One of my first assignments after arriving at theCo-operatorin July 1988 was a story about Manitoba joining the national beef tripartite stabilization program. It was the biggest thing to hit the province’s cattle industry in years and we were on deadline. I remember sitting at my desk staring at a blank computer screen with the sinking realization that I knew absolutely nothing about beef tripartite and I was supposed to write a news story for cattle producers who knew everything about it. What a position to be in.
Somehow I managed to file that story, such as it was. Then I got down to the job of learning about agriculture. I read extensively, went to meetings, talked to industry officials, interviewed politicians, visited farms and spoke at length with producers. Gradually, it began to add up.
Looking back, I’m amazed at what I’ve learned about the art, science and business of farming over the years. I’m also astounded at the cascade of events that have happened in the industry during that time.
ENDLESS LIST OF CHANGE
The list is endless: the end of the Crow Rate, the demise of the Prairie Pools, farm gate blockades, rallies at the legislature, the rise and fall of income stabilization programs, inland grain terminals, animal rights, biotechnology, diversification, specialty crops, intensive livestock operations, environmental farm plans, nutrient management regulations, on-farm food safety programs and more.
Many of these weren’t even on the radar when I joined the Co-operator23 years ago.
Time will tell if these things were for better or worse. All I know is I’ve seen some of the most significant developments in farming since the sod-busters arrived nearly a century and a half ago. I’ve been a first-hand witness to those developments and helped chronicle them.
That is, until now. I’ve decided to retire. This is my last edition.
It’s not that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for the job. I still enjoy what I do and I still find the work interesting and challenging. But I’m 66 years old, I’ve been in the workplace for 45 years and I’m tired. It’s time to go.
As I clean out my desk and sort through my files, I can’t believe my good fortune. These years at theCo-operator have been the best years of my life. It’s been a marvellous run and an incredible experience.
I’ve had a front-row seat to history and covered events that helped shape our times. I’ve interviewed leading figures, travelled throughout Canada and the United States, been overseas, won awards and fellowships.
And I owe it all to this small weekly farm newspaper. It goes to show that you don’t need to work for a major media outlet in a distant city to have a rewarding career in journalism. You can do it right here at home. And so I have.
But I couldn’t have done it without you, the readers of this paper.
I’ve visited your farms, sat at your kitchen tables and listened to your stories. Some of them were painful. Some were distressing. Usually, though, they were inspiring because of the strength and character behind those stories, coming at times from the most unlikely people.
Who would have ever thought, for example, that a grandmother from Fisher Branch would be the person to uphold an entire industry in a time of crisis? That was Betty Green during BSE.
Who would have expected that a quiet, soft-spoken English immigrant would become the spokesperson for thousands of grain farmers during their own financial crisis? That was David Rolfe.
Where do we get such people? How are we lucky enough to have such leaders in our midst – ordinary men and women who come to the top exactly when they are needed? It’s almost as if they are ordained to appear at the right time and they do. And they continue to.
Two thousand years ago, a man stood on a hillside and told the people of his day, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” These words have come down through the ages and they are still as true as when they were first spoken. Because they include you, the farmers of Manitoba. You are the salt of the earth because you grow the food that gives us life. And you are the light of my world because you have given me the privilege to tell your story.
Goodbye. And thank you.