Market access work ongoing for Canadian pulses

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2018

There is still a lot of uncertainty around market access for Canadian pulse exports to India this year.

But the Canadian pulse industry has been working closely with the Federal Government to do everything in its power to address and remove the constraints the Indian government has created in the last year.

“The pulse industry has come together to do everything we can to help sort out these issues,” says Gord Kurbis, Pulse Canada’s Director of Market Access and Trade Policy …

Read the entire article

Entering a new decade for pulse research

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine, April 2018

Over the past eight years, the pulse industry and the Federal Government have partnered to jointly invest more than $30 million into pulse research through the Pulse Science Cluster program.

And now as it heads into the third phase of the program, known as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), the knowledge gained from the past two phases has sharpened the focus of the Canadian pulse industry’s goals for the next decade, says Dr. Lisette Mascarenhas, Director of Research and Development for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) …

Read the entire article

Post-partum anxiety: Some helpful things I’ve learned since having a baby

anxiety-2019928_1280Since having a baby four months ago, I have experienced many of the wonderful aspects of being a new mom.

But I’ve also experienced something unexpected and unpleasant: a lot of anxiety.

And while some of it is warranted (ie. concerns about SIDS, the scariest thing in the world), some of it is not (ie. my fear that someone will kidnap my baby in the night).  

I’m not normally an anxious person, so this is a new – and extremely uncomfortable – place for me.

Once I began talking with fellow parents (and non-parents), I have come to understand that heightened anxiety for new parents is common, and not just amongst women. One male colleague of mine was kind enough to share that after he had kids, he would get up several times a night to make sure his doors were locked.

In fact, this type of anxiety is so common that there’s actually a term for it: post-partum anxiety (PPA) (clever, hey?).

According to Postpartum Support International, 10% of women will develop PPA (compared to 6% who will develop post-partum depression). The same organization also lists symptoms of PPA as:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

(Most people who’ve had a baby – and those who haven’t – will probably tell you they’ve had some/all of these symptoms at some point in their lives so take that “10%” with a grain of salt my friends.)

Regardless of the stats and numbers, I decided I need to deal with this, mostly because I cannot afford to lose ANY MORE SLEEP because of this baby (whom I adore).

So I contacted the psychology department at the University of Regina, and was put in touch with Kerry Spice, a registered psychologist and eTherapist with the Online Therapy Unit (a program that offers free online mental health programs to those in need – read more about it by following the link).

Within a counselling role, Kerry focuses primarily on cases involving anxiety and depression, so she was a wonderful resource.

Here are a few things I learned:

Anxiety is normal and it affects everyone

I used to think that people who suffered from “anxiety” and “anxiety disorders” were different than me because I didn’t. (I’m a slow learner haha.)

This is not the case, Kerry told me.

“Although we may see anxiety as sort of an exclusive concept, it is actually a normal human emotion,” she says. “It’s natural and healthy for everyone to experience some levels of anxiety and it’s actually a survival mechanism, to help prepare us for things that are threatening or dangerous.”

So, in many ways, anxiety is normal and can even be helpful for motivating you do to things.

Anxiety becomes a problem though when it happens too often, is too severe, and occurs at the wrong times or doesn’t match the environment, Kerry says.

“When it affects our quality of life, then we call that an anxiety disorder – so the difference is that function or impact on quality of life.”

She also said one in four people suffer from anxiety or depression, but many more experience these issues at milder levels at some point throughout their lives.

Anxiety can be triggered by life events and some people may be more susceptible than others

Obviously, it’s not just new moms who experience anxiety.

Some people are more genetically susceptible to anxiety but genetics can’t explain all anxiety.

A better predictor is how we perceive and react to life experiences and “trauma” (which can be any emotionally charged event – it doesn’t necessarily have to be a crisis). Our stress levels and available supports are also relevant, Kerry says.

“You and your best friend might experience the same event and have very different emotional reactions to it. That’s based on your underlying beliefs, experiences, and available supports.”

Anxiety is more likely to develop when we feel like events are out of our control, like we can’t cope, like we don’t have support or when we view the events as severe/catastrophic.

