I often acknowledge how my time away from Saskatchewan has inspired a newfound appreciation for the province. That said, my rejuvenated outlook is by no means the result of any hardships faced on my journey. Having moved to Toronto, then Vancouver, I never strayed from a first-world existence. I always felt safe, supported and as financially secure as someone with student debt could feel. Even so, Saskatchewan brandishes an open-invitation philosophy that I have yet to find elsewhere. I could only imagine the impact our province would have on those seeking refuge from corrupt or war-torn nations.
Such was the case for Dr. Rana Mustafa, a food scientist who moved to Saskatoon from Syria in 2016 along with her son, Anas Mohamad (10), and daughter, Sana (17). The opportunity to immigrate arose in the form of a job offer from the University of Saskatchewan. Although this was one of many offers from around the world extended her way, the final decision seemed like a no-brainer given Saskatchewan’s legacy in regards to agriculture and food science. The Mustafas are now living a life that was deemed unimaginable prior to her decision. Anas is on multiple recreational sports teams while Sana expresses interest in photography and has recently begun post-secondary education - sharing the U of S campus with her mother. Ultimately, the family is overwhelmed by the constant sensation of security – something that Saskatchewanians often take for granted.
Dr. Mustafa is also grateful for the road this has paved for her professionally. She is granted the opportunity to continue the research she began in Syria shortly after completing her PhD in France. Her thesis was on the creation of new food colorants, and she strives to incorporate strictly local products in her work. In Saskatchewan, she not only has a safe environment to further this research, but she has a much larger pool of local resources to pull from.
The ingredient at the center of Dr. Mustafa’s work in Saskatchewan is the flax seed – something we can offer in full supply. Her mission is to find new food formulations that use flax in a way that accommodates the demand of modern consumers. She does so by creating vegan and health-conscious alternatives using flax as a base ingredient. Prairie Tide Diversified has capitalized on Dr. Mustafa’s innovative use of this agricultural staple and has collaborated with her and the University of Saskatchewan to put more flax-based products in the market.
Dr. Mustafa has obtained permanent residency in Canada and hopes to stay in Saskatchewan the rest of her life. I can safely say that the addition of the Mustafas and their contributions to Saskatchewan’s culinary development only further solidifies our status as the most welcoming place on earth.