Science writer finds himself at the WP

Growing up in the Damour Lake district in the Thickwood Hills west of Leask, Sask., I was the kid with his nose stuck in a book. That is, when I wasn’t mucking about in the sloughs examining bugs, frogs and weird plants.

Five brothers and a sister with a keen appreciation for everyone doing their share ensured that I too picked a lot of rocks, roots and oh, so many bales. I learned to drive anything with an engine and wheels, and how to fix some of it.

But it was clear I wasn’t a farmer. One of my brothers seemed born for the job, and he’s made the home place his own, raising a family and a farm he and his wife are now passing on to the next generation.

So what does a farm kid with a science addiction do for a living? The standard farm skill set got me a job driving an industrial forklift through the muddy bog of an equipment manufacturer in Saskatoon.

The job didn’t much engage me. Writing, and then science writing, did. So I got the training and got started. I’ve bounced around from public relations to marketing and communications. I worked on newspapers and helped found one that became the only paper in that part of northwestern Saskatchewan.

One thread seemed to hold steady: agriculture. Working at the University of Saskatchewan, I wrote about research that was producing new crops and how those crops were getting into farmers’ hands. I learned about plant-breeding techniques like wide crosses, mutagenesis, and genetic engineering. I learned from social and political scientists about public acceptance and international trade.

It turns out much of the science writing I’ve been doing for more than 25 years has its roots in agriculture. I had already done a bit of freelance writing for this paper — it’s a great way to get into ag science conferences — when the job of farm management editor at The Western Producer came up. I threw my hat in the ring and here I am.

I’ve spent most of my career digging out knowledge, putting it into a story, and sharing it with people who can use it. I’ll be doing more of the same in this seat, always asking, “why would a farmer care about this?”

If I have trouble answering that question, I’ll go back to my roots. Come to think of it, it’s been a while and I should give them a call.

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