Monday September 01, 2014

Tipping hat to ag paper icon

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I suppose it’s unusual for a writer in one publication to take some time to tip the old chapeau to another publication, but in this case I just have to congratulate The Western producer which is celebrating 90-years this year.

Growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan in an area long before the Internet became popular, all right I’m old enough the ‘Net wasn’t even a rumour when I was a kid, the arrival of newspapers were a highlight of the week.

It was a big deal to head to the rural mailboxes to pick up the mail since the newspapers were our avenue to seeing the rest of the world.

Yes we had a television but I was a young teen before the black and white box provided more than CBC, and even then it was a two channel world.

In terms of radio, Melfort’s then CJVR and CKBI out of Prince Albert, and of course CBC, was about it.

So newspapers were an important source of information.

And while dad subscribed to a number of publications, Grainews, Country Guide, Farm Light & Power among them, the Western Producer was the one which held our interest most.

I admit I never saw the appeal of studying every classified ad in earnest over a cup of coffee, but I can tell you both my grandfather and father were in-depth readers of the ads in the Western Producer.

Myself, I dove into the articles on farming. It was a way for a young mind to learn about more than raising pigs and growing barley to feed those animals.

The Western Producer gave me an insight into the development of canola, and has since kept me abreast of what has happened over the years which has lead to the crop now being the key economic generator for grains and oilseed producers across most of the Prairies.

Through it’s articles farmers have learned about pulse crops, and more importantly, about the large and diverse markets for a range of crops that when I was young was barely considered.

Yes my dad occasionally grew some field peas, usually in combination in the same field with barley. The rationale was that the peas, which were thought to grow so low to the ground as to be difficult to harvest on their own, would actually climb the barley stem. This made harvesting easier and the barley and pea mix was great pig feed.

The Western Producer showed a more dramatic market.

The weekly newspaper also helped me learn about the importation of exotic beef breeds from Europe. In my youngest days beef cattle in Canada were generally Hereford, Aberdeen Angus or Shorthorn. They were small cattle, and frankly behind the times in terms of a changing beef market.

The arrival of Charolais, Simmental, Limousin and a couple of dozen more breeds fundamentally changed the North American beef industry, and The Western Producer helped a pig farmer better understand just how dramatic the change was, and why it was necessary.

Now I will state here I also like the publication because through the years they have ran quite a number of my articles. I still see that as an achievement, at least the earliest articles when I was cutting my teeth as a journalist because being in its pages meant I was doing something right as a reporter.

I’ve been fortunate to appear in literally dozens of publications in several countries over the near three decades in this business, but few made me feel better than when the Producer said yes the first time about 25-years ago.

I suppose in appearing in its pages it was sort of the completion of a loop for me. While I had no inkling when I was young that I would end up a journalist, it was my general knowledge of agriculture which helped secure my first writing gig with the Tisdale Recorder.

That same interest in farming had the then Enterprise in Yorkton offering me a job, a job which became a long-term career.

And in many ways my general knowledge in farming relates to reading the pages of The Western Producer week after week through the years of my youth, and beyond.

So congrats Producer on nine decades of serving Prairie farmers well. I, among many, appreciate your efforts, and look forward to you serving the sector in the decades ahead.

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