There was certainly reason to celebrate on Saturday night, April 27 for Outlook area resident Roger Pederson, so it was a good thing he was joined by a large handful of family members and friends as he was inducted into the 2019 class of the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame (SAHF).
Held in the banquet hall of the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, the event saw just over 380 people fill the venue to near capacity in order to see this year’s six inductees take their rightful places in this province’s rich and longstanding history in agriculture.
Having held induction ceremonies since 1972, the SAHF recognizes those who’ve made – and continue to make – significant and distinguished contributions to the welfare and improvement of agriculture in the province. Following each year’s ceremony, portraits of the inductees are on display in the SAHF gallery that is located upstairs at the Western Development Museum.
Pederson was recognized as an inductee in this year’s Hall of Fame class for his strong advocacy for the development and continued growth of the province’s irrigation sector, particularly at home in the Outlook area, where Roger is a member of both the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre and the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association. The community of Outlook proudly calls itself the ‘Irrigation Capital of Saskatchewan’ as seen on the entrance signs coming into town – a title that undoubtedly comes due in part to the hard work done over the years by people such as Roger and others in the field.
In addition to Roger being inducted, five other deserving names were recognized for their impressive work and accomplishments in agriculture. They include Chantelle Donahue, a driving force in the Canadian Journey to Public Trust, which has resulted in a better coordinated and strategic approach to building public trust in Canada’s food system; Clarence Hookenson, a 98-year old former long-time reeve of the RM of Brock who is an experienced cattleman, has judged cattle shows across Canada, and has helped to build the next generation of successful producers; Arnold Petracek, who served 40 years on the Saskatchewan Municipal Hail Insurance Association board of directors from 1975 until retiring in 2015, and worked as an agronomist prior to taking over the family farm at Esterhazy in 1973 and later establishing AJ Seeds; Daniel Prefontaine, who spent his career advancing the cause of food processing in the province, and served as president of the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre, an organization that has helped more than 300 Saskatchewan agri-food companies develop and launch over 800 new product lines that use Saskatchewan ingredients; and Dr. Neil Shantz (DVM), a champion of the provincial pork industry’s collective efforts to enhance on-farm food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity, and has served as a Canada Quality Assurance program validator and as the chair of the board of directors of Prairie Diagnostic Services.
Introducing each inductee was Murray Purcell, Member at Large of the SAHF, while President Reed Andrew served as MC of the evening’s events. Also in attendance was the Honorable David Marit, Minister of Agriculture.
Pederson says the whole experience of being inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame is almost surreal, and he’s grateful that such a large audience was on hand to see he and his fellow inductees be recognized.
“It’s quite overwhelming, really,” said Roger, speaking with The Outlook prior to the ceremony. “The number of people that come to see the induction ceremony for the six of us being inducted is really amazing.”
With a substantial life spent in agriculture, Pederson hopes there are many more years ahead to see where the industry is headed.
“I hope it’s not the end of it,” he smiled. “I have to say it’s pretty rewarding to be acknowledged for the work that you think you’ve done or accomplished over the years.”
With irrigation becoming so vital to Outlook and the surrounding area’s identity in recent years, Pederson spoke of the factors that came together to help the region become synonymous with irrigation.
“The construction of the dam in mid-central Saskatchewan located us downstream from the dam, which allowed the canal system to be put in place,” he said. “The decision was made that the irrigation district at Outlook would be the first one that would be developed, and they’d go from there. Now, it hasn’t happened to the amount that we’d like to see, but the potential is still there, and I think it’s just a matter of time before the decision makers decide that it’s the time to proceed with more irrigation development.”
The future of irrigation in Outlook and perhaps the entire province may still be untapped in Roger’s view.
“I think it holds tremendous potential,” he said. “It was a dry year in ’18, and if this year continues the way it has and we get a few more dry years in succession, you’re going to see dryland irrigation farmers clamoring for more irrigation, and I think that will push the decision makers and groups who are interested in seeing irrigation develop to make it happen much sooner than under normal conditions.”
Of course, weather and its consistent patterns and conditions will always end up being one of the biggest deciding factors in helping irrigation continue to grow, but Pederson says those who are making the big decisions on the future of the industry need to be at the ready for when it’s time to take irrigation to its next level.
“We’ve gone through a period of some pretty wet years, and it’s pretty hard to promote irrigation when it’s all just natural rainfall,” he said. “An extended period of drought will certainly speed that up, and even if it isn’t drought, we know that it’s going to happen again, so we need to embark on more infrastructure construction and be ready for when the droughts do get here.”
Taking to the stage with his family right beside him to take his rightful place in the Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame, it was quite apparent that the work being done by people such as Roger has not gone unnoticed by an entire industry, and that the future is quite bright with people such as him helping to lay the foundation that will hopefully foster growth for generations to come.