The changing role of the field man : an historical study based on the retrospections of extension staff of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool
Robinson, Sylvia Ann
The purpose of this study was to trace the dynamic nature of the performance of field men in the Extension Division of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. Reminiscenses of these field men constituted the basis for the interpretations presented. Field men shared their perceptions in personal interviews and, less frequently, in their writings. The thesis does not attempt to prove causality. It does however describe the changing activities of men and goals of the organization in relation to concurrent historical developments. Initially, to secure and maintain a strong membership, the Pool needed effective salesmen who were alert for bootleggers of grain contracted to the Pool. The migration of farm families away from southern Saskatchewan homesteads during the Great Depression created a demand for orators, who could preach the co-operative philosophy, and morale-boosters, who could encourage farmers to wait out the difficult times. In the period of wartime prosperity that followed, the co-operative movement thrived. Field men actively promoted and organized co-operative stores and credit unions. The post-war emphasis on adult education across Canada prompted the Pool to hire and train men in programme development and teaching methods. The self-help themes promoted in the continuing education movement, and the spirit of local self-determination moved field men of the 1950's into roles of organizers and communication links with the central organization. The commercial expansion and diversification of the Pool necessitated the hiring or preparation of men for member relations roles. Members of the Pool and other co-operatives were demanding explanations and rationalizations for the activities of their large company. As public cries for participatory democracy increased in the late 1960's, Pool members, too, demanded a more conspicuous place for their elected representatives. Field men stepped out of the limelight and attempted to groom delegates for the center-stage role. Through a well-developed network that extended throughout the agricultural area of Saskatchewan, field men carried a message. This thesis records and pays tribute to the contribution and success of this educational endeavour.