Monday, December 12, 2011

Dry Land Farm

In Saskatchewan in 1950, when I was in grade 12, a mandatory course in the provincial curriculum was called Agricultural Economics! It represented more than just another course. It was a signal that reflected the cultural imperative for the bald prairie following the hardships of the dirty thirties and the efforts of the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration) to ensure that improvements in dry land farming would never again allow those dreadful times to recur . The shelter belts, contour plowing, deep furrow planting, stubble retention, summer fallow, early maturing wheat and prairie grass seeding were implemented in my time in the forties and fifties and were a deep and abiding part of our prairie culture as evidenced by the curriculum in school. In Kindersley I still vividly remember the wet rags around the windows during frequent dust storms, the relentless wind blowing the Russian Thistle across the bald prairie, unhampered by fences, seeding as they tumbled into the piled up top soil in the ditches. Later, in Conquest the planted 12 foot Carragana hedges(Siberian peashrub) served as shelter belts; planted in rows every eighth of a mile to check the wind erosion and preserve the blowing snow drifts for precious water retention for dry fields. The hedging protecting the roads from excess snow when we went to school by cutter. Many years later I couldn't even imagine such a course in high school that would so reflect overarching cultural mores and direct the interest in everyone of school age to its economic importance. I have changed my mind. That zeal we felt then has reappeared in new clothing. Dressed in today's energy toward a green revolution, and the ecological drive manifest by today's youth who are addressing a new problem with the same commitment and zeal that we had. Maybe harnessed with the same school effort that we were privy to! I don't have my essay from Grade 12 now, since I haven't saved my paper from 61 years ago, but I remember I got an A+ from Bill Cybulski for my report on the work of the PFRA. The changes were a matter of survival as a prairie society at that time. We knew nothing at that time about the presence of oil, potash,uranium or diversity of grains. For me, it is wonderful to watch today's economic renaissance in Saskatchewan and the need to achieve balance with the environment we have been given!

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