Maynard van der Galien
I’m not one to take courses. The number of courses I’ve taken in the last 57 years since I left school in 1965 can be counted on one hand.
I thought about that the other day when I met with my investment banking advisor. The young man told me he spent four years in university learning about money matters and has taken countless financial courses since, and is always upgrading.
Taking courses for one thing or another seems to be getting out of hand. I read about a reporter who used to be a judge at a pie-making workshop. Now he has to take a pie judging course. They told him: “These days, you have to be properly trained even for judging pies.”
I didn’t take a pesticide course as I didn’t want to be working with pesticides. I didn’t take writing courses or journalism courses. That has come naturally. I didn’t do the Environmental Farm Plan course because I thought it was unbelievable.
When the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) was introduced to Ontario farmers back in 1993, I knew I would never enroll in it. Someone said whoever came up with the idea should be tarred and feathered.
The first course I took was in 1965 and was put on by the Construction Safety Association of Ontario. I was working for a plumbing and steam fitting company that had the contract to do all the plumbing and heating in the building addition of South Carleton District High School in Richmond. My job was working with the pipe fitters and threading pipe. Pipe ran long ways to the four big boilers that heated the school. I was 16 years old and glad to have joined the work force and be out of school. Our crew of six, including two welders, boarded at a boarding house in Richmond, going home on the weekends. That job lasted over a year.
One evening a week our crew went to Manotick to take the construction safety course. The certificate I still have says it was a Safety Course Class “C”.
The next course I took was a retraining course for farmers put on by the federal and provincial governments known as the Agricultural Rehabitation and Rural Development Act (ARDA).
By 1970 I had enough of construction work and all the traveling to jobs so I decided to be a full-time dairy farmer and went into partnership with my father. ARDA had an evening course in the winter months, five evenings a week at a local high school. Participants were paid to attend the class. Singles got $45 a week; married men $75 or so. I think there were 40 farmers in the course I took in the winter of 1971 and all were males. Female farmers back then were not considered as farm operators.
Then for the next 30 years I didn’t take any courses. I was an avid reader and anything I needed to know I read up on it.
But you can’t teach yourself how to operate a computer. At least I couldn’t. So in the year 2000, I took a farmer computer course in Renfrew. A company selling computers ran the course.
Then, in 2005, I bought and ran a restaurant in town and my staff and I took a safe food handler training course that was put on by the Renfrew County and District Health Unit. Participants received a 130-page binder. Most of the people attending worked in food preparation in senior homes and restaurants. At the first session we were given an exam to see what we knew about safe food handling. At the final session we were tested again. It was a very good course and very beneficial for anyone working with food. I passed the exam and have the certificate proudly displayed in the kitchen.
I would have taken a training course if there was one when I bought a mid-size steel-track excavator a few years ago. I learned how to safely operate it by following a few YouTube videos. Half an hour at most. I operate my backhoe and excavator in SAE or Cat (Joystick) controls.
When you’re only familiar with the control pattern you were trained on, operating a machine in the opposite pattern (ISO or John Deere controls) can feel like writing with the wrong hand. It’s impossible.
It’s amazing the training you can get from your computer. It makes taking some courses archaic.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer with 290 acres of tillable land. He is a long-time columnist with Farmers Forum.