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Dewar's activism recognized with award

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Some of Don Dewar’s earliest memories revolve around agriculture, particularly a John Deere A tractor and countless hours spent harrowing.
And Dewar’s many contributions to the industry since that time were highlighted as he was presented the Ron Brook Memorial Award at the Dauphin Agricultural Society’s Farm Outlook 2019, Mar. 7.
“I want to thank the ag. society for the recognition and the honour,” Dewar said.
“And it really is an honour to receive this award and be part of the long list of people who have worked hard and received it.”
On top of his formative years on the family farm, Dewar’s involvement in the industry began in 1967 when he attended the University of Manitoba to pursue a degree in Ag. Economics, returning to the farm following graduation.
Early in his career Dewar got involved with the Manitoba Seed Growers Association and became actively involved with the Canadian Seed Growers on a national level from 1984 to 1991.
In the 1980s, as producers were coming out of several years of 20 per cent plus interest rates and depressed commodity prices and were unable to meet debt obligations, Dewar served as a panelist for the Farm Debt Review Board, observing and making recommendations for struggling farmers.
When the 1990s arrived and farm incomes had not improved, Dewar along with Ernie Sirski, who nominated him for the ag. society award, organized one of the largest-ever, farmer-led rallies on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature to support the fight to save Canadian agriculture.
It was at that rally on Oct. 9, 1991, as a keynote speaker that Dewar jumped feet first into the world of farm politics.
“We are not sniveling and groveling,” Dewar said in his speech that day.
“I could go on with the increases in the costs of our production. Income, inputs, fertilizer, chemicals and insurance. When all these are paid, we usually hope that we have enough left for family living - food shelter and clothes.”
Following that rally Dewar became immersed in the farm political scene with Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), eventually serving a four-year term as KAP president beginning in 1998.
Thrust into the political side of agriculture early on, Dewar does not regret the time and effort spent on improving the aquicultural industry.
“The rally threw me in over my head into farm politics. But it has been a lot of fun, I have really enjoyed it. In hindsight there’s probably some mistakes that have been made,” Dewar said, relating a story about the protocol of political events.
“At the rally, and some of you might have been there, the leader of the opposition at the time was Jean Chrétien, the other leader was Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP and then we had the Ag. Minister Charlie Mayer, who was going to speak. And we had, you know, a couple of farm boys from Dauphin and we were going to have the lady speak first. And Jean Chrétien threw quite a fit because it was not proper protocol. He had more members in the house, he should speak first. Our mistake was listening to him.”
Dewar went on to serve as a representative for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, making numerous lobbying trips to Ottawa. In 2002 Dewar put his name forward as a candidate for District 9 of the Canadian Wheat Board.
In 2004, Dewar entered the fray of federal politics, threw his hat into the ring for the first of two unsuccessful attempts as the Liberal candidate in the Dauphin-Swan river constituency.
Dewar’s involvement in farm politics was possible because of his son Mark, who took over management of the farm, allowing his father the freedom to travel and attend meetings.
Dewar believes the working relationship with his son made everything possible.
“I have got to thank Mark, because as I gradually got more and more involved, and especially with KAP, which took the most time, Mark was there,” Dewar said.
“One of the things I think we did right was we would talk about what had to be done, not necessarily how to do it, though he might disagree with me on that.”
Locally, Dewar was active in community service as a member of the Kinsmen Club and K40, serving on the parish council of his church and as a board member of the Dauphin Regional Airport Authority.
As a member of the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers, Dewar was one the first area producers to take on the challenge of growing the crop and shared necessary modifications of harvest equipment with other members of the group.
He currently serves on the boards of Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers and the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.
At this point, Dewar is ready to pass the torch to a younger generation.
“As I try to break the habit of farming I’ve got out of the management side of things, pretty much all the way. But I’m still an operator and I still break things,” Dewar said.
“I remember what one old farmer said about another when he had an accident. ‘When we get old, we get stupid.’ So I’m going to try and leave before I get stupid.”
On the personal side Dewar took an active interest in flying, becoming part of the International Comanche Society, flying his private plane wherever it would take him for business and for pleasure.
Don and his partner Kelly Ganchar live on the home quarter south of Dauphin. The farm grows canola, wheat, soybeans, edible beans and hemp on 3,400 acres.