programs immediately and allows them to flourish for another 25 years!

    November 18th, 2012 4:21 pm

  4. Mary Jarvis

    That’s very depressing news..

    November 19th, 2012 7:44 am

  5. Michael Sawyer

    Nice piece, and some thoughtful comments on Steve Garner. He is the consummate gentleman, and will be very much missed along with John Ash and Gwen Kilcher. Very sad.

    November 19th, 2012 10:57 am

  6. Bettie Laven

    This just makes me sick. I follow these 2 shows all the way down in The Bay Area…The Oakland Hills to be specific. I have learned so much listening to both. There must be a way to protest this stupid decision! I wrote to Kent Bjugstad…but I suspect some “suit” somewhere on the Corporate Ladder is responsible.

    November 19th, 2012 9:19 pm

  7. MicheleAnna.Jordan

    Bettie,
    You might want to read the news story recently published here .

    November 19th, 2012 9:27 pm

  8. Mark B

    I also received a reply from Kent (quite quickly, actually). His main observation was that the listenership on the weekend is quite small compared to weekdays, and there was only ONE advertiser committed to the programming.
    I wonder what would happen if ALL Sonoma county farmers’ markets, gardening centers, food producers, farmers/gardeners, artisans would commit a small amount of money each month to a sponsorship. What would happen if every small business which is affected positively by a program dedicated to ‘live food’ and plant growth would send $1 per week (month?) to a sponsorship pool. If this programming is important, it needs to be supported financially. Perhaps KRSO (and many local commercial radio stations) need to look at a new model for serving its listeners. Unfortunately, the question of whether a media outlet even WANTS to serve its audience is being answered daily.

    November 20th, 2012 8:36 am

  9. Elizabeth

    It seems to me that KSRO is a toxic environment that these programs should avoid. Can’t they move to KRCB? There will be less coverage of the county, but it seems like they would be welcome.

    November 20th, 2012 1:21 pm

  10. MicheleAnna.Jordan

    It would be great to have these two excellent shows as part of the KRCB line up. It’s an entirely different structure and economy, though. I wonder if the hosts would like it . . .

    November 20th, 2012 6:05 pm

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