20 Years: Living “Under the Agridome”

Well, how did we arrive here?  What you say?  Let me tell you.  20 years ago this week, your loyal scribe first “penned”, yes “penned” the Agridome.  Now 20 year later, the pen is gone, replaced by a computer, which not only processes words, but acts as a conduit for a multimedia agricultural experience.  Giving you the best in agricultural editorial has always been my goal.  If we manage our business a bit better, market our crops a bit better, or just think more about what we do, hopefully this column has some type of role in that.  Meeting a weekly deadline over a period of twenty years, at times, isn’t for the feint of heart.

I have no record of that first Agridome written in the very wet fall of 1986.  Back in those days, I sat on a vinyl couch with a note pad in front of me scribbling out the best agricultural economic article I could muster.  There was no Internet, no computers and not a lot of confidence.

It wasn’t easy in those days.  I soon found out I wasn’t a natural writer.  However, I did get a bit better.  Technology helped and a little education helped me see the bigger picture.  In the fall of 1986 I made one of the best decisions of my young life.  I left the farm near Dresden Ontario and went back to the University of Guelph.  I felt a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics might hold the key to a better life.

At Guelph I was successful.  While there I sometimes submitted “the Agridome” by courier.  It was overnight to Wallaceburg, a wonderful innovation to this farm kid from Dresden.  However, it wasn’t long before I discovered the IBM XT computer.  Those machines did something called “word processing.”  Soon after that I used a machine called a “fax” to send a document to Montreal.  Soon my editor was receiving “the Agridome” done on a computer, sent via the phone lines via a fax modem.  What was the world coming to?

A lot has happened in 20 years.  Yes, we have many of the same issues but production agriculture has changed radically.  20 years ago in southwestern Ontario we used to work the ground three times in the spring and plant a crop in a cloud of dust.  Today, many of us “no-till” biotech crops and spray them with glyphosate.  Today we hear terms such as “stacked hybrids” and auto-steer, light bars and guidance systems.  These things 20 years ago were the stuff you could only dream about.

In 1994 I was hired on by Broadcast Partners FarmDayta of Des Moines Iowa to bring Under the Agridome to their satellite network across Canada and the United States.  That’s when I first corresponded with many of you.  Data Transmission Network (DTN) took over my contract when they purchased BPFarmdayta shortly after.  I must thank Kathy Myers, a stalwart at DTN for her help over the years.  I don’t think anybody knows the nuances of computer/satellite transmissions as good as she does.  Over the time with DTN, I’ve had a myriad of mail from the United States.  Many of those readers are now leaders in American agriculture.  All of them were imminently fair with what sometimes was an inferior Canadian agricultural mind.

Through the years I’ve watched everything change.   As time went by I was recognized and engaged by those in the agricultural industry.  In the early days there was lots of criticism, some warranted, some simply unfair.  I have learned, grown and morphed as a journalist over 20 years.  Telling the truth about agricultural economics, agricultural policy and market trends with flare and consistency in a way, farmers understand has always been my goal.

Things have evolved.  Technology was once again part of it.  With the Internet, research and communication became more accessible to all, even for a guy who lives on a farm.  In many ways the advent of internet technology has only started in agriculture.  Within the next five years, it surely will be intertwined throughout our grain marketing system and all other aspects of production agriculture.

Nothing can replace the enduring legacy of being recognized by my own peers.  Yes, even after all this time its important to not take yourself too seriously.  However, last year I was asked to stand up and “fight back” and be the “face and voice” of the thousands of nameless and faceless farmers across Canada.  I took a lead role in 6 farm rallies, one of which was representing English Canada in front of Parliament Hill on April 5th.  It was and probably will remain the highlight of a very public agricultural life.

Is it about to be over?  Will there be an end to “the Agridome?”  Well, nothing lasts forever.  In this business it’s all about what you’ve done for me lately.  I’m only as good as my last commentary, podcast, speech or whatever.  What’s important is to change, improve and remain relevant and valued to readers and listeners.  Thank-you for 20 years, it’s been a heck of a ride.