This past summer I was an Aggie. I am an environmental sciences student from Toronto, so this was an unexpected adventure for me. My co-op placement took me to small town Saskatchewan working for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on a research farm.
The drive from Regina Airport to Indian Head, where I would spend the next 4 months was flat and straight. Fields of wheat and canola lined either side of the highway, anticipating the warmer weather to come (and did it ever). And Christian billboards preached to us as we drove by. The town of Indian Head is approximately 1800 people strong. It’s a place where strangers wave to you, and the mentality of “Why walk when I spent $50,000 on a pickup truck?” prevails. Fancy speed boats and yappy dogs are common. And there is no Tim Hortons.
I lived in the “Sunshine Mobile Home Park” in a trailer with 2 other University of Guelph students, and together we embraced the Saskatchewan life. I learned to drive a tractor, went quadding through mud, put a watermelon on my head for the Roughrider’s game, and got a little wild at the Craven Country Thunder Music Festival. As it turns out, the northern half of the province is Canadian shield, and looks quite like Ontario. We discovered this on the multiple camping trips that we went on. There were also a couple of concerts that we were able to go to, including Regina-natives “The Dead South”, a wonderful bluegrass band. Enough said - we were never bored.
My co-op placement was very interesting, and I had a great, easy-going group to work with. There were a few different studies that we worked on over the summer. One related to increasing biomass production of biofuel crops, and another to insect abundances in canola fields. I learned a lot about breeding trees, plant physiology, and agricultural practices. Agriculture is not something I anticipate pursuing in the future, but I really enjoyed learning about plants, working outside, and having diverse daily schedules.
My favourite aspect of living in Indian Head, was how quiet and simple the lifestyle was. The people were so welcoming and generous. Compared to the GTA where people always seem so busy, and life is complicated. What I missed most about home, was the lack of wilderness. Parks, woods, creeks, and lakes are more abundant and easily accessible even in the densely populated southern Ontario than in southern Saskatchewan. Other than in provincial and national parks, trees existed only in rows or on lawns.
All in all, the Saskatchewan life is pretty swell. There are differences, but it’s not that different.
At night, I would fall asleep to the sound of the same trains that pass by my house in Toronto.