Day 11 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan is exciting for me. Today’s author is Stuart Smyth, a researcher, educator and communicator – all about agricultural science. The reason that farmers and ranchers are able to do what we do, and raise what we raise, is due to those in research and education.
Follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartsmyth66 or check out his University of Saskatchewan profile here: http://www.usask.ca/research-groups/stuartsmyth/About%20Dr.%20Smyth/Profile.php
As a professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, there are two things that make my job one of the best in the world, sharing the results of farmer surveys and teaching farm kids.
I receive several invitations, national and international, each year to attend conferences or other events and give a presentation based on my research. Yet, the presentations I enjoy the most are the ones I give to Saskatchewan farmers. Farmers are incredibly savvy businesswomen and businessmen, who know very well just how economical a new innovation is or is not for their operation. This is often the case regardless of the innovation, whether it is in a new piece of equipment, chemical or crop variety. That’s because they take the time to find out. Farmers also know how well a particular innovation is succeeding in their general area, but they may have less exposure to impacts at the larger, provincial level. This is often where I’m able to share some of the findings of my research with them, to give them a broader sense of the provincial impacts.
These opportunities to speak with the farm community are valued ones, as the exchange of information is two-way. While I am able to share some of my research findings, I’m also able to have the results validated by those in attendance, allowing me to know what results are pretty accurate and which ones might require further research. Luckily for me, farmers are relatively forthcoming about sharing insights about farming that they are interested in, expanding my knowledge and understanding. A lot has changed on farms since I left my family’s farm in the mid-1980s, so being able to expand my awareness regarding current issues, topics and concerns is incredibly valuable for me.
Being able to teach classes of predominantly farm kids is truly a rewarding experience. Their passion and enthusiasm for agriculture is certainly infectious. Getting a chance to know these students a bit over the course of their education makes teaching classes exciting as the students are curious about changes and innovations in agriculture and the resulting impacts. As I get to know the students, I’m reassured about how capable they are and know that as the future leaders of our province, we are in good hands. One of the most dramatic changes I’ve seen in agriculture at the U of S is the high number of female students today, compared to the class photos that adorn the hallways. Class photos from the late 1970s and well into the 1980s show a handful of female students at most, definitely less than 10% of the total class size. For the past few years, the graduating classes from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources have been over 50% female.
Growing up on a farm in the 1970s and 80s, but not actually farming myself, has never been something that I’ve easily accepted. However, being able to report on the farm level benefits of agricultural innovations and to teach farm kids is pretty good compensation for not being able to farm. Every day that I drive onto the U of S campus, I’m so very thankful that I have the opportunity to work in agriculture.