Farmers from the southeast region will be saying goodbye to a longtime fixture on the agricultural scene this month.
Elaine Moats, regional crop specialist for the Ministry of Agriculture, is retiring at the end of July. She ends 35 years of work with the department, most of which was spent working in the southeast region.
“I will certainly miss the people,” said Moats. “There was some tremendous people to work with, through the universities, research stations, co-workers, and the farm families that we’ve worked very closely with over the years.”
Moats’ love for agriculture stretches back to her upbringing, growing up on a farm near Gray, Saskatchewan. “I grew up like a lot of farm kids, very involved in farming, doing the things you normally do and being involved in 4-H,” said Moats.
During her involvement in 4-H, Moats met government agriculture representatives and got interested in working in the field. While attending the University of Saskatchewan and studying agriculture, Moats worked as a summer student with the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Working as a summer student helped me get to know what people within the department did and confirmed that was what I wanted to do,” said Moats.
After graduating with a bachelors of science in agriculture in 1977, Moats joined the ranks of the Agriculture Extension Service at the Ministry of Agriculture. The work took her around the southern portion of the province, working in Maple Creek, Davidson and Yorkton before becoming a full time agriculture representative in Weyburn.
Over her career Moats has seen the world of farming change drastically. High inflation and land prices in the 1970s gave way to drought conditions in the 1980s, hitting many producers hard, particularly on the eastern side of the province. Mixed farms were also common at the start of Moats career, both farming crops and having cattle herds in the 25-30 head range.
“We don’t have many of those farms now and it’s not uncommon to have herds in the 350 and bigger range,” she said.
Farm technology and techniques also changed markedly over the course of her career.
“When I started the main products we used for herbicide were 2,4-D, MCPA, and avadex. There has been a huge increase in the number of herbicides available to producers,” said Moats.
The introduction of glyphosate was also a major shift in farm technology, allowing producers to seed crops earlier in the spring, allowing for improved results in crops like peas and canola.
The variety of crops grown in the province has also become much more diverse over Moats career. “Initially the main crops grown were wheat, durum, barley, flax and a very little bit of canola and major acreage was summerfallow,” said Moats.
Now canola acreage is expected to hit record levels, and there was increases in legumes and perennial grasses, crops that barely registered on acreage reports in years passed.
Although Moats has seen a range of changes over her career, one thing has remained constant.
“The main constant is the farmers’ tremendous desire to continue to learn new methods and new ways of farming, both for their own operations and also for the betterment of their communities and worldwide.”
“Many times you’re reminded by farmers that their concern is that they are growing food for other people to eat — they take it very seriously — not just being a successful business but their role in feeding the world,” she said.
Moats has enjoyed her time working with producers, knowing that her advice has come as a benefit to many. “It’s always been a humbling experience knowing that people would use the information we gave them, because it invariably involved spending money.”
“You needed to have the right information for the producer at the right time, that was something of a rule that you learned to live by and conduct yourself by,” she added.
Moats officially completed her job on July 31 and is looking forward to spending time working on the farm, also looking to continue her participation in the Saskatchewan Cutting Horse Association.