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Hands across our land . . . Meeting people from across Canada seemed like a fine way to begin a New Year, even if only in print.

Hands across our land . . .

Meeting people from across Canada seemed like a fine way to begin a New Year, even if only in print.

It’s easy to do with a selection of some of the 700 plus Canadian Community Newspapers from small towns and cities in all provinces and territories.

You can read about people who could be your neighbour, and in doing so, you find, despite the vast geography of this place which helps keep us apart, you’re also sharing similar community, territorial, provincial or national concerns.

It’s a sense of sharing you’ll not find in any other media, especially on national television, in national newspapers.

For example, HELP FILL HANGERS was an attention-getting front-page headline. The half-page colour photograph of a lady holding two empty coat hangers complemented it.

“The appeal is to make sure every kid in Leduc has a warm coat this winter,” Linda Topping, chairperson of the local Kinette appeal, is quoted.

An article about their food bank on the Op-Ed pages of the Leduc Representative confirmed the need.

The other side of the coin came quickly enough. “Town Council Contemplates Hiking Pay” came in the next paper off the pile, the South Peace News. The subject surfaced in others too, telling us about the $1,000 Christmas bonuses handed out by the Canadian Wheat Board “in recognition of the ‘stress’ they have been under during the Winnipeg-based agency’s fight with the federal government.”

Although the Ontario MLAs topped the “be-kind-to-yourself” list, voting themselves a 25-per-cent raise on their second-last day of sitting, and then scampered off to celebrate Christmas.

To be fair, this is simply proof positive of the continually voiced need for us to pay big money to get big-thinking people to run big governments and big businesses for us, eh?

This money thing popped up quite regularly amidst local sports pages, the Alberta papers with more want ads than you could shake a stick at, and then a story in Saskatchewan’s  Shaunavon Standard stopped me, and my unscientific study, cold.

Buried in the back pages, an enterprising reporter introduced us to the story of a man who was “born to farm.” Here was just what the doctor ordered to kick a new year into high gear: an inspiring tale of a man and a woman.

John Iverson, the story begins, just completed his 76th harvest on his farm on the south Saskatchewan prairie.

Apparently John’s achievement came and went without fanfare except for this half-page story in his local newspaper.

As the piece, without a byline, tells us: “He’s outlasted the Depression, world wars, 14 prime ministers, and two pacemakers.

“Only recently did John begin curtailing his workload. He sold most of his cattle three or four years ago, but still maintains a small herd of five cows and five calves.

“‘I just got to the age where I couldn’t do as much as I used to,’” he explained.

Last spring he sold 21 quarters of his land, although he kept six quarters — half cultivated and half grassland — and harvested 104 hectares of wheat this past summer.

The secret of his longevity, he told the readers, is his wife Anna, who shared in every step of their work and journey together.

Now that’s a legacy, but it’s also a family farm that’s … well, here’s John again: “At one time I was hoping my son would stay on the farm, but I never said anything. It was up to him.

“But when I look at things now, it’s just as well that he didn’t get involved. He made the right decision. It’s just too hard to make a living at farming these days. Grain prices are so low and your costs are so high.”

While various magazines, newspapers, television networks seek men and women of the year, to shower with accolades and brass statues, I nominate in their place this couple, and the thousands like them, who feed us.

I wonder where, and who, will control our food supply in coming decades when men and women like them are gone? I hope it’s still people like them, although I think they’d feel uncomfortable around a place so far removed from the land as a big boardroom table, although I’ll bet the decisions would be people-oriented as well as money-oriented.

A tip of the hat to you, and to 2007.  May you be lucky enough to meet people like John and Anna wherever you go, and may our leaders be inspired by, and listen to, people like them, the salt-of-the-earth.

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