INSIDERSSeed Health & TestingWhy we Turned our Boardroom into an Elementary School

Why we Turned our Boardroom into an Elementary School


Never in my wildest dreams did I think our lab would become an elementary school.

Here in Alberta we recently had 16 schools experience outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. That’s a concern for many, including several of our employees with young school-age children.

The safety of our staff is paramount. If our staff and their families aren’t healthy, we put one another at risk. By extension, we put our customers at risk, both in terms of reduced service and in potential exposure to the virus.

So, with everyone’s best interests in mind, we recently hired tutor Brianna Moore, a trained child psychologist and speech pathologist, to teach up to 11 children in what used to be our boardroom.

It’s funny to think of our Nisku location as a rural schoolhouse. At one time, one-room rural schoolhouses operated all over the province, as they did in every other province in Canada. As urbanization picked up speed, one by one they shut down in favour of large schools based in more populated areas.

In some ways, this represents the natural evolution of our society. As many rural villages died out, it only made sense to send children to more centralized schools. But when a virus is going around, suddenly big schools with big class sizes become a liability and put public health at stake.

The 20/20 Seed Labs boardroom is now a school.

So, as you read this, children from Grades 1-8 are being taught right here at our Nisku location. We have an area for crafts, a painting area, a kitchen for cooking classes to take place, and a reading area. The kids are in class while their parents work in our lab from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

No, we’re not in the business of educating children. That’s supposed to be the province’s job. But COVID-19 has taught us that in times like these, our kids’ futures become our own collective responsibility.

It feels strange to hear the laughter of children while we go about our workday testing seed, but it somehow feels right. Like we’ve returned to a way of life that has sadly been lost as we’ve abandoned tradition in favour of doing things the “modern” way.

At the end of the day, it’s a testament to agriculture. We can adapt to present circumstances by using the past as our guide to do what’s best for our kids in the here and now.

Sarah Foster
President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 that provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.