“Where they know you by name and treat you like family” – Alabama.
I learned quickly in life to never take things for granted. I was always told that high school would be the best time of my life. I am not sure I can substantiate that claim, but I do know that growing up in rural Saskatchewan is hard to beat. Dirt roads, sunsets for miles, and the ultimate feeling of freedom are things about my childhood that I won’t easily forget. And dirt bikes, never forget about the dirt bikes.
I never realized that October was Saskatchewan Agriculture Month. Call me naive or uninformed, or maybe it is just being so involved in the industry that I never get to stand outside the industry and look in. So to celebrate one of the oldest industries in the world, in one of the greatest places in the world, what do you write about? How about the “why”?
For all the negativity we see in social and mainstream media, Saskatchewan has great people. In a small town, everybody knows everybody. In fact, having a party when your parents were out of town was impossible because the coffee-row knew the next morning.
How many dirt roads have you driven down and not waved at another vehicle? This is what I remember most about the people’s side of this province. Agriculture aside, rural Saskatchewan is one of those areas where being a neighbour means something, and helping others is not a job, it is a privilege. Many will disagree as the current situation in society has made many of these things less frequent, but I still believe that small towns and farming communities breed manners and good people.
So, for agriculture month, I say celebrate the people. Those who produce your food, those who fill town halls and support small communities, and those who still do things for others. Farmers are a humble group, but in October they should stand proud. As the saying goes “Once in a life you may need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer”.
Agriculture has given me everything. From a strong childhood that I believe taught me the values and ethics that I have today, to opportunities that have taken me across Canada and the US sharing stories and coaching others. We often talk about the negative mental health aspects in the industry, but we don’t often identify how much this has given so many. And I don’t mean monetary, I mean life experiences.
I remember the first time I drove a pickup truck way below the legal age. I remember riding on the fender of an open tractor, I remember sleeping behind the seat of my grandfather’s combine. This was what agriculture provided me and my family, the memories. For many, they continue to move forward in this industry creating lives and memories of their own. This is what I find special, what other industries are so tightly woven between family and profession?
Saskatchewan should also be proud of its agricultural accomplishments. From AGT and Nutrien to Seedhawk, Seedmaster, and Bourgault, Saskatchewan has been the home of many of the most innovative and successful agriculture businesses in Canada and the world. In addition, the current expansion of canola crush capacity also increases our current footprint in the industry. We are known as a world leader, not just in the country we subside.
Most of the time I discuss land in terms of dollar per acre or cost per quarter. I can identify that having my name on the RM map the first time was a feeling I will probably not be able to replicate throughout my life. I remember ordering the new map the moment it was updated so that I could hang it on the wall of my office. Owning a piece of Saskatchewan was something I am proud of.
Many farms today are so engulfed in operations and finance that the actual land is a moot point. But every now and again you get to see what it means to those I work with. From the ageing farmer who will “never sell land” to the new generation that “wants the ability to afford land”, you can see why it is important. Saskatchewan is known for its yellow canola fields and waves of wheat right before harvest. Again, something you can’t take away from those who have experienced it.
So, not to romanticize too much, but I am proud that I was born and raised on a grain farm in a small town in Saskatchewan. I see what my kids will be part of in the bigger centers and it makes me a bit sad at times. Not that they will ever realize, but the things that they will miss out on are those that I hold closest to my mind most of the time.
“A man’s good word and handshake are all you need” – Alabama.