Kaitlin Kelly standing in a field
Kaitlin Kelly (Photo: Wilna Furstenberg)

Cultivating a rewarding career that started at USask

Alumna Kaitlin Kelly (BScRRM’14, MSc‘16) says majoring in Resource Economics and Policy was one of the best decisions she’s made.


Kaitlin Kelly’s childhood memories are full of spending days on the family farm near Assiniboia, Sask., and growing up surrounded by agriculture in and around her hometown of Swift Current, Sask. And it’s a big reason why she is drawn to the profession of agricultural economics.

“Growing up in Swift Current, agriculture was a pretty strong driving force in the local economy, and many of my friends also came from family farm backgrounds,” said Kelly. “So, I grew up with an understanding of how important agriculture is to the local economy and social fabric of rural Saskatchewan.”

Kelly first graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Renewable Resource Management from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in 2014 and in 2016 she graduated with a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics. Her thesis project looked at ways to balance economic and environmental benefits in agriculture.

“Most people who go into Renewable Resource Management choose the Resource Science major because there is a field school component in the second year where you get to do a lot of land-based learning. To be honest, I chose the Resource Economics and Policy major purely to avoid having to camp in October during the field school component,” said Kelly. “But that decision was one of the best I’ve ever made as it allowed me to discover my love for economics, and in particular resource and agricultural economics.”

Kelly now works as an economist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) where she can combine her knowledge and interests in ways that supports the industry she is passionate about.

Agricultural economics is more than just numbers

When reflecting on her research as a master’s student, Kelly is quick to highlight how important economic considerations are to the sustainability of farming in Saskatchewan.

“During my time at USask, I was working at the intersection of agricultural economics and environmental policy,” said Kelly. “I think research in this area has always been important but is becoming more important and gaining more recognition as all levels of government and industry are increasingly focused on sustainability in the agriculture sector, regenerative agriculture, and how agriculture can be part of the solution in terms of reducing GHG emissions and providing carbon sink capacity.”

Kelly said that providing the economic insight relative to sustainable agricultural practices and approaches gives producers the tools to make informed decisions about the future of their work.

“There is also a lot of interest from consumers in how their food is grown and produced. We’ve learned that sustainability and traceability attributes are increasingly important to consumers,”said Kelly. “So, this type of research on balancing economic and environmental costs and benefits in agriculture is still very important to help equip producers with the information they need to make decisions for their farm to help them meet the demand for sustainably produced food.”

A meaningful career of making projections

Working for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as an economist means looking at the data to uncover useful patterns and interpret market signals for key agricultural commodities, to produce reports and analyses that help to inform government decision making.

“I work with a team that provides projections for the agriculture sector, covering supply and disposition for the major crop and livestock sectors in Canada,” said Kelly. “We estimate changes in key economic indicators under different future scenarios in order to provide information to policymakers within the federal government.”

“Working to advance economic prosperity and stability for agricultural producers is something I find very rewarding,” said Kelly.

Kaitlin said that she was well prepared to approach her work with confidence because of the world-class education she received at USask.

“USask is recognized as one of a handful of universities in Canada that produce top-quality, specialized agricultural economists and I have found that our graduates are highly sought after,” she said. “The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is home to many wellknown and highly respected professors in that field that have strong connections both with industry and government. Those connections help introduce students into industry and government circles and can lead to career opportunities once you graduate.”

Kelly credits her thesis supervisor Dr. Ken Belcher’s (PhD) research partnership with AAFC during her graduate work for introducing her to her first job with the federal department.

“I had two co-supervisors for my thesis research—Dr. Ken Belcher from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Dr. Mohammad Khakbazan (PhD) from AAFC— which helped me to transition from the world of academic research to career opportunities with the federal government after graduation.”

She also points out that the college has developed many important partnerships with organizations and associations that ultimately provide unique benefits to students. One example she highlights is a relationship between the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (SIA).

“It allows graduates to qualify for and pursue a Professional Agrologist designation. This is a major asset when applying for jobs in the agricultural sector,” said Kelly. “Now that I am working in this sector, I am proud to be a Professional Agrologist and member of the SIA.”

And while the benefits of being a USask grad continue to help Kaitlin grow her career, she said one of the most rewarding parts is knowing she still gets to keep agriculture in the family somehow.

“I am very proud of my degrees from the University of Saskatchewan College of AgBio and proud to use those degrees to serve the agriculture industry in Saskatchewan and Canada as a public servant for AAFC,” said Kelly. “I feel as though my grandparents who farmed near Assiniboia all their lives would be proud of me, too.”


Agknowledge, Fall 2023

Article originally published at https://agbio.usask.ca

Together we will support and inspire students to succeed. We invite you to join by supporting current and future students' needs at USask.