Saturday July 26, 2014




Filmmaker reminds us of our roots

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When you have written a weekly opinion column on agriculture for more than a quarter of a century you learn inspiration can come from some rather unusual places.

That said, I was still surprised when I was sitting at the recent Yorkton Film Festival Golden Sheaf Awards Gala, and found a moment of inspiration for a farm column.

It was particularly surprising since the film had zero to do with farming.

Oil Sands Karaoke by Shore Films took the Golden Sheaf for Documentary Science/Nature/Technology and later the awards for Director - Non-Fiction for Charles Wilkinson.

In accepting the second award Wilkinson talked about having taken a walk in Yorkton during his stay at the Festival. He said he happened upon a yard sale where he found an old steel-runner sled which he wished he could have taken home with him.

At the same sale was a box of mason jars, and a well-used violin.

Wilkinson related how he realized each of the items had held an importance to the family over the years.

I understand that. A sled is not kept without memories. Jars are part of our more self-sufficient past, and a well-used violin speaks to it having been played and played and then preserved.

Wilkinson said the items spoke to him of a way of life here in Saskatchewan, one he said we need to be prepared to safeguard.

Wilkinson said Saskatchewan, and even the local area, seem poised on an explosion of oil and gas exploration and development, and he said we need to manage such development to be able to hold on to what has been important here for years.

It was a not so subtle message that the tar sands project in Northern Alberta, upon which his film is based, was not so-well managed.

We have all heard the stories of near uncontrolled growth associated with the tar sands. It is a project of massive economic importance, but one with its share of warts too.

Certainly in Saskatchewan we have been the most agrarian-based provincial economy in Canada. That has not always been the best thing in terms of a strong provincial economy. We might be feeding the world, but for many years farmers have done so at little or no profits.

A more diverse economy is good news for Saskatchewan, and a big part of that diversification is, and will continue to be oil and gas.

But we must also be careful to remember our province exists because of agriculture, and the land base will ensure it remains an integral part of our future.

Anytime we plan for our future, farming, and those who farm, should be an integral part of the planning process and of the vision for tomorrow.


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