There are certain things a person expects to see at the Western Canadian Agribition like cows, horses and all sorts of gigantic machinery. But there are several exhibits that come from right here in Saskatchewan making people take a second look.
Asked to name a Saskatchewan crop, most people would say canola, but the wild rice market is growing.
“Pretty much every single person that walks by here is surprised that we actually grow rice in Saskatchewan,” said Dawson Cameron.
Cameron has a booth at in the new food pavilion with Rusty’s Wild Rice. He’s a third-generation wild rice farmer.
“As soon as I was born, my grandfather took me out to the fields, and I’ve been there ever since.”
They farm near Hudson Bay in east-central Saskatchewan.
Cameron said Saskatchewan is actually a good place to grow rice because of the soil and the fact we have a lot of lakes. Wild rice is grown in two to four feet of water. And that means Cameron had a bit different experience than most farm kids – for one, they don’t use combines.
“We use an air boat. It’s a flat boat with a big fan on the back, and we’ve got a header on the front, and we just drive around … it’s 100 times cooler,” he laughed, calling it a dream job.
Wild rice is getting bigger in Saskatchewan, according to Cameron. He said more than half of the wild rice exported from Canada is grown here.
This is the company’s first year at Agribition, but Cameron said he’s excited.
When it comes to the sections of the Agribition that are alive, a pen full of alpacas bred in Saskatchewan was drawing a bit of crowd and a lot of surprised and delighted gasps on Tuesday.
But they’re not exactly new. Kelly Kokoski has been raising alpacas for about 15 years. Her farm is near Foam Lake.
She said she first got into alpacas because they’re easier for a woman to handle. Her company, Spruce Park Alpacas, is one of the few in Saskatchewan raising the animal. She said it’s because of the high price, though she mentioned it has come down since she started.
She said she likes to educate people about the animal at Agribition
“I still have people calling them emus.” she laughed
Kokoski said there are also people who refer to them as pets, but she emphasized that they are livestock.
Alpacas are raised for their fur, or fibre, which can be made into all sorts of things, anything from blankets, to hats, to bedding.
“I would really like to see more people get into them because they have a place here in Canada, considering our weather and the quality of their fibre,” said Kokoski.
“If they can sell the product in Australia, there’s no why we can’t be selling this stuff in a province like Saskatchewan.”