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Outlook farmer joins 2023 Agri Hall of Fame inductees

Tollefson and his wife moved to Outlook to work in irrigation in 1980.

SASKATOON — Dr. Laurie Tollefson has recently retired as the director of the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation and Diversification Centre but said he wouldn’t stop working to ensure water is an accessible source for farmers and others in the agricultural sector. 

After more than 30 years working in the agricultural industry, Tollefson will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame. Four others will be part of an elite group of 272 people already recognized. 

Tollefson will be joined by Bill Huber, Kevin Hursh, Dorothy Long and John McKinnon in the 2023 HOF class, where the five agricultural industry leaders will be formally inducted in a ceremony April 15 at Prairieland Park. 

Tollefson, who obtained his Master of Science in Soil Physics degree at the University of Saskatchewan, said he had the opportunity to visit and work in dry countries like Egypt, where every crop needs to be irrigated. 

“I had the opportunity to work internationally through the [Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration] and had many projects. I was fortunate to work in Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Cuba and Iran,” Tollefson told 

“It allowed me to share my knowledge because many countries that PFRA was working with were interested in irrigation and water. They weren't looking for extremely sophisticated methodology, just the basic tenets of irrigation and soil conservation.” 

Tollefson worked for almost 20 years with PFRA, which was part of agriculture and agri-food Canada, where they became part of the Science and Technology branch of the agency that ended its operations in the 2000s. 

He said working in other countries allowed him to know more about the irrigation needs of farmlands in a particular area, like Egypt, where there are many dry areas and did not have the opportunity to irrigate like in Saskatchewan. 

“In Egypt, everything is irrigated, or there's no life and there won’t be crop production. So, when we brought people from Egypt to [Saskatchewan] to show them Lake Diefenbaker, they couldn't believe just what a great opportunity we had,” said Tollefson. 

He added that Saskatchewan should value its water resources and ensure a facility like Lake Diefenbaker is appropriately used to help adapt the crops to climate change and diversify farming in the province. 

Tollefson was one of the few Canadians to become vice-president of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage. This non-profit organization has a network of experts from 100 countries in irrigation, drainage and flood management. 

Tollefson, who helped bring the international conference on Irrigation and Drainage to Saskatchewan, said being among the five to be inducted into the SAHF is significant to him as his efforts and work in the field of agriculture and irrigation. 

“To be recognized by the industry that I assisted over the years. To be recognized by the industry that I have served and worked for. To be recognized by your colleagues and friends means a lot to me. I’m ecstatic to be included with other great people,” he added.


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