Hall of fame career Vern McNair brought agricultural news and information into Manitoba homes
WINNIPEG — Vern McNair regularly attends the annual Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame induction ceremony, mostly because he likes to visit with friends who also attend.
But he couldn’t believe it when he learned he would be honoured at this year’s ceremony, held July 10 in Winkler, Man.
“For close to 20 years, we (he and his wife, Marjorie) have been regular attendees to the induction service,” said McNair, who worked as director of communications with Manitoba Agriculture for 30 years.
“I never, ever, ever once thought of being a part of it.”
Joining McNair in this year’s class of new members are Charles John Froebe of Carman, Wildred (Butch) Harder of Lowe Farm, Herbert and Helen Kletke of Teulon, John Kuhl of Winkler and 4-H Manitoba leaders from across the province.
McNair, who grew up on a farm in Shoal Lake, Man., became a government ag rep in Carberry, Man., in 1951, shortly after graduating from the University of Manitoba with an agriculture degree.
“I was the greenest ag rep they ever had in Manitoba, but the farmers put up with me,” he said with a laugh.
After several years in a job that he enjoyed, McNair received a surprising offer from the CBC.
The public broadcaster wanted someone to report on agriculture in Manitoba and recruited McNair for the job.
Leaving his job in Carberry wasn’t an easy decision, but McNair was attracted to the idea of working with a new technology.
“Television in Manitoba had only started about six months before. This was an intriguing kind of area,” he said.
McNair started with the CBC in June 1955 and filed agricultural reports for radio and television broadcasts.
He left CBC in 1959 and accepted a position with Manitoba Agriculture. The department wanted to modernize how it communicated with farmers, particularly how it delivered extension information.
“When I went there, they had the traditional leaflets and booklets (on agriculture )… and that was all,” McNair said.
He initially produced radio spots to inform farmers about general agricultural news, as well as specific information such as raising cattle and growing barley, but quickly shifted to film and television.
“Within a couple of years we were doing movie films for the department. They’re a joke now, but at the time there was a need for them,” he said.
“And a few years later we had our own programs on television.”
McNair retired in 1989.
Alf Chorney, who also worked at Manitoba Agriculture knew of McNair early in life.
“I remember as a kid, when I happened to be at home, listening to him on the farm broadcasts on the CBC.”
He nominated McNair for the Agricultural Hall of Fame because he played a significant role in farmer education.
“He made a great deal of difference, essentially in how farmers and rural people accumulated the kind of information they needed to modernize their farm operations,” Chorney said.