Art Mainil, a feisty, determined southeast Saskatchewan farmer, has passed away after a battle with cancer . Mainil was the main man behind the creation of the Weyburn Inland Terminal, the first independent farmer-owned-and-operated inland grain terminal in Canada in 1976.
I had the pleasure of interviewing him in 2001 when WIT commissioned me to write a book about their first 25 years as an organization. Just A Bunch of Farmers: The Story of Weyburn Inland Terminal 1976-2001
was my first book and it was a wonderful process interviewing and working with these men who changed the way that all Canadian farmers are paid for their grain.
WIT started in 1974 as an idea to improve the country's grain-handling system. By 2001, "just a bunch of farmers" (as they called themselves when they got in trouble with the bank or needed an out - "What do we know? We're just a bunch of farmers?") had worked through tough and prosperous times and become very successful. WIT had racked up an impressive list of 14 'firsts' including being the first grain elevator to do protein testing on grain and pay farmers for the protein content of their grain, the first to offer custom drying, and the first to pay farmers for the foreign material and refuse in grain.
By 2001, Art Mainil had long been away from WIT operations, but he was still committed to the terminal and graciously agreed to talk with me about the start of WIT. I arrived at his farm and was greeted by a man of my height who appeared tough and a little gruff but hard-working, principled and certain of what should be happening in Canadian agriculture and how he could make that happen. Art reminded me very much of my father, a tough little Ukrainian farmer, and we shared a laugh when I told him that.
Art was quick to not accept credit for being the instigator of the creation of WIT. He and other farmers had long been talking about how to improve the system and Art had wondered, after doing some custom-combining in the U.S. and seeing inland terminals there, why there couldn't be such a thing in Saskatchewan. Clarence (Clare) Taylor and Glen McEwen, other farmers who became WIT directors, were two of many men I interviewed who gave Mainil credit where credit was due.
"We would have never had the terminal if it hadn't been for Art," said Taylor.
"You couldn't help but catch his fever," said McEwen. "It was something that needed to be done because nobody else was doing it."
WIT is in its 35th year of operation and will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Business Hall of Fame later this month.
Rest in peace, Art Mainil. You were a man ahead of your time. You will be missed.