Saskatchewan Horticulturist Honoured

August 2013

The Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame has recognized agricultural leaders for 43 years. Honourees have during their time in Saskatchewan made significant and outstanding contributions to the welfare and improvement of agriculture and to a better way of life for the farmer and farm families on the land.

This year's induction ceremony was held on August 4 at the Western Development Museum, home of the Saskatchewan Hall of Fame. Our own Sara Williams was recognized for her years of work promoting horticulture and gardening in both urban and rural Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Perennial Society was proud to have nominated Sara for this prestigious award and thank the Saskatoon Horticultural Society and the Centre for Continuing & Distance Education, University of Saskatchewan for cosponsoring the nomination.

Although Sara came to horticulture relatively late in life, her volume of work is impressive and reaches across the prairie provinces and beyond. Sara earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan in 1987 and completed a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Extension in 1997. From 1989 to 2001 she was the University of Saskatchewan Extension Specialist in Horticulture where she developed programs to support Saskatchewan Gardeners and the horticulture industry. She brought courses and workshops to rural Saskatchewan through correspondence but mostly through outreach and actual in-person workshops to rural communities - a real rarity these days.

During her time at the University she wrote her award winning book "Creating the Prairie Xeriscape", which was updated and revised in 2013 to include a much expanded section on landscaping and a more extensive list of drought-tolerant plants. For those of you unfamiliar with the word Xeriscape, to quote Sara: :The principles of Xeriscape gardening have been used by many prairie gardeners for years. They include: water conservation, improving soil quality, reducing lawn area and using drought-tolerant grasses, efficient irrigation, proper mulching, and appropriate plant selection." Sara knows of which she speaks. She gardens on 5 acres of sand in Grasswood near Saskatoon with minimal irrigation.

Even though Sara is retired from the University, she continues to visit both urban and rural areas for speaking engagements upon request, she usually provides some workshops during HORTWEEK at the University of Saskatchewan and with Hugh Skinner has written several books the most recent being "Gardening Naturally" a chemical-free handbook for the Prairies.

Closer to home, Sara was one of the founding members of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society and has contributed greatly to its success over the last twenty years. She continues to write articles for our weekly column on a regular basis and often gets called upon to give presentations for our winter information sessions.

But Sara is more than horticulture. In the early 60s, she joined the Peace Corps and worked in Tanzania as a teacher. Tanzania is a country that has never left her heart - Sara has for decades supported the Canadian Harambee Education Society. One of the society's goals is to improve access for rural Tanzanian girls to high school by providing them with scholarships. Since 2008, Sara, with the generous help from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers, has raised enough money to construct a hostel complete with a large kitchen garden for 80 girls attending secondary school.

Congratulations Sara on your induction into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame.