Rob Braun Loving Life Down On The Farm
Rob Braun wants to make this perfectly clear: He's not retired. WKRC-TV's former anchorman is working very hard every day on his Pendleton County farms.
And loves it.
"It's a lot of work, but I'm so much calmer now than I ever was. I don't have any pressures. You truly work for yourself on a farm," says Braun, 64, who bought a cattle farm outside Falmouth in 2000, while anchoring Cincinnati's top-rated newscast with Kit Andrews and meteorologist Tim Hedrick. Rob and wife Jennifer sold their Madeira house and moved to the cattle farm permanently after he left Channel 12 when his contract expired on June 30, 2019.
Braun greets us wearing a white cowboy hat and muddy boots at his grain farm, a second Pendleton County tract along the Licking River he bought eight years ago. The Red Russian kale, lettuce salad mix, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, red green butterhead lettuce, radishes, garlic and other produce they grow with son Robert, and his wife Lindsey, are sold on weekends by the family at Findlay Market.
"My son came to me with the idea to start a vegetable operation after our combine caught fire. We had run the numbers and I wasn't going to be making any money, when you average it out, if I had to buy another combine (about $500,000) for only 100 acres," Braun says. He grows veggies on a few acres and leases his wheat field to a neighbor.
"This is no till, no chemicals. It's what people would consider organic; however, we didn't pay for the inspection. Our specialty is Spanish red garlic and German white garlic. People love it because it's so stinking fresh," he says about the produce sold under the "Braun Family Farm" label.
For 20 years, the cattle farm was Braun's happy place. He'd leave his suit-and-tie job behind after his 11 p.m. Friday night newscasts and drive the family to Falmouth.
"It was like my own therapist. This was perfect for me. It was a nice separation from the city," he says.
When he bought the cattle farm, he asked seller Donny Nichols to be his partner in raising cows and bulls.
"I didn't want to be the guy who buys property in the country and just comes down from the city and cuts the grass. I told him I wanted to learn how to run a cattle operation," Braun says.
Nichols had 25 cows, so Braun bought that many. Today they have about 100 animals and regularly sell calves at a Lexington auction. He grows about 600 bales of hay a year to feed the livestock.
"Every cow on this property now was born here," he says. "This is a working farm. It's not a gentleman's farm. We get dirty and we get hurt. It's a lot of work, but I can come down here and hang out with the cows. That sounds so stupid, but there's something cathartic about it. It's really calming."
The son of the late Cincinnati TV/radio host Bob Braun grew up on Raeburn Drive off Colerain Avenue, across from Mount Airy Forest. He attended Kirby Road School and Schwab Junior High School in Northside, and Aiken High School (class of 1975) in College Hill.
How did a city boy end up on the farm?
"My dad bought a horse farm on Diehl Road in Green Township, on the other side of Mount Airy Forest, in Green Township, when I was about 14 years old. And I don't know why, but he made me run it. He said, 'You have to take care of it.' So I learned from that. We boarded 40 head of horses," Braun says. He also spent time at his great uncle's dairy farm on Colerain Avenue where it intersects today with I-275.
Few Channel 12 viewers know that Braun has always had side hustles. Jennifer teamed up with Rob's childhood friend to run Academy Rentals, which provided tents, tables, chairs and other items for church festivals and expositions. Many times Braun would deliver Academy equipment after Friday night newscasts.
Braun and Channel 12 co-worker Kevin Jordan also started Phoenix E.N.G. Inc. in Middletown, which built live trucks for TV stations from Los Angeles to New York, Time Warner cable service vans and some Middletown police cars.
"My father got fired from Channel 5, and I was scared to death that I would never have longevity in the (TV) business, and that I had to have a back-up. And then we just got lucky. Television worked, the businesses worked," says
Braun who met Jennifer, who had a fashion merchandising degree from the University of Tennessee, when he was covering the 1982-83 Knoxville World's Fair for Knoxville's WBIR-TV. Braun came home to WKRC-TV in 1984.
He quit in 2019 after turning down a "generous" contract offer, saying he didn't "fit well" with owner Sinclair Broadcast Group, which had bought the station in 2012. The Sinclair business model -- which included using reports from sister stations instead of filling newscasts with local news and ordering anchors to read a commentary complaining about media companies -- "was hard to swallow," he told WVXU listeners that October.
Braun keeps his hand in TV by serving as Heritage Bank spokesman. In addition to TV commercials, he does radio ads and soon will do videos to greet people when they enter the Heritage Bank Center (formerly U.S. Bank Arena). "I get to write some of the spots I've done for them, and that gets the creative juice flowing again," he says.
Heritage Bank is "the best gig I've ever had in my life. Honestly."
"They're just wonderful people who respect their employees. Having been in television, I didn't know it could be like that. You know how nasty television people are. They don't care about their employees a lick. And with these Heritage folks, it's like a family. I'm stunned every time I'm involved with what they're doing. They like each other and they're nice to each other."
Braun also could return to the airwaves during a major Falmouth news event because he's now Pendleton County's public information officer.
"I've got my PIO badge and PIO hat in the truck. They'd been asking me for years to do it, but I couldn't as long as I was on the air at Channel 12," he says.
Owning a farm has always been in the back of Braun's mind. When Robert and sister Krista were very young, Rob and Jennifer had boats at Lake Cumberland. Then one day young Robert, wearing brand new expensive Nike shoes, stepped in a cowpie while visiting a farm.
"You would have thought that he had ruined his life! And I said to my wife: It's time to sell the boats and buy the farm."
Braun fixed and maintained the tractors and farm equipment himself. By age 10, Robert could drive any tractor on the cattle farm.
Both Robert and Krista are accountants, which surprised their father. Krista is an accountant for Everything But The House. Robert is finance manager of ventures and corporate development for 84.51, the data analytics and marketing company for Kroger and other companies. His wife, Lindsey, is FC Cincinnati's finance director.
"Who would have thought it? My father was a song-and-dance man, and with me in the news (business), and my kids are CPAs!"
Robert also rigged "some MacGyver stuff" on the vegetable farm to control watering the plants from his phone in Cincinnati by wi-fi. There's no mailbox, address marker or house at the vegetable farm, "but we have wi-fi," Rob says. "It's just foreign to me. I'm old enough to think it's weird he could sit at home and change the watering."
Robert also devised the vegetable cleaning operation in an old ship container on the farm. The lettuce is spun dry in a plastic laundry basket placed down into an old washing machine. He keeps track of all the tomatoes, green beans. lettuce and other plants on a white board inside the cargo container. (So this accountant actually is a bean counter, noted WVXU photographer Ronny Salerno.)
"Robert has the plan. We just execute it," Jennifer says. "We're his free labor."
Both farms, several miles from downtown Falmouth, have city water service.
"Most people think this is the boondocks, but it isn't," Braun says. "We're only 45 minutes from downtown Cincinnati (on US 27). It takes my sister longer to get Downtown from West Chester than me."
Life is good on the farm.
"I miss TV news, but I miss the TV news that we used to do, and what I miss doesn't exist anymore. That's why I think it's been easier for me to make the transition, because it's not the same animal as when I was doing it."
So he's surrounded himself with other animals – 100 cows and bulls, and six chickens. He couldn't be happier.
"We eat our own beef, we eat our own vegetables. It's just wonderful. We're in better shape than when we were sitting in the office for sure. I had the time to build my own house. Who has the time to do that?
"There are very few people who get to do what I'm doing. And I feel very lucky."
Thanks to WVXU's Ronny Salerno for his wonderful photos.