Print this page
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 15:39

Regional Sask. Agriculture office returns to Shaunavon

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A service southwest Saskatchewan farmers have missed for the last seven years is finally returning to Shaunavon.

In 2004, the Government of Saskatchewan shut down its Ministry of Agriculture regional offices throughout the province, including Shaunavon’s, in favour of having producers phone in to ask questions.

After hearing numerous complaints about that, the current government is working to bring those regional offices back, and it started by creating a satellite office from the Swift Current office in Shaunavon. Shaunavon’s office officially opened Aug. 17.

The satellite office will only be open one day a week, Wednesdays, with one specialist from Swift Current’s office travelling to Shaunavon. Swift Current’s regional forage, livestock, crop and farm business management specialists will rotate weeks in Shaunavon.

Trevor Lennox, southwest Saskatchewan’s regional forage specialist, believes the addition of a satellite office will help the office inform producers about new research and do a better job answering their questions. He believes that should benefit both the producers and the specialists in the end.

“Working out of the Shaunavon office will put us more in contact with local producers,” he said. “We will be able to meet them first-hand and see what the issues are and producers will have access to us in the area. Before we were always available on the phone or able to go out for a visit, but there was always a travelling distance involved. This puts us more in touch with local producers.”

The only trouble Lennox anticipates is the specialists may be in high demand when they’re in Shaunavon with the satellite office open only one day a week. That is why he is encouraging people to book appointments in advance by phoning the Swift Current office at 778-8285.

Although this appears to be a good thing for producers in southwest Saskatchewan, the satellite office may not be permanent.

Shaunavon received it as part of the government’s two-year pilot project to determine whether the services are well used by producers. The government is expected to judge the program on the number of meetings, results of those meetings, the cost-effectiveness of the program and number of people who received help from the service.

Regardless of whether it stays, Wayne Elhard, the member of the legislative assembly for Cypress Hills, believes this pilot project shows a recognition by the government how dynamic the agriculture industry is in Saskatchewan. He thinks it also shows how methodologies are changing due to science in agriculture.

What Elhard likes most about the new office is it creates more opportunity for face-to-face communication.

“Before, when producers had technical questions they wanted help with, they had a 1-800 number to call and they were helped by someone in Moose Jaw,” he said. “While that might be OK is some instances, it’s never as beneficial or accommodating as a face-to-face meeting with somebody.

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve here. It’s a situation where the person with the expertise can build a rapport with the producer in a face-to-face meeting and hopefully that rapport helps them develop a greater comfort in terms of seeking knowledge and information.”

Elhard’s enthusiasm, however, can’t match Lennox’s, who can’t wait to get out to Shaunavon and bring a service back to producers that has been missing since 2004.

“We’re excited to have the new office open,” he said. “It’s great to be working in Shaunavon. This office used to be open many years ago on a full-time basis and now it’s open on a weekly basis.

“It will be structured a little differently, but we’re still giving producers access to the services and programs Saskatchewan Agriculture has.”

Read 915 times