According to a article about PPA, you may also be more susceptible to post-partum anxiety if you have “a personal or family history of anxiety or previous experience with depression, certain symptoms of PMS (such as feeling weepy or agitated), eating disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”

Side note: I know this is a serious topic but I have to make a joke here – is there any woman in the world who has NOT experienced the PMS symptom of “agitation” hahahaha.

There are easy things you can do to help!

  1. Talk about it

This was the most important thing I learned from Kerry: TALK ABOUT YOUR ANXIETY WITH YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM!

This may seem like common sense, but for introverts like me talking isn’t always as easy as it seems.

But sometimes that’s really all you need, Kerry says.

“Sometimes it’s the avoidance of taking about the issue that makes it worse because it makes it scarier.”

Talking about your anxiety will help you solve problems you might not be able to on your own, Kerry says.

“Sometimes we can internally problem solve and work through things but not always, so if we’re not doing helpful things to problem solve then talking to someone else can support that along.”

Side note: I can verify this works. One night my husband and I were supposed to go out and leave our baby with a sitter. About an hour before we were supposed to leave I began to feel anxious.

On a whim, I told my husband why – I was worried we would get into a car accident on the way to the venue and I wouldn’t see my baby grow up – and waited for him to laugh at me.

Instead, he told me that he often had similar concerns (validated my feelings) and then proceeded to map out the most technically, statistically safe driving route to our destination. (Hahaha I love this man.) 

I felt a million times better and we proceeded to have a lot of fun that evening.

  1. Write it down

Another option for helping us problem solve is by writing things down, which can help validate what you’re feeling and again, help promote problem solving, Kerry says.

“Sometimes you’ll know intuitively that something is unrealistic but when you write it down, that makes it real,” she says.

“That then helps promote our ability to problem solve, think of alternative thoughts, or spin the problem into a different frame. Sometimes it takes more than just positive thinking, it’s about being realistic too and then being able to manage and cope with that.”

Side note: I can also verify this works. I usually feel particularly anxious at night, so in the mornings I write out a list of all the worries from the previous evening that kept me awake. Usually once I see them on paper, I can appreciate how unrealistic they are. Sometimes I send the list to my sisters and we laugh at them together. But sometimes the list features a valid concern, so then I know I have to deal with it in a realistic, practical way.

  1. Maintain overall good health practices

Mental health is part and parcel of your overall health, which is why meeting all your basic health needs is always important, Kerry says.

This includes making sure you are sleeping, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, staying active, and practicing the laws of moderation.

Side note: I want to make a joke here about moderation and wine consumption but I don’t want the Judging Mom Police on my case, so will refrain hahaha.

When to seek professional help

I don’t think it ever hurts to talk to a therapist.

Kerry agrees:

“Good emotional wellbeing and maintaining this is important and it would be ideal for all people to consult a professional at some point in their lives,” she says, adding that too often people only seek the support of a professional once their symptoms are impairing their functioning in some way.

“In my opinion, it would be ideal for everyone to have a wellbeing check-in – like you have a medical checkup –just to keep coping in a healthy range, but this is not always possible.”

Beyond that, however, there are clear signals that it’s crucial that you seek professional help for your anxiety problems. This includes if your functioning is impaired, if you’re not able to cope with day-to-day life, and again, if your anxiety occurs too often, too severely, at the wrong times, or doesn’t match the environment.

“The key is to keep our symptoms within a healthy range and this can look different for everyone,” Kerry says.

A therapist can talk to you about more coping mechanisms, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

For more information about the Online Therapy Unit, visit:


Disclaimer on this article: I am in no way an expert on this topic and I am not offering medical advice. I am just sharing my personal experience and some information I received from an expert, in the hopes that it might help others who have had similar experiences. Please feel free to “write down” your list of post-partum concerns in the comments if you wish!












How Saskatchewan crops could help treat some of our biggest health problems

Flax food

Saskatchewan-grown crops are high quality and in demand all over the world.

But did you know they also might have the potential to help treat some of North America’s leading health problems such as heart disease, childhood obesity, infertility and more?

There is some incredibly interesting research going on right now within our province’s provincial agricultural sector. I’m lucky that I get to write about this type of research for my job but I don’t often do a good enough job of sharing this information with people who work outside the ag industry.

So here are some highlights of seven research projects funded by Saskatchewan agriculture organizations.

Can flaxseed replace your heart medication?

One researcher thinks so!

