If you were one of perhaps hundreds of western Canadian farmers who found their farms featured on the pages of Country Guide magazine between 1974 and about 2003, you are literally in the history books now.
Your story and photos — whether it be fact or fiction— are now preserved for all time in the University of Calgary library.
I was in one of these clean-up moods and these bound volumes of Country Guide magazine had been in my care for more than 30 years. Was I ever going to read them again? Not likely. Would my kids appreciate having this collection of nearly 600 months worth of old farm magazines that spanned nearly 50 years? Ya, right.
I couldn’t just take them to the dump, so what do I do with them? My wife suggested perhaps I should check with one of the museums in Calgary, The Glenbow, to see if it wanted them. Surprisingly, the museum did. But by the time I got around to working out the details (this actually took me years to get back to) the Glenbow Museum library had been transferred to the University of Calgary. But I followed up with the U of C and they were interested in the collection as well.
So, one day in late August, Annie Murray, rare books and special collections librarian, showed up at my front door and we loaded six boxes of Country Guide into her car, destined for the university library. May they rest there in peace.
I did take a last, quick look through one of the oldest volumes I had — September 1974 — just to see what was happening in Canadian agriculture that month, some 47 years ago. (County Guide in those days covered crop production, some beef, dairy and hog production as well as some lifestyle topics).
In British Columbia, Ken McLeod, who farmed with his father, Ross, had just built a new milking parlour and free stall barn on their 50-cow dairy farm near Notch Hill in the Shuswap Region. The cedar-lined milking parlour cost $12.50 per square foot to build while the free stall barn cost $5 per square foot.
In Manitoba, Norman Rothenburger, who ran a feeder hog business near Morden, said profit margins weren’t great for hogs, but he was sticking with it. “The only way to make a buck with hogs is to stay in when it’s bad so that you’ll have hogs to sell when it gets better,” he told field editor Bryan Lyster, who himself went on to be a successful grain farmer at Abernethy, Sask.
Grain was a “dirty” word for John Vaags, a farmer and cattle feeder near Dugald, east of Winnipeg, who was frustrated at having “to pay $2.50 to $3 for barley and corn to put through 60-cent calves which when finished are bringing about 45-cents per pound.” John decided to switch to more silage.
All that and more is now with the University of Calgary. Apparently, once it all gets catalogued, it will become researchable material for anyone who is interested.
Update on grasshoppers
And a slight correction to my last column talking about grasshoppers and locusts. Longtime Manitoba farmer Francis Poulsen used to mow the lawn ’round and ’round to essentially bring all grass and grasshoppers into a windrow. But he didn’t remove the windrow as I thought, he just went back over it a couple of times with the mower and finely chopped any grass and surviving hoppers, keeping his yard almost hopper-free.
And Saskatchewan reader Robert Howard sent in a photo of a large hopper he found and he wondered if it might be a locust. It was big. But I sent the photo along to researcher Dan Johnson at the University of Lethbridge and he identified it as the Carolina grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, which is native to just about every province and state. He says the Rocky Mountain locust was actually a smaller species.