Right in the centre - Assorted topics from a rural perspective


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Monday morning came early with the blockbuster news that HyLife was being sold. HyLife is perhaps best known locally for its hog processing plant at Neepawa, which employs over 1,300 people. A bit lesser known is that the company has barns, feed mills and other hog-related enterprises across Manitoba, as well as interests in the U.S., China, Japan and Mexico. What is even less well known is that the founding families, the Janzens and Vielefaures, started out from very humble hog farmer beginnings.

Through hard work, vision and foresight, they have built a lot of capacity and wealth. Though they nearly went broke in the hog farming business, they will likely retire quite wealthy. They should be complimented and thanked for all they have done. It’s a marvellous story, one to be emulated.

•The Town of Rivers continues to grow and the most recent sign is that Heritage Co-op has taken over the local food store, formerly known as Bigway Foods. Rivers has a lot of things going for it. While some towns might feel they have suffered by being in the shadow of a city like Brandon, it seems River’s proximity to the Wheat City indeed has been an advantage. You can call Rivers a service town, a bedroom community, a retirement town and a resort town. It’s all of that and more. And no, our little publishing company doesn’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else, but the improvements to water and sewer recently and a few years ago to the Riverdale Community Centre, have made Rivers a place to be proud of.

• The most recent Town of Neepawa council meeting looked at projections for population growth expecting the town to go from the current 4,600 to 7,500 residents. The proposed $5 million sewage lagoon debenture will be a bit of a jolt, but if the Town of Neepawa is to continue to grow, and I think it will, there will need to be more housing and more industry and businesses. That means more water and sewage. It’s pretty simple.

•So why do towns grow? The answer is fairly simple. People want to live there and people want to live in certain places for various reasons. Sometimes ,it is for sentimental or emotional reasons, but usually, it is more pragmatic and based on available amenities and services. More and more, it’s for more pragmatic reasons, such as access to jobs, schools, health care and housing that can be afforded.

•Towns also grow, or die, because of critical mass. It seems there needs to be a certain number of people, a certain level of services and, of course, a certain level of employment, to keep the critical mass healthy. An elementary study of Manitoba history shows how towns sprang up, grew and then diminished over the past 120 years or so. Many towns have simply disappeared.

• Sometimes, the fate of a community is affected by outside forces, such as government or corporate consolidation. When that happens, it is very frustrating, but communities can draw together, to counteract those forces. I think a good example of that is Rivers and surrounding area. A lot of communities could learn from their example.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer president of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.