December is a time to tie up loose ends and get ready to start afresh in the new year. So it seemed to me this was an ideal time to wrap up my time as editor of this historic publication.
Next month this space will be given over to your new editor, Lisa Guenther of Livelong, Saskatchewan. Only four editors have led this magazine for the past 80 years. Lisa becomes the fifth and she begins a new decade of service to the Canadian beef industry.
Kenneth Coppock founded the magazine in June of 1938 with $1,000 from his own pocket. He was assistant manager of the Western Stock Growers’ Association (WSGA) at the time and for the previous two years had been administering a feed freight assistance program to help ranchers cope with the fallout from back-to-back droughts and collapsing prices in southern Alberta.
Coppock thought a magazine could serve as a unifying voice for a ranching industry that he felt needed to regain a sense of pride in its origins and what it was doing.
The WSGA members agreed but the association had few members and no money for such a venture or for Coppick’s salary, so it was agreed he could have whatever profits he could take out of a magazine and a stockman’s supply company if he could make these ventures fly.
Many things have changed since Coppock’s day but the mission of the magazine remains much the same as it was back then — maintain a record of the Canadian beef industry and the people who make it hum, and remain profitable.
Coppock became the manager of the WSGA in 1939 and for a few years the magazine’s masthead listed the association as the publisher. But it was always Coppock’s book, and in fact was published by Kenway Publishing Company.
That became clear in 1953 when Coppock resigned as manager of the WSGA and offered to sell the magazine to the association. WSGA president Bert Hargrave discussed this idea with his friend Harold Fry, editor of Country Guide. In the end Fry convinced Hargrave to let Public Press buy the magazine from Coppock and the WSGA could name an advisory committee and have a regular column to publish its news and views. Public Press, the publisher of the Country Guide, was owned by United Grain Growers.
The new owners hired Frank Jacobs, who was teaching vocational agriculture in Salmon Arm, B.C., as their new editor and he took over in January 1954.
In his time Frank broadened the coverage of the magazine beyond the ranch country to increase circulation across the West and into Eastern Canada by turning it into a cattle industry book. The emphasis shifted toward research and the application of new ideas being used by producers across the country.
It was a successful formula and during his 21 years as editor circulation grew from 8,000 to 40,000 nationally.
Harold Dodds became editor in 1974, after working as associate editor of Country Guide from 1965 and before that as a CBC farm broadcaster in Ontario.
When Dodds was named publisher of Public Press in 1986 I was elevated from my job as livestock editor at Country Guide to the Cattlemen desk and have happily remained there until today.
When I took over I was given a desk, a typewriter, a phone, numerous file cabinets stuffed with background facts, and two excellent field editors.
Terry Hockaday and I had written for Cattlemen and Country Guide in Ontario before he moved to Calgary with Cattlemen and I back to Winnipeg to work in the print section of Manitoba Agriculture before rejoining Country Guide as livestock editor. After he left Cattlemen Terry made a career in public relations and ended up owning his own company, Meristem Land and Science.
Karen Davidson was hired by Dodds in 1982 to cover Eastern Canada, which she did admirably pushing our Eastern circulation close to our Alberta numbers, until 1992 when she moved on to set up her own public relations firm. Today she is the editor of the Grower magazine, published by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
Judy Walters from Horsefly, B.C. took over from Hockaday until 1988 when Larry Thomas took over our Calgary office, fresh off from gaining his master’s degree in range management from the University of Saskatchewan. Larry worked for Cattlemen until 2008 when he joined the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association staff, initially to help develop an early version of Bix, the now private data collection service available to all producers.
Debbie Furber took over from Thomas as our field editor for most of my remaining time with the magazine up to March of this year when she retired to her family farm in Tisdale, Saskatchewan. Piper Whelan has now taken on her role based in Calgary.
And this doesn’t even include the host of columnists and freelance writers who make such a valuable contribution to our pages month in and month out.
From Coppock to Jacobs to Dodds to Winslow — we brought you the first 80 years of Canadian Cattlemen. Now Lisa Guenther will take it from here.
As my final note, all of us at Canadian Cattlemen wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.