Local Agriculture

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Friday, 26 October 2012 10:37

Open house SPARC’d some interest in agriculture

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The Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre hosted an Open House Oct. 16, giving students and the rest of the community the chance to see some of the work that goes on within the facility.

“I think it went really well, considering this is the first time we've done this in a while,” explained Bruce MacArthur, Research Manager at SPARC. “The turnout was phenomenal in the afternoon, and still very solid in the evening.”
The morning was reserved for school tours. In keeping with their science and social science curriculum, SPARC invited local Grade 7 classes to spend the morning touring the facility, and saw about 175 students throughout the morning.
“We had some really excellent tours for those students, and I hope it encouraged those kids to be a little bit more interested in agriculture, and to potentially become the innovators, scientists, or researchers of the future,” MacArthur said. “I hope that it was in some way exciting for them, because they got to see a lot of really interesting science – not just in terms of agriculture, but other science, as well.”
The school tours and public tours took guests through the greenhouse, where they learned about wheat breeding, forages and native species. Lab tours took them through the soil labs and microbiology labs, and a tour out to the shop facility showcased some of their specific equipment, built right here in Swift Current.
“The tour and talk about the fistulated steer was especially interesting for people, because it's a really interesting operation,” added MacArthur. “It allows access to the first stomach for a better understanding of what kind of food the animal is grazing on.”
The tour also explained the protocols and procedures involved, and how the animal is safe and unharmed. In fact, MacArthur noted that those steers go on to live longer, healthier lives than the majority of other steers.
Participants also learned about geocaching, and got information on species at risk in farmlands and pasturelands. It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about environmental sustainability.
“It was pretty wide-ranging, we covered a lot of material,” MacArthur said. “It was a tremendous success for us. We had some great positive feedback, and some people came back for the evening tours because they didn't have a chance to see it all in the afternoon. That shows me that people were interested, and really got something out of it.”
This kind of community engagement is something that MacArthur has been focusing on during his first year with SPARC. He is hoping to continue to expand the connection between the facility and the rest of the community.
“When I first came here, there really seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between the community and the station – people didn't really know what we were doing out here,” he noted. “I think it's important to show people that we exist, and that what we are doing is pertinent. It's important for taxpayers to understand that the work we are doing is connected to the economy, doing research that does help the producer. It just helps people to connect the dots.”

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