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Reporter’s Notebook: So long, but not goodbye

Lisa Guenther writes her last Grainews column, and moves on to another pasture

This column is a goodbye of sorts.

I’m moving over to Canadian Cattlemen magazine, which is also owned by Glacier FarmMedia. Right now I’m working with Gren Winslow, the long-time Cattlemen editor, to learn the ropes of editing. Cattlemen is a solid magazine, which I appreciate as an apprentice editor. I’m looking forward to learning more about the beef industry. I’m grateful for the opportunity and appreciate Gren’s help as I wade into the new work.

But it also means leaving behind a job I love. In October, I filed my last story for Country Guide. Then I filed my last story for Grainews. Fittingly, that story was the final one in a series on how farmers are managing rotations, along with everything else that goes into running a farm. I’ve wanted to write something on what longer rotations look like on the farm and I’m glad I was able to finish that project.

Now I’m writing my last Grainews column.

I’ve been a staff writer for just over six years and was a freelancer writer before that. In that relatively short time, it’s been interesting to watch issues evolve.

For example, last year it struck me that some of the recommendations for managing clubroot have changed a fair bit as everyone’s learned more about the disease. During farm shows, no speakers recommended farmers sanitize equipment between each field, but they did have more practical ideas on minimizing soil movement. This included practices such as seeding field entrances to grass and seeding clubroot-infested fields last.

They also had suggestions on when and how to use resistant canola varieties (use resistant varieties early on but don’t rely on them as silver bullets). They have a better idea of what to look for, where to scout and what spore loads actually cause disease symptoms. I also heard both a farmer and agronomist talk about the emotional toll clubroot exacts from a farmer. Saskatchewan and Manitoba farmers have a much better knowledge base to draw from than their unfortunate Alberta counterparts did a decade ago.

Someone once told me being adaptable to change was important for anyone wanting a successful career. I think that probably goes double for farmers. Whether it’s changing markets, weather, technology or crop pests, farmers have to adapt to long-term and short-term pressures. It makes your jobs hard, but it also makes the sector interesting.

Innovation

Glacier FarmMedia recently bought Farm Forum, so there’s been some discussion within the company about innovation. One question was what separates the successful innovations, the ones that farmers adopt, from the rest.

Often it comes down to what people need. Is this new product or management practice going to save farmers money or make them more money? Does it solve or prevent a problem? Does it bestow long-term benefits to the soil? Does it save time? Does it mitigate risk?

Another big factor is whether it works with current farming systems. Will a new practice fit into the current regime of pesticides, equipment and varieties? Or is it such a force of nature that it will change the entire system?

Finally, there’s no doubt that economics are a big factor. A new product has to be financially viable for a company to produce and for farmers to buy and use.

In 20 years, I’m sure that farming will look different in ways that none of us could have ever imagined. Yet some things will remain the same, I think. Farmers will always need a deep knowledge of the land they’re working with. They’ll need to know how that swale that cuts through the half-section affects the crop in wet and dry years. They’ll understand how the soil where the old pig pen used to be is different from the soil a few feet away.

My hope is that innovation and technology serves farmers into the future. Even though I’m moving to the cattle side, I’ll be watching what’s happening on the cropping side too.

Thank you to all of you who have read my scribblings over the last few years, and to those of you I’ve interviewed and chatted with at various events. It really has been an honour to work for you.

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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