COMMENTATOR RETIRES AFTER MORE THAN TWO DECADES
John Jordan, whose voice is well-known throughout Ontario’s grain industry, recently retired as editor of Farm Market News at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. Blair Andrews, a journalist and a former farm broadcaster, is now directing the service. Andrews has written for a number of farm publications, including the Ontario Grain Farmer magazine. He interviewed Jordan about the evolution of Farm Market News and discussed some of the changes that have affected grain marketing in Ontario.
AFTER ALMOST 25 years of recording and tracking grain market prices in Ontario, John Jordan is stepping away from the microphone.
Known for his booming voice and good-natured demeanour, Jordan retired from his post as editor of the Farm Market News service at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus in October.
The service conducts market research in agricultural commodities and publishes daily digests of market news for Ontario farmers. These include the corn, soybean, and wheat price reports that appear under the Marketing section of the Grain Farmers of Ontario website.
BUILDING A SERVICE
Jordan, a former host of CBC Radio Noon in Windsor, was originally hired by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in 1991 to run the Farm Market News service.
The operation was later spun off to the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus where it is part of the business unit and contracts its services with a number of clients.
One of the primary jobs is collecting an extensive list of basis values in Ontario and maintaining a reliable database. While the list now contains bids from approximately 50 co-operators, Jordan recalls the days when only a few agreed to participate.
“It was really considered a prize to have a handful of dealers who would co-operate,” he says. “I made it my goal to enhance that number of co-operators over the years.”
At first, there was a hesitancy to share the numbers for the published reports, but Jordan was able to build trust within the industry.
“Partly because we were government, they did recognize that we didn’t have any financial gain to make from having this information,” says Jordan.
The next significant change was to create a database and to bring the information into the computer age. According to Jordan, the Farm Market News product was not kept as a data file prior to 1991.
“It was just some hand-scribbled records of corn prices and what would be left in the publication that the stats group with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has managed to keep over the years,” he says. “Otherwise there is no data file. Since 1991 we have maintained a data file and that has been a real asset for us.”
There has always been a relationship between Farm Market News and grain farmers in the province.
The former Ontario Soybean Growers’ Marketing Board published its own report of market prices and created a phone recording that radio stations and farmers could access.
The association eventually passed those duties onto the Farm Market News Service in 1991.
Similar reports were done for the former Ontario Corn Producers’ Association.
As for wheat, there was very little reporting involved in the early days because of the single desk authority of the former Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board.
Jordan says the only information Farm Market News published was the former board’s pool prices at the end of the year.
He cites the move towards an open market system for wheat as one of the more significant changes he has seen. Another is the growing industrial market for Ontario corn.
“There was always corn sweetener and the feed end of the business, but there was no ethanol,” says Jordan, noting that the ethanol plants and other large industrial users are the price leaders when it comes to corn.
At the same time, he has also been impressed with the move by farmers to build large storage bins for their crop.
“The farmers can really now control the flow of corn and have a little more say about the market price because they physically own the corn at their farm,” he says.
And in keeping step with this trend, Farm Market News is publishing more FOB bids (Free On Board, the farm) for stored grain.
“That’s where the market is; it’s not delivered to the elevator,” notes Jordan. “Most large farm operations don’t deliver directly to the elevators; they’ll take their own trucks and deliver to the end user.”
He also marvels at how quickly new technology is being adopted by farmers, including larger planters, combines, and the usage of GPS gadgets.
“I was just reading about tillage tools being monitored by GPS…tilling a certain part of the field in one fashion (and) in another fashion for another part of the field,” says Jordan. “I’m just totally amazed how technology has advanced.”
Another advancement Jordan himself has helped to develop is the technology behind the scenes to translate the data within Farm Market News to an interactive report which can then be utilized by Grain Farmers of Ontario’s SellSmart app. This helped bring the service to the next generation of farmers.
As for his immediate retirement plans, Jordan is keeping busy on his farm on the outskirts of Chatham. His hobbies include woodworking and tinkering with a 1953 MG TD and his Vespa scooters. Jordan is also looking forward to travelling more with his wife Barbara and visiting his children who live in Cambridge and Serbia. •