Agrology hits the stage

Forage specialist combines ag information and theatre to educate in a fun — and furry way

Nadia Mori divides her time between working as a forage specialist and performing as a budding actress on the stage of Saskatoon’s Greystone Theatre.

“The more I got into the fine arts of acting degree, I was looking for options how I could merge those two passions, because ultimately that’s what I hope to do,” said Mori.

She was recently awarded the Outstanding Young Agrologist Award for 2016 and doesn’t know where her career is going to take her.

“The job that I’m looking for is maybe something I need to create, but I think it’s possible.”

Mori moved to Saskatchewan in 2002 from her family farm in Kallnach, Switzerland, to become a veterinarian.

Instead, she finished with a bachelor of science in agriculture and a masters in science in rangeland ecology.

Mori works in Watrous as regional forage specialist for the province while she completes her fourth year of drama studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

She is certain her newfound education is making her a better agrologist. “I can bring a lot back, the playwriting experience, I get voice training so hopefully that helps me in presentations… [My] skills have really changed and it seems in a better way.”

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Mori took a playwriting course in her second year and it was very influential. She witnessed a collaboration of the Global Institute for Water Security with the drama department to create a new way to educate and involve the public. The play Downstream was created and showed dramatized viewpoints of water security in the Saskatchewan River basin. It encouraged audience engagement and gathered focus group feedback.

“I thought you know it is possible to take facts and information and make a play of it.”

Mori came to the realization that she could make her own play with the information she gathers for producers as a forage specialist.

“I always felt there should be better ways to teach producers or to build awareness on certain issues like noxious wheat management and/or when you should be cutting your hay to get maximum quality of forage and usually you go out you do a PowerPoint presentation or you talk in a field workshop and I thought maybe we could do a little kind of mini-play.”

She began working on a few pieces with her puppet Alfie. Alfie would travel to all of Mori’s meetings and would talk to producers about the best time to cut alfalfa for forage management.

“We all like to be entertained whether big or small, that’s what I really found. I would love to do it more for producers with different characters.”

She said the farmers she has talked to have liked the alternative to the usual PowerPoint presentations. A silly song is easy to remember and farmers walk away telling Mori that the information will be remembered and they like the unusual approach.

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“It’s the twelve-year-old in me that always dreamt of being out there and entertaining people and teaching people things… It can take them away sometimes for two hours they can just be absorbed in something else… I think it’s a really powerful tool to teach a lot of people things.”

Mori plans to expand her audience to children. Agriculture Awareness is everywhere in Saskatchewan and children’s plays would fit right into government initiatives such as ThinkAg and Agriculture in the Classroom.

“A lot of children are growing up away from the farm and really don’t know where their food is coming from anymore so I think that’s a great opportunity for me, especially in terms of native range appreciation.”

Mori has a few plots in mind for informative and engaging classroom fun. “I got the idea of using a little girl puppet and talk about; she went out on native prairie and all the amazing things that she saw out there like different plants, the species at risk or what the different plants were doing, and the litter and the soil and all those kind of things.”

The plot is a true reflection of Mori’s pursuits. She is on the board of directors for the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan and has guided the annual Sask-atchewan Pasture Tour in 2012 and the Native Prairie Appreciation Week Tour in 2015.

“We have 10 different forage specialists in the province and we all have our unique niches and ways we go about the job. I think for me it was an important thing to recognize is not to be afraid to be different.”

Nadia will be performing in “With Glowing Hearts” in production at The PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival this summer.

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Contact tennessa.wild@producer.com