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Vanier student receives $2K scholarship for essay about agriculture

'I was so honoured to be a recipient of the scholarship. You know, it’s a big one. And it’s higher up. You’re getting … a scholarship from the Ministry of Ag provincially'

Vanier Collegiate student Grace Waldenberger has received an agriculture-focused scholarship after entering a contest that asked youths how the industry can be more transparent to the public.

Waldenberger, in Grade 12, received $2,000 through the Agriculture Student Scholarship Program, for which the Canadian Agriculture Partnership provides funding to support post-secondary education. This five-year, $3 billion commitment from federal, provincial and territorial governments supports Canada’s agriculture, agri-food and agri-products industry. 

Emily Sebastian of Montmartre received the top scholarship of $4,000 — she will pursue the agriculture and food production program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Moose Jaw next fall — while Kristie Pederson from Lockwood and Kate Axten from Minton each received $2,000.

“I was so honoured to be a recipient of the scholarship. You know, it’s a big one. And it’s higher up. You’re getting … a scholarship from the Ministry of Ag provincially,” said Waldenberger, a fourth-generation producer who lives on the family farm near Marquis. 

“It was really awesome and I’m really grateful to know that my hard work going into that essay and expressing what I’m passionate about was being recognized. It was really great.”

Waldenberger will use the scholarship to achieve her future educational goals. She will study at the University of Saskatchewan starting in September and plans to pursue a degree in agribusiness. 

The agriculture-focused scholarship came to Waldenberger’s attention after her guidance counsellor and mother both saw it and suggested she apply. She did, thinking there was no harm in attempting to win free money.

The Agriculture Student Scholarship Program asks students to answer a different question each year, with this year’s topic focusing on how producers can improve transparency in agriculture from field to table and answer the public’s lingering questions. 

In her essay, Waldenberger spoke about how more people are removed from the farm and that producers have an opportunity to connect with future generations on shared values to educate them about how the industry enriches society. 

She encouraged producers — especially younger ones — to connect with consumers and to keep the information short, sweet and simple. Using social media was also one of her suggestions.

The Vanier student spoke to her grandfather and he told her a good way to help people understand what farmers do is to make explanations and descriptions simple. 

“So when my grandpa was explaining (a piece of equipment) to his brother-in-law, he was saying our grain dryer has the power of this many household dryers,” Waldenberger recalled. “Kind of making those comparisons that they are able to picture something in their life.”

Waldenberger wants to make a difference in the ag industry because that sector feeds the world and few people know from where their food comes or the hard work that goes into growing it. She wants to inform people about the source of their food since it’s important.

As part of receiving the scholarship, Waldenberger and the other three recipients visited the Saskatchewan Legislature for a tour, a lunch with Agriculture Minister David Marit and to attend Question Period. 

The winners of the 2020 and 2021 Agriculture Student Scholarship were also invited because COVID-19 prevented them from visiting the Legislature during those years. 

Waldenberger thought the trip was a great experience since it showed her how big the agriculture industry is. She pointed out that agriculture is not just on the farm, at the grain elevators or in a chemical plant, but is also in the halls of power.

“It showed me that there are so many more avenues that one can take in the agriculture industry,” she added.