Alanna Koch, deputy minister of Saskatchewan agriculture said, “They used to say, Saskatchewan is the place to be from. Now it’s the place to be.” Koch gave the opening address of the Canadian Farm Writers’ Conference in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan which I attended September 30 to October 2.
Driving from Westlock, Alberta to Moose Jaw we saw both – the place to be from and the place to be. Many weathered empty farm sites tell of those who once farmed there, raised a family, and are gone now, somewhere else. We saw some pull-type combines and old swathers at work – far more than I think we would see in Alberta. Periodically along the road a lonely group of older machinery stood in high grass, beside a faded ‘for sale’ sign. People are moving out.
But others are moving in. There’re some big farms out there – long rows of huge shiny steel bins, three or four new JohnDeere combines moving in a cloud of dust through a mighty wheat field. We visited Simpson Seeds Inc., a multi-generation pulse and specialty seed company that is in a strong expansion phase. Art Pruim told us of coming from British Columbia to start up a dairy farm, going from 180 cows to 350 in just eight years. Alliance Grain Traders began with one man in a basement with a business plan and now, 10 years later, is the world’s largest lentil processor and exporter. This is Saskatchewan.
While Alberta’s beef herd is shrinking, Saskatchewan’s is growing. The Bay Street traders are stopping off in Regina now on their way to Vancouver. Saskatchewan is a place to be.
Saskatchewan is not just for the big business people. Mortlach is a very small town with a population of 300. But people are coming from Calgary, Alberta to live there. The owner of the candy store is from Wales. Just a good half hour outside of Moose Jaw, the people of this town have done a fantastic job of revitalizing their community, of making it a place to be, not a place to be from.
I went home to Alberta with a new image of Saskatchewan. I could almost see myself moving there!