by Ken Larsen.

(October 29, 2015) I missed paying tribute to a colleague and friend, Bob Roehle, when he was inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame this summer.

Many will know Bob as the former Vice President of Communications at the Canadian Wheat Board. For a detailed listing of Bob’s extensive involvement with agriculture I would point readers to the following article in the Manitoba Cooperator.Roehle

Many of my colleagues have “Bob stories” which convey the human touch Bob is so good at. So in honour of our friend, I would like to share one of mine: Like many farmers I initially only knew of Bob through his media appearances explaining Wheat Board issues. Like too many farmers of my generation I neglected ag politics because I thought nobody could be so almighty stupid as to question the value of farmer-owned grain handling cooperatives, much less the very existence of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board.

Finally in about 1994 the din of utterly moronic anti-Wheat Board talk reached even my ears. So I phoned the CWB in Winnipeg and asked why the CWB was letting the utter nonsense being peddled by the Government of Alberta and its well funded astro-turf groups like the Western Canadian Wheat and Barley Growers Associations stand unchallenged.

The very polite secretary said “let me connect you with Bob Roehle, our communications person” – a connection I’m proud to say continues to this day.

At that time the Alberta Government had just responded to the anti-Wheat Board nonsense it had financed directly and through politically subservient check-off groups by announcing with much fanfare that it would hold a plebiscite among farmers to see if they still wanted a Wheat Board. I was very concerned, as were many other grain farmers, that a lynching was about to take place.

After some discussion with Bob, I suggested that the least I could do was write a few letters to the papers suggesting most of the anti-CWB propaganda was just that. I also asked if he would mind taking a look at what I was saying to make sure I had not entirely forgotten my relevant university courses. During that hectic period many farmers and friends across Alberta came out of the woodwork to support the CWB and we formed an ad hoc group of several hundred Alberta grain farmers to counter this nonsense and ultimately a majority of Alberta producers supported the CWB single desk in that Alberta run plebiscite.

During this time, aside from his patience and civility one of the things that most impressed me was Bob’s dedication.

I would often raise very early, draft a letter, and send it off via the then new-fangled technology of email at five or six in the morning. Bob would inevitably get an answer back to me before I had brewed my morning coffee. Then it would be off to the field for me until later that evening when I would then send off another question or comment to Bob around 10:30 or 11:00 at night. Inevitably Bob would have a reply back in my inbox a few minutes later. He showed a dedication to the welfare of farmers and a commitment to the CWB which I came to learn was typical of most of the staff at the CWB. Like those of us who raise food for a hungry world, people like Bob saw the CWB as much as a vocation as a job or career. Bob was my first brush with the many people who worked for the CWB who exemplified and actually lived the concept of “right livelihood.”

So congratulations to Bob Roehle for a well-deserved recognition of his pivotal and historic contribution to Canadian agriculture, and an apology for the lateness of this tribute.

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