Readers kept informed about changing farm lifestyles

The Western Producer’s Farm Living section has had many names since 1923 but the primary focus has always been to inform, educate and entertain readers while helping improve their quality of life.

In the Sept. 27, 1923 issue, an article encouraged women to participate in a survey of rural homes to assess the standard of living in rural areas. Successive issues revealed that many rural homes lacked a reliable and easily accessible source of clean water and indoor running water was rare. Many homes were small, cold and sparsely furnished.

The prices that farmers received for their products were poor and often fluctuated, resulting in limited cash flow and lack of food for rural families. Many children were undernourished because of a lack of milk and vegetables.

There were inconsistencies in the availability of rural schools, teachers and reading materials. In 1922, only five percent of children reached Grade 8. In addition, many laws discriminated against women, children, widows and orphans.

The Mainly for Women section initially included news and reports from the Women’s Grain Growers’ Association (WGGA), ranging from education to health care to immigration.

Violet McNaughton, a farmer and feminist and the first women’s editor of the Producer, helped communicate the issues’ progress and successes to rural residents, encouraging women to work for social change in their communities and beyond.

To improve farm finances, families were encouraged to become a self-supporting entity rather than relying on one or two crops and purchasing high priced food items. The goal was to raise and feed livestock and plant large orchards and gardens to supply meat, milk, eggs and produce that could feed the family for the entire year and provide extras that could be marketed.

Articles provided information on the advantages of planting shelterbelts, fruit trees and gardens to trap snow and fill water reservoirs, decorate the farmyard and provide a greater variety of food options.

Food preservation tips were provided to help families store produce for winter use in addition to articles on ways to make the farm home more comfortable and provide clothing for growing families.

Readers shared their own tips to solve common household problems and annoyances.

During the war years, sugar and meat shortages were addressed through recipes calling for honey or molasses instead of sugar and meatless dishes with pasta, eggs, cheese and dried beans.

In the post-war years, the Producer disseminated information on rural electrification.

Emmie Oddie, a farmer, Saskatchewan Women’s Institutes member and home economist, wrote a food and information column for the Producer for 47 years. She answered readers’ questions on nutrition, food preparation, preservation and consumer topics, poems, readings, suggestions for Christmas concerts.

Her sister and section editor, Rose Jardine, also wrote a gardening column.

Oddie’s work was continued by a group of home economists, including Alma Copeland, Barb Sanderson, Jodie Mirosovsky, Sarah Galvin and me.

The section also included pages with activities for children and aspiring young writers.

When the metric system was introduced, there were new recipes developed and instructions given to convert old recipes.

The introduction of lentils, quinoa, chickpeas and canola led to information on how to prepare them.

Today, there is an increased demand for locally grown foods and a renewed interest in food preparation and preservation. Basic budgeting skills, planning for farm transitions and retirement planning are also top of mind.

The Farm Living section includes articles that share unique farming success stories, innovative business ventures and farm transitions from one generation to the next and regular columns by experts.

As farmers, we produce the food so it is only natural that a farm paper would provide information on how to enjoy it.

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