McFarlane was born in Wolseley on January 4, 1918. Educated in Summerberry, McFarlane worked on the family farm until 1940 when he joined the RCAF, attaining the rank of sergeant. He returned to farm in the Peebles district, married Frances Davidson, and they had four sons. McFarlane first ran for the Saskatchewan Legislature as a Liberal for Qu'Appelle-Wolseley in 1952, but was defeated. He was elected in 1956 and was re-elected in 1960, 1964, and 1967. He served in Ross Thatcher's Cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs from 1964 to 1965, when he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, a position he held until his defeat in 1971. During his tenure as Minister of Agriculture, the Liberals advocated a policy of diversification of Saskatchewan agriculture. In order to counteract decreasing wheat exports, the government passed legislation promoting the expansion of the livestock industry in the province. In 1971, after a failed attempt at re-election, McFarlane was appointed to the War Veterans Appeal Board in Ottawa and later moved to Charlottetown. He retired to Winnipeg in 1983 where he died on May 6, 1999.