Dr. Grant Pierce of Manitoba’s St. Boniface Hospital has already completed a study that showed that eating flaxseed regularly can decrease your diastolic and systolic blood pressure more, or as effectively, as hypertensive medication can.

Isn’t that amazing!

Dr. Pierce is currently completing follow-up research that aims to determine if people can actually replace their heart medications with flaxseed and if yes, how much they would need to eat every day in order for it to be effective.

Learn more about Dr. Grant Pierce’s research.

Can flax play a role in treating/reversing multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis affects a disproportionately high number of people in our province, which is partially why one neuroscience researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Adil Nazarali, was interested in researching treatments for it.

Dr. Nazarli began a project to test whether a very controlled diet of flaxseed oil could help treat/reverse symptoms of multiple sclerosis. His hypothesis was that a diet with a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids could lead to better brain health. (Currently the average human diet in Western countries contains 10 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.).

This research is ongoing and there is hopes it will ramp up in coming years.

Note: In very sad news, Dr. Nazarali passed away in April of last year. Read about his remarkable career here.

Can lentils treat infertility in women?

Infertility is a heartbreaking problem that is believed to affect up to 15% of Canadian couples. And in many cases, the cause is unknown.

But one researcher is exploring whether pulses could help treat this growing problem!

In 2011, University of Saskatchewan Nutrition Professor Dr. Gordon Zello started testing whether pulse consumption could help treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that affects women and can cause infertility. (It’s thought to affect about one in ten women.)

Dr. Zello tested this by measuring the effects of a pulse-based diet (including lentils, chickpeas and beans) on women affected by PCOS versus a regular healthy diet.

The research just wrapped up last year and the results showed that the pulse-based diet was more effective in improving the overall health of women with PCOS, which means that a diet containing regular amounts of lentils could help women fight infertility. Amazing!

Can peas help treat childhood obesity?

One researcher at the University of Florida, Dr. Wendy Dahl, was interested in exploring the role that pea hull fibre could play in treating childhood obesity, the rates of which have nearly tripled in the last three decades, according to the Canadian government.

Dr. Dahl’s study is examining how effective a tool pea hull fibre, which is a more effective laxative than other fibres on the market, can be in treating constipation and suppressing appetite in obese and overweight children.

This study will wrap up this spring and could lead to big breakthroughs in treating this growing problem.

Learn more about the research here.

Oats … in your coffee!

Want to feel a little better about what you’re putting in your coffee each morning? One University of Alberta researcher, Dr. Lingyun Chen, wants to help. She is currently working on developing a coffee creamer made with … wait for it … OATS.

The oat-based coffee additive will contain protein, beta-glucan and probiotics and will also be lactose-free.

Sound original? It is – this would be the first product of its kind on the market.

If everything goes according to plan you can expect to see this product on the market in coming years!

Can oats help increase quality of life for radiation patients?

Dr. Chen must really love oats because she is also exploring the role that they can play in helping to improve the quality of life for people undergoing radiation therapy. To do this, she is developing an oat-based drink specifically for cancer patients.

Why oats? Because they are high in beta-glucan and protein – both of which are recommended for cancer patients.

Why a liquid? Because a ready-to-drink formula is easier to consume for cancer patients who have difficulty swallowing foods.

This research is currently ongoing and is expected to wrap up next June.

Barley CAN help lower your cholesterol

Several studies have been done in the past testing the link between barley consumption and heart health.

These studies produced enough evidence to satisfy Health Canada that there is a positive relationship between the two, which is why it approved a health claim for barley in 2016.

Now in Canada, foods that contain at least one gram of beta-glucan from barley grain products per serving (which equals 35% of the recommended daily serving) can indicate on their labels that they are heart healthy.

Unfortunately that claim is not good for our favourite use of barley – the kind that comes on tap at your local pub.

Learn more about Health Canada’s claim


You can learn more about all the research being funded by local agriculture organizations by visiting their respective websites.



How to do a meaningful closet cleanse in three steps


Last month I moved and it was painful.

Not only because moving is an overwhelming job (especially with a newborn, right before Christmas) but also because it forced me to confront the shameful reality of how many clothes I have.

