Sherri Grant, a livestock producer who ranches in the lea of Grasslands National Park near Val Marie, has been a tireless agricultural advocate and educator for many years— not only through her work Agribition and other agricultural organizations in Saskatchewan, but also through the lens of her camera.
Grant’s leadership on the ag education front was recently recognized with a BMO Celebrating Women In Ag award.
“It is truly an honour to receive this type of recognition,” she recently told Ag-Matters. “There are so many women who do so many types of things in agriculture and this industry in lots of different ways. It’s really an honour to be recognized by many of the people I have worked with at times over the years.”
Grant has been especially key to helping organize Agribition’s Agricultural Education Program geared toward students in urban schools who may be more disconnected from the land than rural kids of the same age.
“We give them an opportunity to touch agriculture,” she says.
“We have them come in and they can see the animals,” explains Grant. “They can smell what it smells like to be in the area where the animals are. They can experience the sights and the sounds, and all of that. It’s really a huge, incredible experience.
“Most of these kids have never even been close to a live (farm) animal. So to be close to a big beef animal, that’s just huge for them. It helps them start connecting to that circle of life, and connect with the fact that it’s real people in agriculture who are caring about their animals. That these people are people just like them.
“We talk about the environment. We talk about environmental interaction. We talk about the things producers do, and how they care for animals.”
Grant says with an increasingly urbanized population in Canada producers themselves have to take a leadership role in ensuring those growing up away from the land understand the importance of agriculture, particularly livestock production which has come under greater scrutiny in recent years.
“I really do believe helping people understand the basics of how things work, from the producer perspective, will help them make better decisions when it comes to their plates,” she states.
“I think every industry is challenged, and every production system is challenged. I think if we follow it back to economics and the dollar there are multi-million dollar food industry giants who it’s in their best interests to have people choose packaged, prepared items that have a long shelf life.
“I think the discerning consumer recognizes that whole foods, closest to the (natural) source, are probably going to suit their needs better, and they are going to feel better.”
And it’s not just about connecting with what’s on your plate, and understanding where your food comes from that’s important, says Grant— it’s also about helping people who are disconnected come back to the land.
That’s where she relies on her camera lens to reveal those connections for those who see her photographs.
“For me, photography is an opportunity to show people what I see here on the land, and help them realize the beauty, the complexity and the uniqueness of our landscape, and how precious it is,” she explains.
“Our native grasslands here are dwindling faster than the rain forest. We really need to take a breath and stop, and recognize, what we’ve got, and the value of it.”
Grant’s photos reveal the interwoven nature of life on the prairies as it existed before the modern age, and help to create, she hopes, a yearning in the hearts of viewers for a return to that way of being.
“Stop, breathe, step out, and walk on the ground and feel the soil,” Grant says. “Breathe in the air and feel at peace.
“I am blessed to be in an area that’s a Dark Sky Preserve,” she adds. “I can even take those things for granted so when I travel in the city, and am removed from that open sky and ground beneath my feet, after awhile I feel that depravation and yearn to return home.”
Grant hopes to convey that sense of yearning, and so much more, in her photos and through her education efforts.
“My kids would tell you my motto is live, laugh, love, learn, and leave a legacy,” she says. “I really do think agriculture needs leadership development.
“Agriculture is an ever-changing landscape; so there is always new and innovative technologies and techniques, and all sorts of things, coming out.
“There is always new things to look into and evaluate, to consider, as ways to improve our soil, improve our landscape, and leave our world better for the next generation than we found it.”