Earltown Farm Forum

Murray Baillie, formerly of Tatamagouche Mountain, has generously agreed to share his memories of the Earltown Farm Forum.  His article perfectly captures a time when rural communities made a concerted effort to expand their knowledge in a social setting – long before Facebook.   

I was the teacher in Earltown School in the village of Earltown, Nova Scotia from September, 1961 to June, 1962. I was all of 20 years old when I began teaching Grades Primary to 6 at the beginning  of the academic year.

At the beginning of the year, I was invited to attend the weekly  meetings of the Farm Forum held on Monday nights. Before going to Earltown, I had never heard of the National Farm Radio Forum. National Farm Radio Forum was sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Co-operation, the Canadian Federation Agriculture and the Canadian Association for Adult Education and founded in 1941.  The program was a one-half hour radio broadcast followed by discussion.

Other things, sometimes gossip, were discussed besides the topic of the evening. I remember that the subject of seat belts came up before the days when the law made them mandatory for use in cars and trucks when driving. Allister Murray had doubts about their usefulness.

There was a discussion on encouraging young people to farm. This was probably on February 5, 1962 when the topic was “Technical and Vocational Training for Young People”. Lawrence Sutherland said that there should be a compulsory agriculture course in high school. Of all the students in the North Colchester High School in Tatamagouche, very few, if any, became farmers. When I was a student there, we did not see that as a productive future.

Mary Murray, a high school teacher, said once that we can’t educate the masses. I disagreed because I thought we should consider the intellectually disabled, then called retarded. I heard later that Mary enjoyed our arguments and told a relative of mine, Jennie Mingo, that she would like to adopt me.

On one evening, James M. Minifie, was quoted on the radio. Mary said, “That sounds like Mr. Minifie”. I said, “It is.” I was used to hearing his commentaries on the CBC radio program, “Capital Report”. I was at ease with this group and did not mind expressing my opinion.

Howard Murray, a land surveyor, complained about government regulations making life difficult. Everyone agreed.  And this was in the early sixties when life was much less regulated than it is today.

The meetings rotated among different homes.  Every meeting had a published National Farm Radio Guide covering the topic for that week. There was information on the topic of the evening with discussion questions at the end. I was elected secretary so I submitted (i.e., mailed) a report for each session and discussion to Betty Campbell, the Farm Forum Provincial Secretary for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, in Truro. I don’t remember how this was done other than but I must have summarized the discussion on the questions asked on the back page of each Guide. I talked to Mrs. Campbell by phone on May 26, 2017 and asked her about this. She said that it was a long time ago and she did not remember how the reports were submitted nor whether they were preserved.

It is interesting that there were Farm Forum groups all over the province (79) and eight in New Brunswick. In the 1961-1962 Annual Report on Farm Forums, Earltown is listed along with my name and address as secretary.

What is interesting to me is that there were Farm Forums in Balfron, Tatamagouche Mountain and Four Mile in North Colchester. Although Tatamagouche Mountain was my home, I never heard about these Farm Forum meetings as I was growing up.

 Some people in the Department of Agriculture really promoted Farm Forum. Robert Murray, an Agricultural Representative (Ag Rep) attended many of the meetings in Cumberland County.

I still own two Guides from that period:

  1. Marketing by Teletype. Volume 19, No. 8, February 12, 1962. 8 pp.

The questions for discussion were:

  • What do you think about the use of the teletype system for marketing hogs?
  • Do you feel that the price of your commodity could be improved if all buyers had to bid competitively on all supplies of the commodity available for sale? Do they bid on all supplies now? Do you think the teletype marketing system could be applied to your commodity?
  • Do you feel that a national marketing system should be organized using teletype? Give reasons.
  1. Transportation and the Farmer. Volume 19, No. 9, February 19, 1962. 12 pp. Basically, this was a discussion on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Transportation (MacPherson Report) which reported in 1961.

The questions for discussion on this topic were:

  • Have you used your railway recently?

–for livestock?

–for passenger service?

–for the movement of grain?

  • What problems do you have with freight rates?
  • How will the recommendations affect you and your community if they are approved by the government?

As I remember, those who attended the Earltown Farm Forum in addition to myself were Rod and Barbara Murray, Allister Murray, Howard and Mary Murray, Lawrence and Helen Sutherland, John R.E. and Marion MacKay. As of 2017, I am the only member still living.

Only Rod, Barbara and Allister Murray were farmers. Every meeting closed with a delicious lunch.  Lunches were a rural custom that I enjoyed even though they did not help my weight problem.

Howard Murray commented that the Forum was a good way to keep social contact with neighbours at a time when community visiting was declining.

The National Farm Radio Forum broadcasts came to an end in 1965. For myself, I am happy that I had this social and educational experience since many hours were spent in the school and at home working on my teaching duties. I grew up on a farm so that may have helped me contribute. I am grateful to the people of Earltown for their contribution to my life; this was one of those ways.

Appendix A

Topics List – 1961 – 1962

The subjects for each broadcast were listed by date.

Appendix B

Annual Report : Farm Radio Forum

Nova Scotia; New Brunswick


The cover has the signature of Betty Campbell, Secretary.

Appendix C

Acknowledgement of Sources

  • Telephone Interviews with Betty Campbell (May 7, 2017), Dale Ells (May 7, 2014, May 26, 2017 and June 1, 2017) and Robert Murray (May 26, 2017).
  • Ells’ book: Shaped Through Service; An Illustrated History of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Truro, Agrarian Development Services Ltd., 1999. Pages 103-104.
  • Agricola collection (i.e. Archives) of the MacRae Library, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Bible Hill, N. S.