(September 17, 2014) After the partial privatization of the legendary 113 year old Indian Head Tree Farm run by Agriculture Canada (rebranded as the Agro-forestry Development Centre some years ago) scientists, staff, and the Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Indian Head raised the alarm earlier this summer that the new private sector operator had allowed thousands of tree seedlings to be overtaken by weeds. As anyone who has planted a perennial garden or miles of shelterbelts knows, once weeds get established the work of years can be undone in a season.

former managers of the Agroforestry Development Centre at Indian Head on July 22, 2014. Photograph by: Bruce johnstone , Regina Leader-Post

former managers of the Agroforestry Development Centre at Indian Head on July 22, 2014.
Photograph by: Bruce Johnstone , Regina Leader-Post

This moved the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) to issue an anguished news release on the subject. A few days later they withdrew their new release’s contentious characterization of the privatized working conditions at the Indian Head Research Station tree nursery among the volunteer staff.  It is notable nobody has withdrawn observations on the poor stewardship of the Tree Farm under privatization.  After all why should they?  The weeds choking thousands of tree seedlings speak for themselves.

No doubt the passion of the PSAC workers comes from a deep sense of the importance of the Tree Nursery and its place in western Canada.  Canadian historian James Gray wrote Men Against The Desert about that heroic struggle to preserve and enhance the ecology of the dry prairies through the planting of shelter belts.

When you drive anywhere in the rural west you can see evidence of that heroism and selflessness in the shelterbelts which are still so common.  Remember the farmers who spent years of hot summers watering those little sticks and keeping them weed free so they could grow to maturity had no expectation of benefitting from those plantings.  They were doing so for the benefit of the next and future generations.

The staff at the tree farm was part of that bigger project – a project bigger than any individual lifetime and a project which recognized the obligation of one generation to the next.

So to see generations of work compromised by the invincible irrationality of the Federal Agriculture Minister’s pogrom against those values makes this farmer seethe, so I can only guess at the restraint shown by the PSAC people and I can sympathize with their concerns.

Urban people have almost no conception of the extent of the vandalism of basic agricultural resources, like tree farms and research stations, not to mention the privatization of the wheat genome now almost completed by the Federal Agriculture Minister.

To see the work of generations destroyed by the group of zealots now occupying Ottawa demonstrates the fragility of the Canadian state and its unwillingness to do what those heroic prairie farmers and the government workers who supplied generations of shelterbelt trees did so well – look to the future.

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