VIDO Leader in Human and Animal Vaccine Research

In the last year, many Saskatchewanians learned something they previously didn’t know about our province – we are home to a world-leading research facility.

As the world mobilized to respond to COVID-19, our very own University of Saskatchewan (USask) Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) led newsworthy international efforts to develop a vaccine based on its multi-decade history of research and development in human and animal health sciences.

But what many people still don’t know about the Saskatoon-based organization is just how much of its history, capacity and output are tied to our local agriculture industry.

“The news has very much focused on COVID-19 and the pandemic,” says Dr. Andrew Van Kessel, VIDO’s Associate Director of Research. “That has taken attention away from the animal side of our program.”

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Building SaskLander

Sask tech startup tackles the issue of land access

Published in Farmer’s Voice, January 2021

Saskatchewan farmers are well aware of the longstanding conflict in our province between landowners and residents who want to access rural property for hunting, snowmobiling,
and other recreational activities.

In an effort to manage this conflict (and in response to growing rural crime rates), The Trespass to Property Act was introduced in 2018. It proposed penalties for anyone who sets foot on
private rural land without first obtaining permission from the landowner.

Although the Act has yet to be enforced as law, in 2019 the Saskatchewan government went a step further in aiming to address the issue – it called for help from our province’s burgeoning tech sector.

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Will all the under-socialized babies born in 2020 be OK?

You might have pictured a busy mat leave filled with baby swim classes and mommy-and-me yoga meetups. But COVID-19 has forced us to readjust our expectations indefinitely.

Published by Today’s Parent, November 2020

Earlier this year, my new baby girl finally got to meet her grandma for the first time. 

I handed her over to Omi, and grabbed my camera in order to capture this momentous occasion, which had been put off for months due to COVID-19 restrictions where we live in Regina, Sask.

But there would be no photo.

My daughter screamed and screamed—a horrified cry that seemed to say, “WHO IS THIS STRANGE WOMAN!”

This was new for me. 

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Do consumers really want to know?

Originally published in Western Producer, August 2020

There’s a prevailing notion in agriculture that we must get consumer and public “approval” for modern farming practices and that we need to build “social licence” among consumers.

We have responded and invested significant resources and money into winning hearts and minds.

Lately, I have been increasingly wondering if this a strategically sound effort and a worthwhile investment. I’m not sure, for a couple reasons.

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What it’s like to be a new mom during the COVID-19 pandemic

Originally published by CBC Sask, April 2020

People keep asking me how I’m doing through all of this.

My second daughter was born mid-February. People assume I must have higher-than-usual anxiety around COVID-19 because I have a tiny baby at home.

But since going on maternity leave, my life really hasn’t changed much. In fact, being at home for long stretches of time worrying fanatically about the safety of society’s most vulnerable humans is exactly what maternity leave is!

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Why I’m grateful for all my pregnancy losses

Published by Today’s Parent, February 2020

I remember the moment it happened one year ago.

I was washing dinner dishes in my window-surrounded kitchen, embraced by the dark cave that is the Canadian winter in the dead of January, when I felt the gush.

I tiptoed to the bathroom, trying not to disturb something I knew I had no control over, pulled down my pants, and confirmed it—bright red blood.

My head dropped into my hands and despair clutched my body.

Another miscarriage.

At that point, my husband and I had been doing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for almost two years. Little Embryo Number Eight, currently clinging to life inside of me, was our last one.

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‘Sustainable’ is a trendy word in the food industry — but farmers aren’t getting enough credit for it

Originally published by CBC Saskatchewan, November 2019

While grocery shopping the other day, I counted the word “sustainable” on product packaging too many times to count.

This led me to consider how interesting it is that a word with so much marketing power is so vaguely defined and understood.

One of the more commonly used definitions of the word, created by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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Everyone’s responsibility: Don’t let emotion influence how health information is acted upon in the digital age

Originally published by CBC Saskatchewan, October 2019

I recently came across a headline on my Facebook page saying that early research suggests a possible link between processed foods in pregnancy and autism. I hate these types of headlines.

I know I should be grateful to be alive at a time when we have easy access to so much valuable information. Instead, I feel overwhelmed, especially as a pregnant woman and a new mom.

Since becoming pregnant with my first child three years ago, I have questioned many of my daily product choices, especially food. I constantly wonder if these products will one day be linked to harmful effects in my children.

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A special connection: Farmer reflects on the importance of the grasslands and how livestock production helps the environment

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

For Don Connick, farming means having a special connection to, and appreciation for the land.

His family’s farmland, located just south of Gull Lake on the first rise of land into the Cypress Hills, has a long and rich history – not only for the Connick family, but also for Canada.

Don’s grandfather homesteaded the land long before Don and Norma took it over in 1977, and Don remembers spending many afternoons as a young boy dreaming of how these native grasslands may have looked before the settlers came.

“There’s a tremendous historical and recent heritage here,” he says. “The remnants of the Old Dollard Trail are still visible in our pasture. We are a pretty young country and I think a lot of people identify with that. It’s part of who we are as a nation.”

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Help wanted: New program helps farmers address labour shortages

Originally published in Farmers’ Voice magazine, May 2019

The Canadian agriculture industry has long been challenged with labour shortages.

And the problem appears to be getting worse instead of better.

In 2014, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) reported that the job vacancy rate within the Canadian agriculture industry was 7 per cent, the highest of any Canadian industry. And preliminary findings from new labour market information research (to be released in June) show that agriculture’s job vacancy rate and the labour
gap is increasing, says CAHRC’s Janet Krayden.

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