Finding the news that matters on your farm

A century ago, a lone journalist had a huge impact on Prairie
 agriculture — and she has a lesson for us today

Reading Time: 2 minutes

E. Cora Hind was one of the greatest farm reporters ever, with a unique talent that earned her the gratitude of farmers across the Prairies, not to mention worldwide fame.

Her appointment as agricultural editor of the Winnipeg Free Press in 1901 got everyone talking because women news reporters were almost unheard of back then. But they kept talking about her because of her uncanny ability to forecast the size of the Prairie wheat crop.

People soon learned that if Hind had an estimate completely at odds to the one from the Chicago Board of Trade, it was the American experts who would end up red faced. In 1905, she predicted an 85-million-bushel crop (the official count was 84,506,857). She did even better in 1907, predicting 71,250,000 bushels of wheat would be harvested in Western Canada. The final tally was 70,922,584 — meaning she was accurate to within one-half of one per cent.

Don’t know if they had ‘guess how many jelly beans in the jar’ fundraisers back then. But if they had, Hind would have won every time.

One summer in 1924, she reportedly travelled 10,240 kilometres in 37 days, making 30 to 50 stops per day to check crops. Every few miles, Hind would stop her car and wade — uninvited — into the middle of the field, counting the number of kernels of each head she plucked, chewing them to judge their fullness, and inspecting stems and leaves for disease.

Farmers forgave her trespasses because her reports put power in their hands when negotiating a price for their crop at the elevators controlled by the heartless wheat barons.

I’ve been thinking about Hind as I’ve tried to imagine ways to make this paper more valuable to you, and to all of your fellow producers. Specifically, more articles that help with your decision-making and better inform you of what’s happening in Alberta’s farm community.

But it’s a huge province, and the complexity and diversity of its agriculture is immense. What would E. Cora Hind do if she were alive today?

It’s a bit hard to picture a woman born a century and a half ago being on Twitter (although @corahind is available), but I think she’d love it. And she’d definitely be taking and sharing pics of crops and livestock (she was a noted authority in that area, too), as well as relentlessly texting, emailing, phoning, and visiting producers. When it came to what stories to cover, she would have said, ‘If you want to know what information farmers are looking for, ask them.’

In this edition, we did exactly that. Kevin Bender, Andrew Goodrich, Trish Henderson, Sarah Leach, Jason Lenz, and Paul Wipf had great questions, and hopefully they — and you — find the answers interesting, too.

It’s something we’ll do again from time to time. But asking you what you want us to cover needs to happen continually.

On the front of this paper, it states: ‘Your provincial farm and ranch paper.’ The size of the print is a bit small for my liking, but the intent of those words is bang on.

Living up to that pledge isn’t easy — we’re a small crew, after all. But hopefully we’ve got a few thousand farmer friends who are willing to point us in the right direction.

About the author

Editor

Glenn Cheater

Glenn Cheater is a veteran journalist who has covered agriculture for more than two decades. His mission is to showcase the ideas, passions, and stories of Alberta farmers and ranchers.

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