Way more than I need. Especially now that I work from home, have an infant that barfs on everything I wear anyways, and am at a stage of my life where I can admit that some trends were just a bit too “fun” for me (ie. the acid wash jean vest that I held on to for approximately ten years and wore once. With a belt.).

Because of this I have decided that my January project, in an effort to live more meaningfully and thoughtfully, would be a meaningful closet cleanse.

I did some research on steps I could take to feel better about my wardrobe and here’s what I came up with. I hope this information helps you too.

1. Cleanse and donate somewhere responsible.

In the past, I would routinely go through my closet, dump all the clothes I didn’t wear anymore into a garbage bag, and then drop it in my closest clothing bin without even considering who I was donating to and why.

I’ve since decided this process is almost as bad as the mindless shopping that brought me to my current problem in the first place.

After doing some research I feel better choosing a donation program that supports a cause I believe in and is managed transparently.

Here are a couple options I would recommend to you.

Dress for Success

Why I like this option:

This is an international not-for-profit (with offices in Regina and Saskatoon) that supports women by providing them with professional clothing and other supports to help them be successful in work and life. What a great cause, especially at this critical time for the women’s movement.

How to donate:

They accept clothing donations that are appropriate for the workplace: suits, skirts and tops, accessories such as shoes, boots, purses, scarves, and jewelry, and outer wear such as coats, hats, gloves, bags. It’s also important that the donations are still in current style and in good condition (they discard donations with stains, rips, tears, pilling, etc.)

Side note: I’m actually collecting clothing donations for them until the end of February! Ladies: feel free to drop your suitable donations off with me before then and I will wash, sort, drop them for you.  

Your local shelter/homeless outreach program

Why I like this option:

Unlike the donation bin programs, with these programs donations generally go directly to these who need them without a middle man.

For example, Regina’s Soul’s Harbour Rescue Mission collects donations right at their clothing store, where it then gets sorted by volunteers and given away to people in need. A related note about Soul’s Harbour – my husband and I have volunteered in their soup kitchen before and they are a wonderful organization with very hard working, dedicated staff.

How to donate:

For Soul’s Harbour, just drop your donation off at 1836 Halifax Street (in the Gerri Carroll Hope Centre) Monday to Friday from 12:30-3:30PM.

Clothing donation bins

Community Living

Why I like this option:

They really are convenient (donations bins seem to be everywhere) and the vast majority of proceeds from clothing donations support the Saskatchewan Association For Community Living, an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities live ordinary and fulfilled day-to-day lives and become included and valued members of society. (Community Living retains some of the proceeds to cover their operational costs.)

Locations of their drop-off bins

Diabetes Canada

Why I like this option:

Simply because diabetes is becoming everyone’s issue. You probably know someone affected by the disease (the Canadian government estimates that approximately two million Canadians have it) and it is a rising cost for Canadians (the government also estimates the disease costs us up to $9 billion a year). Therefore, by donating your clothes to Diabetes Canada, you can feel like you are somehow helping a major, growing national problem.

Locations of their drop-off bins

Note: Both Community Living and Diabetes Canada partner with Value Village to run their clothing donation programs. The respective organizations collect donations and sell them to Value Village, which pays for them by the volume.

Value Village has been criticized recently for not being as “charitable” as it alleges to be and for overstating how much of its proceeds from direct donations are passed on to the charities it supports. If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article about this. This is why I wouldn’t recommend donating directly to Value Village and instead donating via the organizations mentioned above. But make up your own mind about what’s important to you!

Salvation Army

Why I like this option:

Salvation Army operates its own thrift stores and proceeds from these thrift stores go towards supporting the organization’s great programs, including homeless shelters, women’s shelters, disaster relief, camps, etc.

I also like that this clothing donation program has an emphasis on recycling. According to the organization, in 2016/17 their donation programs helped divert 73,339,300 lbs. of used clothing, household items, and furniture from local landfills. Their recycling efforts also encompass clothing and materials that can’t be re-sold – these items are sold and re-used for other purposes overseas.

Note: Some critics will argue that selling non-usable clothing to developing countries is worse than just throwing it out because it undermines local, community businesses and because of the environmental impact of shipping items abroad. Again, I encourage you to make up your own mind about these issues before donating here.

Locations of their drop-off bins

2. Pick a uniform and invest in responsible, high-quality clothing.

I recently watched a Ted Talk about how to create a ten-item wardrobe.

