Drainage Contractor

Editorial: Stay golden, drainage

Reflecting on the last 50 years is great, but looking to the next 50 is even more crucial.

May 3, 2023  By Bree Rody

Naturally, when looking at the 50th anniversary edition of Drainage Contractor, it’s easy to think of this magazine as a constant. Fifty years is a long time, especially in “magazine-years.” For most of us on staff, it predates our careers in publishing – or our entire lives. And, as I gleaned from my conversations with former Drainage Contractor editor and co-owner Peter Darbishire, this magazine was really the first one in this realm – delivering exclusive coverage of the subsurface drainage industry in North America. And while other agricultural magazines create great content on the value of drainage, we’re proud to still focus 100 percent of our energy on the stuff below the surface, bringing value to both contractors and landowners.

But when you consider Drainage Contractor in broader contexts – both in the context of magazines and the context of drainage itself – frankly, the magazine is still a baby. For some perspective, our parent company, Annex Business Media, owns a number of titles that have been publishing for even longer than Canada, including our small-but-elite “century club” of Canadian Forest Industries (1881) and Pulp & Paper Canada (1903). And, when considering the evolution of drainage itself, Drainage Contractor came at a time of great advancement and maturation for the drainage industry, but it had already been more than 150 years since John Johnston, believed widely to be the father of modern drainage, first installed a drainage system below the surface of his Finger Lakes-area farm. For more on how Drainage Contractor – and drainage itself – has evolved with the times, check out our feature on Page 16.

The truth is, our minds have a funny way of perceiving time. For some of us (or maybe just me) it’s difficult to think of “50 years ago” and “the 1970s” meaning roughly the same thing. I grew up when the TV show That 70’s Show was at peak popularity, and back then, the 70’s were a not-so-distant past (which is probably why 2023 was the perfect year to launch That 90’s Show). But unlike the fashion and music trends of the 70s (and 80s, and 90s), which seemingly keep cycling through – I feel like I’ve seen 80s fashion make at least three different comebacks in my relatively short lifetime – agriculture and drainage has a tendency to always drive forward.

We owe a lot to the innovators in drainage – not just our 2023 class of GroundBreakers (page 26), but also the researchers who are consistently finding ways for us to drain smarter and better. If it feels like a lot of our stories in Drainage as of late focus on these kinds of initiatives and new techniques, it’s because, frankly, it’s relevant. These days, you can’t turn your head without seeing drainage contractors, landowners and state/provincial agriculture departments trying new things, whether it’s Iowa’s Batch And Build program, which aims to get more saturated buffers in the ground through building in bulk and adoptiong cost-share initiatives, or programs that aim to fund on-farm practices boosting water quality. And remember, this progress isn’t just coming from labratories, lecture halls and ivory towers. This year’s GroundBreakers prove that the contractors, the researchers and the advocacy groups are working hand-in-glove to ensure that we conserve water quality while helping to grow the best crops possible.


So while the golden anniversary is certainly a milestone, we can only allow ourselves to linger on this achievement for a few moments before we turn our eyes back toward the future – because drainage (and Drainage) is evolving faster than we ever expected. And, should you ever have any doubt, check our story on page 12 for proof that drainage – indeed – works. DC

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