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50th Threshing Bee highlights agricultural innovation

MLA Warren Michelson's column for the week of Sept. 4, 2019
Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson

The Sukanen Ship Museum is one of my favourite places, especially during the annual Threshing Bee. This will be the 50th year the museum has put on the Threshing Bee which takes place this weekend, Sept. 7 & 8.

In 1969, the local chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of Saskatchewan purchased land and put a building on it. Then items like tractors, a binder, and a threshing machine arrived. A farmer offered to let them harvest his oat crop and the first threshing bee happened that fall.

Over the years, other local historic buildings were added, along with the Sukanen Ship, and so grew the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum. The museum demonstrates how Saskatchewan people used their determination and innovation to build our province. The buildings on this property are arranged to reflect a village during pioneer times. Along with a variety of Main Street merchants, of particular interest is the Diefenbaker Homestead. While typical of thousands of other homesteads, this one brings to life the humble beginnings of a Saskatchewan individual who went on to become Canada’s 13th Prime Minister.

Community development in the early years centred on agriculture. Still today, agricultural innovation continues to build the economy in Saskatchewan. Those first pioneers were attracted by the promise of free land and glowing opportunities. The harsh reality of Saskatchewan farming was a surprise to many, so determination and innovation was the only way to succeed. By 1925, not that long after the first settlers arrived in the late 1800s, Saskatchewan was producing over half of the wheat grown in Canada.

Saskatchewan has almost half of all the agricultural land in Canada and today Saskatchewan is the world’s leading exporter of peas, lentils, durum, mustard seed, canola seed, canola oil, canola meal, canary seed, flaxseed and oats. The value of Saskatchewan agri-food exports to the world increased from $8.3 billion in 2009 to $13.4 billion in 2018. Other interesting facts are that there were 34,523 farms in Saskatchewan in 2016; Saskatchewan hens produced over 32 million dozen eggs in 2017; and Saskatchewan produces more wild rice than anywhere else in Canada. We have become very diversified from wheat production.

When I think of the difference between the machines operating at the Threshing Bee and what I see on farms today, and the grain trucks I see delivering grain to Parrish and Heimbecker down the street from our office, it’s amazing to reflect on the changes and innovations that have happened in a century.

The recent 40th anniversary of Simpson Seeds was a celebration of a family taking bold steps to realize a new vision. What started out as a family farm branching out into new crops now sells Saskatchewan products around the world. Congratulations to Simpson Seeds, and thank you for your inspiration.

Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry became a leader in adopting new practices that facilitate environmental sustainability, such as minimum tillage practices which conserve moisture, top-soil and fuel. Agricultural lands also create a carbon sink that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that harvest time is the busiest time of year. I remember growing up on the farm the intensity of harvest time. I will be thinking of our agricultural families and workers during this harvest season. I pray for good weather, but especially for their safety. I am grateful for their hard work, vision and innovation. They are carrying out the important tasks of feeding our world and growing our province.

I hope to see many of you at the Threshing Bee.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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