Ten items may be a bit of a stretch but the basic premise was do-able: invest in a strategic collection of fewer, high-quality items rather than many low-quality items.

What are high-quality items? Items that will not only survive wear and tear but will also survive fashion trends. Many of the brands we know and love these days are criticized for perpetrating “fast fashion,” which means they turn our lower quality clothing with faster turnover, a process designed to get you to buy more, more often. Some brands that are most notorious for this are Zara, Forever21, H&M and Joe Fresh.

Avoiding fast fashion means you will be paying more for high quality items. In order to help you make sound investments, decide on an “uniform” look, or an outfit/colour scheme you feel comfortable in and that suits your body and style. This will limit your criteria for shopping and will keep your wardrobe tight.

I found this practice useful. My “uniform” these days is skinny jeans or leggings and a long top (that can be barfed on several times a day by my aforementioned adorable child). Not only did this idea help me decide which clothes to donate, it also makes getting dressed in the morning about a 30-second affair. Win/win!

3. Don’t shop emotionally.

Maybe the most important part of this whole cleanse for me was understanding the fundamental reasons my wardrobe got to be so big in the first place.

I’m a rational person and generally a conservative consumer. So why do I buy more clothes than I need?

Because for me (and for more people) shopping is emotional. Anyone who’s taken an entry level marketing class knows that we shop to fulfill basic human needs, encompassing everything from desires for belonging, self-esteem, youth and self-actualization (here’s a little refresher, courtesy of Wikipedia.) For example, my thought process ten years ago might have been something like this: If I buy this jean vest, I will become younger, more attractive, confident, carefree, etc. I bought the dream.

Just understanding the emotional underlay of why/how we shop was important for me. If I know I’m going to shop emotionally I can put the proper limits in place. Now I have a rule that I will only go shopping when I need an item that fits into my uniform and I will only buy that one item.

Note: I also have a personal rule against buying anything from online ads – they are expertly designed to prey on your most vulnerable impulses!


In conclusion: I am not purporting to be anywhere near where I should be in terms of only having what I need. However, taking these small steps has helped me to live a bit more thoughtfully and meaningfully.

I hope this information helps you too!



Crafting a brand new industry

Originally published in Grainews, October 2017

People in Saskatchewan are thirsty for a new kind of beer. Saskatchewan’s craft beer sector has been growing steadily in recent years and one brewer says the future continues to looks bright. “We just view it as nothing but untapped potential, especially for Saskatchewan,” says Mark Heise, president and CEO of Regina’s Rebellion Brewery, one …

Read the entire article

Get on board

Originally published in PulsePoint June 2016

Two years ago, Trent Richards felt that southern Saskatchewan pulse farmers were dealing with emerging issues related to pulse and soybean production, and that Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) could benefit from input from growers in his area. And he decided to do something about it.

“There are a lot of people who talk but are  not willing to do anything about it,” says Richards, who farms in the Assiniboia area. “My theory is to get active.” Richards put his name forward as a candidate for SPG’s 2015 elections and officially became a Board member in January 2016.

Read the entire article

Many benefits to a diverse crop rotation

Originally published in The WheatField March 2017
As we head into a new growing season, many farmers in Saskatchewan are wondering how they can avoid having another year like the last.
And one of the most common pieces of advice is one we’ve heard before … and will again.
“The most important thing is diversity,” says Clark Brenzil, the Provincial Weed Control Specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “Diversity of crops, and diversity of management of those crops.”

Measuring our IYP impact

Originally published in PulsePoint magazine March 2017

International Year of Pulses (IYP) has drawn to a close, and the big question on everyone’s minds is, how much of an impact did it have?
While some of the work is still wrapping up and some of the numbers are still trickling in, early results and indicators look great.
“I think the year has been success beyond all of our wildest imagination,” says Robynne
Anderson, whose company, Emerging Ag Inc., administered international activities
for IYP on behalf of the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC).

The newest in pulses

Originally published in Grainews, January 30, 2017

Pulse breeders at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC) are constantly working on developing new varieties with improved yield, disease and weed resistance and tolerance, and other desirable attributes. They are also constantly working on getting these new varieties tested and into the hands of Saskatchewan growers as soon as they are ready.

Read the entire article