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Living Without Jay, If You Can Call It Living!

Boy, it is pretty hard dragging myself out of bed in the morning to get to work, now that Jay is gone. Why? What for? Who cares? What’s the point? I am listless. (What’s that? Did someone mention a paycheck… okay, that is enough to re-kindle my interest. There’s fire in the belly again.)

Geez, I was so excited earlier in the month thinking about the price of beef at Costco, I forgot this is the first issue of Grainews for me since editor Jay Whetter left and new editor Lyndsey Smith assumed the post. Talk about trauma and drama. Selecting a new editor at Grainews is very similar indeed to picking a new Pope.

First there are a few days of obligatory mourning, then the committee of wise old managers meet to discuss the field of candidates, while a crowd of two or three faithful readers wait outside the Dublin Avenue office in Winnipeg. (They may also be there to renew or cancel subscriptions, but, regardless, they are excited). Then, it could be like the wee hours of the afternoon — 1 p. m. or 2 p. m. — when the faithful see the silhouette of the really old senior editor John Morriss come in front of a second-floor window, and then as they wait in silence, there it is, a flash of gold — the loonie coin toss is caught by the afternoon sun, a cheer goes up — everyone knows when that coin hits the floor a new editor will have been chosen. It is a magical moment.


So Jay Whetter has moved on. Jay, Jay, Jay — what can I say? Jay and I first started working together in 1931. (Wait, that was a different Jay, and come to think of it, it was even a previous life for me.) I’ve been at this too long, which Jay is it again? Oh, Jay Whetter, from southwest Manitoba, now I remember. Jay has very deep agricultural roots. His great, great grandfather was Cornish and his great, great grandmother was Soybeanish, so this ag thing is in his blood.

I found the announcement of his appointment in the November 1998 issue of Country Guide. That’s 12 years ago. A photo and a little blurb about how talented he was. I have never had an appointment notice in my life and I’ve had lots of jobs over the past 40 years. Never once was there a photo and a little description welcoming me to anyone’s team. Realtors, car salesmen and even hairdressers get appointment notices, even if they change shops every four days. But, I’ve never had one. I guess some people NEED that kind of validation, but I’m okay.

So, Jay joined the Guide team in November 1998. I didn’t see any of his articles in that November issue or in the following December issue. Obviously he counted on his boyish good looks and impish smile to carry him through this business right from the get go. So to quickly re-cap Jay’s career, he did stuff for Guide, then he and his wife Jenny had babies, he took over as editor of Grainews in August 2007, then they moved to Kenora, Ont. — shifting what is tantamount to the Papal office from western Canada to eastern Canada, then he did more stuff for Grainews, and now he has gone to work for the Canola Council of Canada.


And now there is a new editor for Grainews and she is a girl. I had two initial concerns. First was age and the second, she was a girl. Jay was 14 when he took over as editor of Grainews, and Lyndsey Smith is 12. They say girl’s mature faster, so we should be okay on that point. But, I still had to wonder — what do girls know about farming? I consulted the old dairy boss at Hart Farms on that point — my mother — and she quickly corrected my thinking. (The old gal can be vicious.)

So my initial concerns have been resolved, and the fact that the seat of Grainews power is now back in Western Canada — Saskatchewan (much like having the Vatican back in Italy, or the Dali Lama back in Tibet, or Jay Leno back on the Tonight Show — you get my drift), it pretty well makes all right with the world.

I still have the challenge of convincing, yet another new editor, that what I do around here is really a ginormous amount of work, but I will persevere. In all sincerity, I can say that Jay Whetter is just one of the nicest young guys to work with, a good writer and great editor. I wish him every success.

And while he will be missed, I look forward to working with Lyndsey Smith, a very capable young woman, who brings a great deal of talent and enthusiasm to the job. And just in case they run out of appointment notices, I should mention that Scott Garvey, also of Saskatchewan, joins the Grainews writing staff full time as well. What a team! (I feel a song coming on… “I believe….” Whoa, I’d better save that until later.)

And I know a few people will be asking how they pick the editor of Cattleman’s Corner. Not quite as formal as the process for Grainews editor. It is called Cow Pie Bingo. They fence off a small paddock, mark it with some squares, put a name in each square, and then turn a cow into the paddock, and whatever square she craps on first is the new editor. The heifer they used when I “won,” had actually been feeding on some pretty lush, new growth alfalfa, so things were a little loose. I don’t think I got a direct hit, but enough stuck to get me the job.

Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in

Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by

email at [email protected]Read his

blog at

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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