Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Samuel Hoffe

Samuel Hoffe, Essay Contest Winner in the First-Year Category for English 115, 2021-2022

Samuel Hoffe

In the Fall of 2021, Samuel Hoffe was enrolled in Liam Young’s English 115 class because he believed that he could “use a refresher in academic writing.”  In many ways, Samuel is grateful that he did.  Not only was it a worthwhile course, but he also won an award for his essay, “Agrarian Contrarian:  The Fate of Native Grasslands in an Age of Agricultural Reckoning.”  Unlike the “dry, esoteric, inaccessible and not properly contextualized” texts so often peddled in English courses (beyond VIU, obviously), those in Liam Young’s English 115 class engaged Samuel deeply.  Primarily, the complex and ongoing conversations about the politics and ethics of “food” around the globe inspired his essay. 

In the essay, Samuel begins by sharing some observations about his time spent in Grasslands National Park in the summer of 2021. The essay goes on to “highlight the fact that native grasslands are one of our most critically endangered ecosystems in Canada and we only have an infinitesimal fraction of them remaining.”  Inevitably, this loss—due in large part to a complex interplay between colonialist practices and the industrial agricultural food system—requires not only our immediate attention, but our solutions, some of which the essay explores.

In an interesting twist of fate, Samuel shares that being in Grasslands was quite literally an accident (a fact he doesn’t share in the essay).  He had already accepted a position doing fieldwork in Alberta, but due to a skiing accident he couldn’t pursue the position.  He went to Saskatchewan with his father instead and reports that “visiting Grasslands was especially poignant for me because when I visited, I too [like the Grasslands themselves] was quite very fragile and still healing.”

Before pursuing his interest in natural resource management, he completed a Bachelor of Design in photography at the Alberta University of the Arts and you can find his work here:  Currently, he is finishing his Resource Management Officer Technology diploma at VIU, and so suggests a couple of related and inspired texts among his list of favourites.  He recommends Mary Oliver’s Devotions and Sigurd F. Olson’s The Singing Wilderness.  More broadly, he is a major fan of Taylor Sheridan’s American Frontier Trilogy (Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River). 

In a good bout of advice to all students, but perhaps English ones in particular, Samuel advocates for personal investment in one’s subject matter.  Not only does this investment make research more enjoyable, but it also makes one more open to change as “your research and as your writing take shape.”

As Samuel eloquently puts it, “Learning how to communicate in not just a concise, grammatically correct way, but an innovative and captivating one – finding a way to say something that truly conveys an idea – is an impressive feat.”