Jennifer Sutherland never thought she would have gained so much knowledge about farming in Saskatchewan.
She credits her role at the Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation (SIEF) for her educational experiences.
Now in her fifth year as Agricultural Accounts Officer at SIEF, Sutherland is responsible for helping her clients secure loans that will be used for purchasing seed or cattle or machinery for farm use.
“People starting their own farms is not as common as some would think because of the costs involved,” Sutherland said.
She added that a lot of her clients are content with operating a small hobby farm, but require financial aid for upkeep because it’s a family-owned property that has been passed through several generations.
Despite not having an agricultural background, Sutherland is well-versed is all aspects of farming. She knows the price for a head of cattle and typically when calving season is in full swing. Thanks to her knowledge of the current market for cattle, fuel, seed and machinery, Sutherland is a trusted voice for her clients.
Though much of her insight can be attributed to her clients.
“I had never been to a farm before I started working (at SIEF),” Sutherland said. “I’ve driven past a lot of farms when I’ve been out on the highways, but I’ve never seen one up close.”
“I’m very grateful to my clients. If I ever had a question, they would educate me on processes for breeding season or seeding, those sorts of thing. It was a steep learning curve for me, but thankfully I have some really great clients who helped me along the way.”
Sutherland said she regularly visits her clients’ farms across the province as part of her job. She’ll meet with clients, especially during the summer months, when the pace of farming has slowed and crops and livestock are in the growing stages.
While she’s appreciative of all of her clients, there’s one that always brings a smile to her face.
One client in northern Saskatchewan, who grew up on a small farm and had a modest cattle herd, encountered financial struggles because he was a small operator and couldn’t easily afford new machinery and equipment.
Sutherland said she helped him grow his herd to the point where he was in position to buy a brand new haybine fresh off a dealership lot.
“He was so unbelievably exited,” Sutherland remembers. “He was so happy that day that the dealership where he bought (the haybine) called to tell me they had never dealt with someone who was so kind and so happy.”
Sutherland said this client invited her to his farm to show off his newest and proudest piece of machinery.
She said she tries to visit her clients at least twice a month, depending on her workload in the office.
“My job has been really rewarding for me,” she said. “My clients are such amazing people. They’re very down to earth and kind and generous. They invite me into their homes and introduce me to their kids and tell me about their grandchildren.”
“It doesn’t get much better than that.”