MarketsFarm — After nearly 24 years at the helm of Pulse Canada, Gordon Bacon is retiring as the organization’s chief executive officer.
Bacon was Pulse Canada’s first hire and has been its CEO since its inception.
“It sounds like a story, but on my first day on the job, I went out and bought a chair and a filing cabinet,” he joked.
His primary task was to set Pulse Canada on its course of direction.
“It felt like weeks looking at an 11-page document for this new organization that said things like, ‘we will develop markets in China,’ but no details about how it’s supposed to be done,” Bacon explained about those early days in September 1997.
Under Bacon’s guidance, Pulse Canada fostered a massive expansion in the farming of pulse crops throughout the country. However, he stressed a variety of pulse crops was already being grown in Canada long before the national organization was formed.
“The supply chains were often to marketers in Europe and Turkey, who would sell them to their network,” Bacon said, noting the challenge for Pulse Canada was to change that “old world order of the pulse market.” That just didn’t mean growing more peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and fababeans; it also meant encouraging companies in Canada to process pulses for the global market.
“As the Canadian pulse industry grew, we became the world’s leading supplier of peas and lentils,” he said.
During the mid-1990s, Canadian farmers were producing around 400,000 tonnes of lentils per year. By 2005, that topped one million tonnes and hit nearly 3.2 million tonnes in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.
Dry pea production rose from about 1.8 million tonnes in 1997 to 4.8 million tonnes by 2016. And despite some setbacks over the last five years, Statistics Canada reported that nearly 4.6 million tonnes were harvested in 2020.
Besides remarkable increases in production, Bacon said the Canadian pulse industry is very dynamic and forward-looking.
“It’s very much oriented to where (it) can be as opposed to focusing on the present,” he said.
Prior to Bacon’s lengthy tenure at Pulse Canada, the native of Ogema, Sask. earned degrees in agronomy and agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. He worked for Alberta Agriculture before joining Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research station at Swift Current, Sask. From there, he provided policy analysis for federal cabinet minister Charlie Mayer, then joined the Canadian Wheat Board.
Bacon initially announced his intention to retire about two years ago. Since then he has worked with the organization’s president, Greg Cherewyk, to take over as CEO come April 1.
— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.