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The importance of an education

Last Thursday was one of those days I tend to relish as a journalist. It was an afternoon spent at the Grain Millers Harvest Showdown.

Last Thursday was one of those days I tend to relish as a journalist.

It was an afternoon spent at the Grain Millers Harvest Showdown. Anytime I can spend time around livestock, and in particular a show ring where animals are being judged, I feel very much at home. I grew up on a registered hog farm, and my summer holidays were spent at fairs showing stock. From Yorkton to Melfort, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and unknown locales such as Golburn and Shand, I relished every day.

By June 1st, I was already excited to load the camper and head out, and when Shand arrived in mid-August I felt a pang of sadness as it was the last show on the year.

So Harvest Showdown is always a treat to attend.

But back to Thursday in particular. It was time spent at the horse show arena watching first the chore horse competition, and then the horse pulls.

Now I am not sure why I have always been drawn to the big horses, but I have. It's probably genetics. I grew up listening to my Father speak about the pure joy he got out of working horses in the field. He would eventually quit school so that he could work horses.

While the only horse I actually ever had was a finicky little Shetland pony when I was just a young boy, I have always thought about draft horses as something a lottery win would allow me to have.

So watching people going through a competition which essentially mimicked the work they do using their horses doing farm chores was interesting. It was also far warmer than the first chore horse event I witnessed on a farm south of Willowbrook a few years back on one of the windiest, coldest days of that winter. I can recall being driven across a field by a team and thinking how people used to deal with such cold every day.

Thursday though the Farrell Agencies Arena was warm and I could sit back and enjoy the competition.

While I watched the teamsters expertly manoeuvre their teams to parallel park between two barrels, or back up gently to an imagined loading dock, it did bring a question to mind; will anybody be able to do that in 50 years? Will we still care to do farm chores with horses in a decade?

There are certainly advantages to using horses to feed cattle, but as herds get bigger mechanization becomes a near necessity. Will the horse still have a role?

I look at myself and realize that while I have a pretty good handle on agriculture and livestock, if you threw a pile of harness on the ground it might take me a week to get it onto a team properly, let alone drive them.

In general our collective knowledge of even the basics of farming is shrinking. How many people now think milk comes from a carton, forgetting, or never really knowing there is a cow involved?

Credit goes to events such as Harvest Showdown which has an education element bringing in students from the area to not just learn about livestock, but to actually reach out and touch a horse, pig, sheep and goat. For a child never on a farm, those are moments they will long remember.

I may be jaundiced by years on the farm, but holding a baby pig is still something special, just as seeing a calf born is, or watching a big team put their hearts into pulling a sled which is what they were bred to do.

The education of youth is one reason plans in Yorkton to build a Western Canadian Crop Technology Interpretive Centre are so interesting. Such a centre could play a major role in student education in addition to its potential as a tourist destination.

So it was definitely a wise move by the provincial government to come up with $20,000 to help local organizers of the centre get the idea for the centre moving forward.

If we don't educate now no one will be able to enjoy a day like the one I had Thursday and to lose that would be a sad day for agriculture.

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