As long as you’re growing: Two RJC graduates share about their lives on different ends of the agriculture spectrum

Jun 11, 2021 | Alumni & Friends Story

For many students the outdoor education class at RJC was fun, memorable and character building. But for most, the skills aren’t ones they now use in their everyday life. For Emily Hand (2002), however, that is exactly what happened.

These days, the best words to describe Emily’s life are homesteader and outdoorswoman. She and her family live in Rosthern, but she has farm plots with different crops at friends’ homes and acreages. She also hunts, traps and fishes, and raises meat rabbits at their home. “A lot of those things that I do are considered hobbies for some folks,” she says, “but I’ve made it so that it actually sustains my family.”

While it’s not a traditional form of agriculture, this life is one she’s been drawn to since childhood. “That draw to provide from the land started from a really young age,” she says. “I always had this fantasy of providing for myself and cutting out that middle person.” Through farming and hunting, Emily is able to provide most of the food her family eats. She has developed a market in town for the meat rabbits and sells the fur she gets from trapping.

At the other end of the agriculture spectrum is Ian Epp, another RJC grad (2009).

Ian grew up farming, and even while he was at RJC he would go home and help out after school. After graduation he went to the University of Saskatchewan and got a bachelor of science in agriculture. As he was finishing up his degree he also started up his own canola farm, renting land outside of the city and commuting back and forth. “I usually joke, but it’s actually pretty accurate, that my university marks were dependent on how fast we wrapped up harvest,” he says. “If there was a fast harvest, I was a pretty good student, if we were combining due midterms in November, I wasn’t quite as good of a student.”

Today he has dual roles in the ag world, he continues to run his own farm, but also works as a teaching agronomist for the Canola Council of Canada. In the winter months he spends a lot of time travelling (pre-pandemic at least) teaching farmers and other agronomists about the latest research and helping to improve harvests.

Ian finds the two parts of his work inform each other and provide balance in his life. He enjoys the plant science side, looking at fields and trying to solve problems. But when giving advice to farmers he has the perspective of someone who’s also running their own farm.

While both Ian and Emily are practicing very different kinds of agriculture, both are members of the Rosthern Agricultural Society.

Both recently participated in a video that highlights agriculture in the Rosthern community and also shows the diversity of farming that members do. Emily says while there are different kinds of farmers in the society, everyone’s work is welcome. “You can do this at any size, or any scale, or you can take it any direction, as long as you’re growing.”

When they think about the connections between their time at RJC and the lives they’re living now, both Ian and Emily see a lasting impact. Emily still thinks about the skills she learned in the outdoor ed class at RJC. “Because I work as an outdoorswoman, the outdoor ed class, I still refer to it,” she says. “That was a class that I felt was preparing me for something later.”

For Ian his time at RJC helped broaden his world view, specifically the Alternative Learning and Service Opportunity (ALSO) trip to Guatemala and travel to inner cities in Winnipeg and Saskatoon. “For a small town farm boy that was very much an eye opening experience,” he says, to see people who didn’t always have enough to eat or struggled to sustain their families. Now as someone who grows food that is exported around the world, he thinks about the people who will be eating it. “That is something that sticks in the back of my mind,” he says. “I’m not going to see those people, but you know that at the end of the day I’m feeding people. That’s something that inspires you to get up in the morning.”


RJC is currently working in partnership with the Rosthern Ag Society to develop a video showcasing the diversity of agriculture in the Rosthern community, of which Emily Hand and Ian Epp are involved. Stay tuned to the RJC website for more information regarding this video.