National Farm Radio Forum in Canada


NationalFarm Radio Forum in Canada

June11, 2014.

National Farm Radio program

TheCanadian National Farm Radio Forum was established in 1941 inassociation and sponsorship of other three organizations theCanadian Broad Corporation (CBC), Canadian Federation of Agriculture(CFA) and the Canadian Association for Education (CAAE). This programwas aimed at providing adult education, social activism, farminglessons to a group of registered individuals in the rural farms ofCanada. These institutions and the discussion groups provided therural adults with relevant adult education at grassroots level(Nicol, 1954).

TheRadio program whose theme was ‘Read, Listen, Discus, and Act’ hada social activism and radical orientation approach. It was anintegrative education approach covering various aspects of thesociety education, social life and prompting citizenship democracy.The program covered various topics that involved daily lifeactivities of the rural people family life, agricultural policy,international trade, and community. The rural families were gatheredin churches to listen and discuss the program. Prior the discussionand education day, pamphlets containing issues that would bediscussed was mailed to them the publication was called the farmguide. This guide had different questions for the youths as well asthe adults (Selman et al. 1998).

Afterthe discussion day, the participants were requested to contact theprovincial Farm Forum office where they were to present their reportsof the conference. The results were tabulated and broadcasted afterone week, to allow listeners to discuss and share views during theirsubsequent education days. The objective of the Farm Radio EducationForum was to provide the participants with knowledge that they coulduse to find solutions to problems brought about by the environmental,economic and the great depression (Faris, 1975).

Thepurpose objective of this program was to provide a communicationnetwork which would enhance proper Implementation of the adulteducation program and social advocacy through utilizing thedemocratic capacity of the Radio. The program was successful and wasrecognized globally for its inclusive adult education program. It isrecorded that the program had 1,600 registered forums having over21,000 registered individuals’ listeners’ country wide. As such,due to the positive impact and influence the Radio program had,UNESCO covered the story and published a report dubbed Canada FarmRadio Forum, this report became a model for other Radio Forumsthrough the world.

TheHistorical context in which the National Farm Radio Program

Inthe 19thand the best part of 20thcentury, the Canadian Society was purely agriculturist with only fewpeople residing in the small towns that existed. However, in the mid20thcentury more population migrated to towns. Despite this migration,rural farming still remained the greatest commercial ventureagriculture was embedded in the social cultural aspects of theCanadian society. It is recorded that even in urban areas farmingremained a significant commercial practice throughout the 20thcentury. The growing urban migration in the 20th century andgovernment policies that favored urban development at the expense ofthe rural areas left many rural communities struggling withagricultural production (Sandwell, 2012).

Manyof these rural farmers had given up on relying for government effortssupport for rural farming by late 1930. In this context, there wereno agricultural support experts to assist farmers with scientificmethods of farming. As a result of these challenges and the effectsof the Great Depression, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA)was established in the middle 1930s. The main philosophy behind theformation of CFA was based on the prevailing marketing, socialorganization and distribution of farm incomes. By 1940, the farmer’sproblem becomes worse, due to total failure by the government toprotect them from the high price of raw materials and exploitation bymanufacturers and other brokers. Based on these concerns the CFAraised the matter with the Canadian Association of Adult Education(CAAE).

Laterthe two organizations shared the farmers’ problem to the CanadianBroadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio program, Farm Radio ForumProject this established the initial collaboration by theinstitutions in addressing the plights of the farmers that had beenneglected by the government. This team together with other supportingorganizations committed themselves to provide adult education to thepoor farmers as a way of promoting citizenship. As such the threesystems programmed their activities with the goal of providingfarmers listeners with meaningful thoughts and ideas on farming,social activism and democracy through the National Farm Radio Forumin Canada (Canadian Association for Adult Education, 1950).

Thedominant philosophy embedded in the National Farm Radio Program

TheNational Farm Radio program was established under the principle ofimproving the farmers’ conditions of farmers as a way of improvingtheir responsibility for other aspects of their lives. Although theprogram had been initiated with the goal of educating the farmers,the dominant philosophy was empowering them to have control overtheir social and economic lives. Many farm dwellers saw it as amovement through which they could articulate their economic andsocial goals. The assumptions of the program were to enhance meaningsthrough the things the society yearned to achieve power, freedom,self expressions, appreciation and creativity. The overall goal ofthe program was to create social harmony and develop same solutionsto their problems through cooperation and self-help (Sim, 2012).

Thesocio-economic forces affecting the National Farm Radio Program

Theprogram forum discussions remained in the rural areas with majorityof the participant increasing. However, in 1948, as the programcontinued to get international publicity, there were fears that somepartisan political group would take the group discussions therebyinhibiting the achievement of the founders, fortunately this did nothappen. There were social and economic problems that were reported bythe members through the discussion groups which involved lack ofessentials like running water, electricity, radio telephone and otherfacilities. Lack of these essential was mostly due to lack of farmersorganization to pursue better incomes for their produce. Otherproblems were shortage of labor due to the Second World II, machineryin the farms and lack of credit unions to help the farmers in buyingthe required facilities in their farms (Selman et al. 1998).

However,despite these problems the adult program was effective in voicing thefarmers concern. The program complied questionnaires that weredistributed with the participants for filling dependent of the issuesraised. Later through the adult education forum session individualswould discuss how the problems would be solved. This principle wasapplied by the National Farm Radio forum program in assisting farmersget better income for their produce, facilities such as interactionhalls, electricity and running water. In addition, the program wasfaced with diverse problems from the three organizations as theprogram continued to expand this created organization problem, lowfunding and the original close knit empowered members began todisintegrate (Nicol, 1954).


Despitethe institutional structure problems that faced the program in lateryears, the National Farm Radio Program was successful in variousways. It empowered farmers to be more productive, awakened thepolitical and social activism among the members of rural society. Inaddition, the program was instrumental in raising awareness locallyand internationally on the plight of rural farmers as well aspractically illustrating how group of people could emancipatethemselves from oppression.

Specialachievements of the program were improved harmony and neighborlinessin the society, enhanced farmers understanding on the social andeconomic problems facing them and an enhanced awareness on the plightof rural people. In addition, the program engaged in many successfulcommunity development projects and developed leadership in the ruralareas of Canada where central administration leadership paid littleattention. The program was in every aspect successful and achievedthe goals that had originally been set.


Nicol,John. Albert A. Shea, G.J.P. Simmins, R.Alex Sim, eds. 1954,‘Canada’sFarm Radio

Forum,Paris:UNESCO, pg 46.

Sim,R. Alex 2012, “The National Farm Radio Forum: How it Worked,”University of


Accessed11 June. 2014.

Selman,G., Cooke, M., Selman, M. &amp Dampier, P. (1998). ‘TheFoundations of Adult Education in Canada` Second Edition. Toronto:Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.

Faris,R. (1975). ThePassionate Educators: Voluntary associations and the struggle forcontrol of adult educational broadcasting in Canada 1919-52. Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Limited.

CanadianAssociation for Adult Education. (December 7, 1950). ‘Equal payfor equal work: Are women getting a fair deal?’ Citizens’Forum.

Sandwell,R.W. (2012). ‘Read, listen, discuss, act: Adult education, ruralcitizenship and the National Farm Radio Forum’, 1941-1965. HistoricalStudies in Education,v.24, n.1, pp.170-194.