Running crop trials and studying their results have taken up the summers of two local college and university students.
Claire Hyatt, who's currently studying at Carleton University and Confederation College student Nicholas Donaldson, are both spending another summer at the Emo Agricultural Research Station (EARS), under the direction of crop research technician, Kim Jo Bliss.
It's Donaldson's sixth summer at the station, having started in 2013 when he began studying for his English Degree at the University of Guelph and has worked there every year since except for 2017.
“I love working outside throughout the summer and much prefer it to being inside an office,” he noted.
“I have been lucky to have some pretty great coworkers so most of my highlights from my time there are from the people I work/worked with and all the fun we have working at the station.”
Donaldson is in his final year of school, making this summer at the station his last.
He said working for Bliss has always been a treat and he will definitely miss her and his co-worker Hyatt, when their work is complete for the season.
“She is very community-focused and has shared a bunch of stories about her myriad volunteering experiences,” Donaldson remarked.
“The station is a sort of community hub with different visitors all the time chatting with Kim Jo and it has taught me a lot about the Rainy River District.”
Hyatt, who's worked there three years, has been a great co-worker and is well-educated in her role. This has been a great help, according to Donaldson.
“Last summer was definitely one of the best because the three of us work really well together,” he remarked.
Hyatt said working with Donaldson and Bliss is the favourite part of her job, as well.
“We get along really well, and all of our work goes smoothly," she lauded. "We're like a well-oiled machine; we each have parts to do and we know when to do them.”
So far, all of the major trials are currently planted and Donaldson said he's focused on planting the big demonstration blocks of grain to fill out the rest of the land.
“Soon we will be cutting laneways in our trials so you can see the individual varieties, making signs for the trials, and just generally keeping the place tidy,” he remarked.
During Donaldson's time working at EARS, he said one of the key things he's learned was just how vast the farming community is, particularly in the west end of the district.
“I grew up helping out on my grandfather's beef farm in Devlin, so I was aware of the agricultural aspect of the district. But it wasn't until I was working at the station and meeting all the grain farmers and touring the area, that I really realized how important agriculture is to our district," he remarked. "Something most people may not realize.”
One of the biggest challenges Donaldson said they face at EARS is the unpredictability of the weather.
“It may be cliched to say while working in agriculture, but you are always at the mercy of Mother Nature,” he noted.
Hyatt said they never complain when it's too hot at EARS but precipitation certainly poses a challenge.
“Some weeks it's really dry, but like last week, it was super wet and we couldn't get out on the field,” she recalled.
In contrast, one of the most rewarding parts of working at EARS is watching the crops grow and seeing how different varieties grow differently, according to Hyatt.
She told the Times she also enjoys the job's social aspect.
“I think it's really rewarding to get to know so many people in the district," Hyatt said. ”There are different people every week that stop by and we all get to know them and try to help them out with their questions.
“It's made me feel so included with more aspects of the district,” she added.
This time of the year, most of Hyatt's days at EARS consist of mowing grass and getting any final seeds planted.
She said they painted the floor inside of the research station last week and it looks great.
Some of the important things Hyatt learned during her time at EARS is how to drive a tractor, how to tell the difference between wheat, oats, and barley, and how to conduct crop research.
She's in her last year of university and is unsure whether she will return to school or if this will be her last year at EARS. Regardless, she plans to make the most of her time there while she can.
“I have one year left of university, but I'm not sure what I will be doing when I can't be a summer student anymore,” Hyatt explained.
“I hope I can take some of my knowledge into my future [with] whatever I will be doing.”
Looking ahead EARS will be gearing up for their open house on July 25 at 7 p.m. where everyone from the district is invited to learn about the research being done at the station.