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Alberta home economist magazine stitches out marketplace

CAMROSE, Alta. – The Alberta government may not think there are questions for home economists, but it doesn’t stop people from phoning Ruby Curran for answers.

It’s been almost two years since Curran was among 27 full-time equivalent home economists across the province who lost their jobs in the government department reshuffle.

The former Coronation resident still gets phone calls from people wanting information she provided as the local home economist.

“People still want traditional home economic information,” said Curran from a booth at Fall Focus, a rural women’s conference held here.

After all the phone calls and her search for another job, Curran decided to start her own magazine.

“I’m trying to keep home economics alive after being de-Kleined (job cuts ordered by Alberta premier Ralph Klein).”

Curran, who now lives in Castor, has just published her third issue of Home & Family, an Alberta-based magazine designed to be an informal education resource.

In one issue she details why some gingerbread cookies are soft and others snappy. Then she includes a recipe.

When Curran started the project last February, all she had was enthusiasm. She knew nothing about publishing, editing or printing a magazine. She bought a computer layout program and six instruction videos.

In the beginning she had great dreams of writing in-depth stories on home economist-type problems. But not long after she started the magazine, she was scrambling to deal with advertisers, freelancers, photographers, editing and layout with little time for her detailed research projects.

She’s the least happy with her last issue.

“I’m ashamed of all the errors. I threw it together and took it to the printer.”

An advertiser was about to pull the ads unless the magazine came out on deadline. She has since learned to set aside a week to do the final proofing in the next issue.

Because of positive feedback and the growing subscription list, Curran is still convinced there’s a need for home economic information.

The remaining home economists in the department have been turned into rural development specialists, a role Curran doesn’t think they were trained for.

“The position is better suited for an MBA (business degree) rather than a home economist,” she said.

“I never took any financial management training at school.”

It was as though the government was trying to slowly kill the department, she said.

Each year since she began working as a home economist in 1984 some program was eliminated. One year they were no longer allowed to provide home design information, wardrobe planning, sewing or food and nutrition advice.

At one time there were 500 people on her government newsletter mailing list. But with the elimination of each program the interest in the newsletter dried up.

“At the end all there was left was financial management. With the government knocking it out nobody cared that it ended,” she said.

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