Thursday, April 11, 2013 | Categories: Episodes |
National Farm Radio Forum (CBC Image Library)
The National Farm Radio Forum. Between 1941 and 1965, when a lot of Canadians lived on the farm, it aired discussions about hot topics on everything from food rationing to whether farm women should work outside the home.
You can listen to the program right here on the website.
On this Rewind, sounds from a program that had a long and illustrious history on CBC Radio. It was called the National Farm Radio Forum, or Farm Forum for short. The program debuted in January 1941 and at first was heard only in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. The following autumn, the program was extended to Western Canada.
National Farm Radio Forum was the brainchild of Orville Shugg, a young farmer from southern Ontario. His career in radio had begun in 1939 with the daily 15-minute CBC Farm Broadcast.
Shugg described Farm Forum as "a sophisticated extension of the old 'New Canada Movement.'" Started in 1933, the New Canada Movement aimed to make young farmers into activists and achieve a "new deal" for rural Canadians.
In the 1940s, a little less than half of Canada's population lived in rural communities, and almost one third worked in agriculture.
Three objectives drove Shugg and his writing partner, Neil Morrison, in producing the Farm Forum broadcast. The CBC Program Schedule for the week of Nov. 23, 1941, outlined the objectives:
- To present authentic social and economic background material for discussion
- To translate such material into terms that will appeal to the imagination and interest of farm listeners
- To serve as a link between listening groups spread over a wide area.
The "Forum" part of National Radio Farm Forum referred to the groups of farmers that gathered to hear and debate each program. Each forum read prepared study guides in advance, took notes on their discussion and sent them to the provincial Farm Forum secretaries.
At the end of each program, the secretaries summarized the forums' response to the previous week's topic and reported forum statistics.
By its fifth broadcast, the program had an estimated 9,000 participants in registered forums in Ontario alone.
The theme song to the program Farm Forum was called Men of the Soil, and it was based on a Danish folk song. Some listeners interpreted its crusading lyrics as overly socialistic- lines like:
Men of the soil we have laboured unending,
We have fed the world with the grain we have sown.
Now with the dawn of a new world ascending
Giants of the earth at last we rise to claim our own!
Later in the show's run the producers introduced an instrumental version of the theme. Of course, by then, everyone already knew the words...
The first piece from the National Radio Farm Forum is from November 1942. On the top of everyone's mind? The war and how it is affecting the lives of Canadians.
The next piece is from March 1943- the war still had a huge impact in the lives of Canadians. And some wonder why Canadians have to suffer food shortages when we have so many farmers?
The CBC Radio Archives doesn't have a lot of the farm forums from the late 40s and 50s, and our next piece is from November 1963.
In 1963, National Farm Radio Forum used a new technique called "group dynamics" to explore a topic. Forums in five provinces were recorded and their comments edited together to pull the listener right into the forum atmosphere. On this edition- the future of the rural church.
The year is 1963 and the discussion is about the role of the church in rural communities.
Next up is a forum broadcast on November 25, 1963. The date is significant, as it was just three days after President John Kennedy was assassinated- and the country was still in a state of shock.
The forum felt it needed to acknowledge the mood of the country.
The moderator- Anne Francis- was a pen name adopted by Florence Bird for her career as a broadcaster and columnist. In 1967 she chaired the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.
The National Farm Radio Forum had its last broadcast in March 1965. At Farm Forum's peak, about 27,000 people were active participants. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) studied the Farm Forum format in 1952. The program's techniques were then successfully introduced in India, Ghana and France.