It was the spring of 1979 and four very enthusiastic guys were plotting out the beginnings of an inaugural purebred sale which would super-charge the BC Holstein breeding industry for many years. Dick Carlson, Pete Beck, John Brown and Gerry Holt unintentionally ruffled a few feathers at the BC Branch with their big plans for the Dogwood Classic sale. The sale would become a CFV Holstein Club event and by all accounts, it was a roaring success. But what every big event needs is promotion! And that was the genesis of the BC Holstein News story… 40 years ago!
Jerry Strandlund had started the Northwest Holstein News only a few years earlier in Washington state, so he was approached to produce a similar publication to promote the Dogwood Classic. In fact, Jerry played a dual role, since he had recently become the most popular cattle photographer, and pictures of sale animals were crucial. “This was the ‘heyday’ of cattle merchandising. I was publishing a newspaper every month in Washington,” recalls Jerry. “ET was taking off, there were sales and shows all over the northwest, and everyone wanted pictures. There were big dollars being spent, and the same wave was rolling across BC,” explains Jerry. Dick Carlson stated the need for a strong sale like the Dogwood in the west. “We needed a real sale – an honest sale with no BS,” Dick asserts. “The PNE sales commanded a premium but the quality of cattle wasn’t always great; too many would sell their bottom-enders.”
Together with the help of Barb Souter, Jerry produced the first issues of BC Holstein News in June, July and October of 1979.“I always thought the paper should be as much about the people who love and care for the cows, as about the cows themselves, and news of the dairy industry,”
– Barb Souter “I was involved from the first issue, writing feature articles and editorial material for the paper, and helping with the distribution in BC,” reminisces Barb. From the get-go, the breeders on Vancouver Island latched onto the promotional possibilities in the very first issue. “Vancouver Island Holstein breeders asked Jerry if he would put out a second issue in July to promote their annual club sale, and again this issue was popular with many breeders advertising their herds and sale consignments,” Barb adds. With so much on his plate already, Jerry asked Barb, who was skilled in journalism, reporting and photography, if she would like to take over the BC Holstein News. Well, to throw out a well-worn cliché, ‘the rest is history!’ From January 1980, Barb dove in, with a clear intent to make the newspaper informative and interesting to families across BC. “I always thought the paper should be as much about the people who love and care for the cows, as about the cows themselves, and news of the dairy industry,” shares Barb. And much like family farm businesses, the kids invariably get pulled in to help! “It’s been gratifying to me to see that ‘Udder News’ has remained a popular feature of each issue, as we keep in touch with what’s going on in the lives of those involved with dairy cattle.” Barb was right – the paper found its niche in connecting the lives of farming families, with the dairy cattle business.
Everyone knows that times have changed; cattle merchandising is certainly not what it used to be and the business of breeding, showing and selling has shrunk to the ‘one percent.’ It’s hardly a local game any longer. Add in digital/internet/socialmedia technologies and the foundation of advertising in print media has nearly crumbled. Genomics and IVF have taken herd improvement to an entirely different ballpark. We’re not in Kansas anymore!
But this isn’t the end of the story. BC Holstein News has continued strong for 40 years, adapting to new technologies and new rhythms in the dairy industry, while continuing to document all that makes our industry a specially-connected sector of agriculture. I love to look back through old issues of the newspaper and Directory – they are time-capsules of our lives! The people, the cows, the bulls, the machinery, the events and issues. We may be so busy living our lives each day that we don’t consider documenting these moments as important. But there comes a time in everyone’s story when we want to retrace our steps and recall our journeys – to savour once more each bite of our past – and the BC Holstein News helps us do just that. The ads that breeder herds placed over the decades have become like fingerprints of their farms, herds and families. And while I understand why breeder ads have slowed to a trickle, it still leaves me a little sad that so many won’t have these precious archival fragments to look back upon.
I’m thrilled to be giving the BC Holstein News an injection of adrenaline – and I intend to capture the stories and events that should be told now and preserved for the future. Yes, dairying must be a profitable business, or everything falls apart – but the richness of it comes from the collective enthusiasm and momentum of agribusinesses, farms, corporate businesses, industry associations and all the people that intersect because of our common denominator – the dairy cow. So, I offer my thanks and appreciation to the first Dogwood Committee, Jerry, Barb, the Booys and all those who assisted in making this newspaper such an important part of BC’s dairy story. A special thanks to the advertisers and sponsors who make it all possible! Cheers!