Starting at the turn of the 20th century and through the 1920s, the Federal Agricultural Research Stations and the College of Agriculture at the U of S conducted vigorous extension programs aimed at helping immigrant farmers who had come to the Canadian prairies to own land and engage in dryland farming. Those farmers faced enormous challenges managing their dryland farms. They needed appropriate science-based knowledge and suitable prairie-based production techniques in order to succeed.
The initial idea of the profession of agrology started in the drought years of the mid-1930s as a means of protecting farmers. Professors and scientists from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) and the Federal Government Research Stations were concerned about the quality of information being provided to farmers who were facing serious hardship in their operations. Similar situations were occurring in Quebec resulting in the first legislation forming the Ordre des agronomes du Québec in 1937.
During the 1940s, agriculture became even more important in order to feed war-torn Europe, which gained additional momentum in the post-war years. The need and demand for appropriate science-based extension to farmers increased. It became imperative that the agri-food sector be protected from those who were not trained or qualified to provide knowledge and sound advice about agriculture production.
Dr. J.B. Harrington of the College of Agriculture coined the term “agrologist” as the name for this new profession. It came from the Greek words “agros” for field or tilled land, and “logist” for scientist. The name quickly gained acceptance and was widely adopted across Canada.
Today's Agrologists - 75 Years Later
Today there are over 1,900 Agrologists practicing in Saskatchewan in every facet of the agriculture and related environmental sectors. SIA ensures the competent and ethical practice of its registrants in support of the public interest.
Development of Institute and the Profession of Agrology
Through the coordination of the Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturalists, the forerunner of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, national discussions were initiated. However, it was the leadership of Dr. L.B. Thomson, Head of the Swift Current Research Station, and key leaders at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Agriculture, including Dr. J.B Harrington, John Mitchell, and J.G Rayner that led the initiative culminating in 1946 when the Government of Saskatchewan passed legislation for the second Institute of Agrologists in Canada following the Quebec model. This enshrined agrology as a regulated profession in the same manner as accounting, engineering, law and medicine. This was closely followed by Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba passing similar provincial legislation by 1950.
Employers of Agrologists
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture was one of the first institutions to embrace the profession. In order to protect the agri-food industry (the public), the Ministry required those “practicing agrology” as defined by the Act be registered with the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (the “SIA”). Today, the Ministry of Agriculture is the largest employer of agrologists in Saskatchewan, followed by the University of Saskatchewan, accounting for about 20% of registered members. The other 80% are employed across the agri-food industry and within the natural resource and environmental protection sectors.
The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources is a leading agricultural research and teaching institution. The College has more than 1,150 under-graduate and over 350 graduate students that are prepared to serve the public as agrologists. The College aims to serve the sustainable production, food safety and environmental protection concerns and needs of society.