Vernon Ernest (Vern) McNair was born in 1928 and raised on the family farm near Shoal Lake, Manitoba. He attended elementary school at Wolfe Creek and high school in Shoal Lake. He graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1951 with a BSc. in Agriculture. In 1968 he earned his MSc. in Education (Communications) from Indiana University. Vern and his wife, Marjory (Fleming) have three children, Lillas, Douglas and Roy, all of whom have degrees in agriculture.
Vern’s professional career began as an Agricultural Representative with Manitoba Agriculture in Carberry. In 1955 he helped pioneer Canadian farm broadcasting when he joined CBC in Winnipeg. Among his many projects was the television program Country Calendar which later became Country Canada. In 1959 Vern returned to Manitoba Agriculture to develop the radio and television activities of the department. He became Chief of Information Services and then Director of Communication Services, a position he held until retirement in 1989.
Under Vern’s leadership, several new initiatives were implemented to bring the Manitoba farming community the most current information possible. The Country Comment radio series consisted of daily five-minute information spots broadcast by nine radio stations in the province. Canada’s first electronic distance education short course for farmers, This Business of Farming, was launched in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture, CBC and Manitoba Agriculture. A weekly television program, FarmScene, featured news and information for a wide range of farm operations. Home study courses, special events and print resources were all part of the communications campaigns.
As an early adopter, Vern made great strides in moving forward agricultural television, farm radio, and specialized films and videos to suit specific situations pertinent to Manitoba farmers. In the early years he received a number of Farm Writers Awards in recognition of his contributions to the farm community through writings and mass media projects. Vern was a teacher and mentor to many individuals involved in presenting agricultural information through broadcast media. His distinctive voice, along with his positive outlook, made Vern a natural leader in the world of agricultural communications. Producers continue to benefit from Vern’s high standards of professionalism in agricultural communications.
Vern’s involvement and influence went beyond his work, to volunteer positions with the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists, the Manitoba and Canadian Farm Writers Associations, and the Western Canada Aviation Museum. In his retirement, Vern has written and published two books, a family history and one on life’s experiences, entitled A Long Way From Wolfe Creek.