Nurturing a new career in agriculture – Lindsay Stallman

Despite growing up with agricultural roots, Lindsay Stallman didn’t consider being a part of the industry until opportunities after university led her back to school and back to agriculture. Now the Liaison Officer for the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, Lindsay is growing a new enthusiasm for food and agriculture.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

Lindsay_small_file.pngI’m originally from Burtch, ON, a small community in Brant County. I grew up around my extended family’s variety of agricultural operations: a dairy farm, cash crop farms, an equine operation, and a zoo! Despite all this, as a teenager, with a limited idea of what it could mean to work in agriculture, I eliminated it pretty quickly as a potential career choice for me.

I attended the University of Waterloo where I earned a BA in English Language with a minor in Human Resources Management. In 2014, I moved to Alberta to accept a position at Olds College as a Student Recruitment Officer. Olds is best known for its agricultural related programs. I spent a year and a half in that role, and agriculture was suddenly a central part of my life again. I began to understand the breadth of opportunities in agriculture, especially outside of production.

In October 2015 I accepted the position of Liaison Officer at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. I am responsible for coordinating outreach for high school students, providing learning opportunities related to OAC programs, and promoting educational and career pathways related to agriculture. I feel so passionately about what I do. I didn’t expect to work in agriculture, and I think that allows me to be an even better spokesperson and ambassador for the agriculture and food sectors

Tell us about your role and what your “typical day” looks like.

One of the best things about my job is that I don’t have many ‘typical days,’ at least few of my days are exactly alike. In my job I am responsible for planning on-campus events for high school students, which includes coordinating facility tours, hands-on workshops, and lectures. I attend external events related to agriculture and food, and assist in developing new learning materials for high school students and educators. I get to work with OAC faculty from various departments and I am always learning new things from them.

How do you define personal success? What steps do you take to get there?

As someone who is still new in their career, establishing priorities, setting goals and developing a plan towards reaching them is really important. However, I don’t know that I would be as motivated or as effective if I didn’t have a job that I love. I have a unique opportunity every day to encourage and support students. I get to inspire them to consider new and exciting opportunities that they might never have considered before. For me, having personal success requires a balance in professional and personal gratification.

What’s the biggest professional/personal challenge you’ve had to face? And what did you learn from that experience?

My biggest professional challenge is probably one that many young professionals are experiencing: simply being young in the workplace. Being a young professional often results in other labels which underestimate abilities and talent. When we talk about discrimination, stereotypes and diversity in the workplace, age somehow gets thrown to the wayside. Being young should not undermine credibility. I continue to grow through this experience; what I’ve learned so far? Be professional, work hard, stand up for yourself and people will recognize your value.

Who has been your greatest influencer/mentor? What have you learned from them?

I am so lucky that this is a hard question to answer. I have an amazing family, and I have been influenced by so many incredible professionals as well. My Grandpa was one of the hardest working, most caring people I have known. He taught me to be many things, but above all showed me the importance of being honest and genuinely kind to others.

Learning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

I once missed out on a great professional opportunity because I didn’t apply for it. I really didn’t think I had a shot. The manager later approached me and asked what held me back, saying that I would have been perfect for the role. It really taught me how much a lack of self-confidence can hold me back and that I will only get opportunities if I advocate for myself.

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is bigger than most people think. It affects every person, every day, and not only because it produces the food we eat and clothes we wear. It is at the heart of Canada’s economy; it greatly impacts trade and commerce and employs 1 in 8 Canadians. Agriculture involves environmental science, food science, community development and more. It is complex and innovative in science and technology. Agriculture is exciting and evolving as we are met with new challenges every day.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?

Being at OAC allows me to learn new things from the experts every day. However, the more time I spend here the more I understand how little I know about agriculture. There are so many people at Guelph who do incredible and diverse things yet are all contributing to agriculture in different ways, addressing various kinds of questions. There are so many important topics in agriculture right now. For me, I think agriculture matters the most to the future of development and fighting poverty around the world.

What solutions, tools or processes do you think could be put in place to help advance Canadian women, and specifically Canadian women in agriculture? 

Connecting with other women in agriculture has made a big difference for me. I have been lucky to know some remarkable women and men who are committed to supporting women and making the agriculture industry an even better, and more diverse, place for women to advance in their careers.  I’m hoping to attend the Advancing Women in Ag Conference in October, and encourage women to take opportunities like that. There are support networks and incredible who are willing to share their experiences and advice.

Do you have a piece of advice for young women starting their career in agriculture?

I have been so positively influenced by the women in my life and truly believe in the value of having a strong mentor who can share their experiences, inspire you, and encourage your growth.

9 Tips to Deal with Sexism and Combat Unconscious Bias in Agriculture

Listening to Courtney Denard’s recent interview on Wendall Schumm and Christine Eisler’s podcast “Come Over Here & Say That”, I found myself smiling when Courtney said, “I don’t think there’s any point sitting around and bitching for four hours and then no one does anything about it”.

She was talking about politicians, but I couldn’t help but think about our unconscious bias discussion. We continue to hear stories of women in agriculture who have faced sexism or bias from both genders. Fortunately, the stories are being shared in good humour and to be clear, we don’t feel like we are bitching.

These stories are being shared to create awareness. Even if you’ve personally experienced sexism, it can still be hard to recognize thanks to our own biases. When you do see it though, what do you do? How should you deal with it when it happens to you?

So, to wrap up our discussion of unconscious bias and sexism, we are sharing some tips we have gathered from our members and online sources to combat the engrained stereotypes.

In short, we want to do something about this.

9 Tips to Deal with Sexism & Unconscious Bias in Agriculture

Have you faced sexism or bias? How did you deal with it? What suggestions would you have for our readers? Please share in the comments!

  1. Recognize your own biases and admit to them. It might feel uncomfortable (embarrassing or shameful even), particularly because bias is often rooted in beliefs or options.
  2. Listen. When someone has experienced bias and they share it with you, listen. Don’t try to minimize the event or find reason. Half the battle is accepting bias exists. Talk about it and don’t shy away if the conversation becomes awkward. Awkward conversations can lead to the best understanding, because you are being vulnerable in those moments and open to learning.
  3. Start at home. How we raise our children is how the next generation will see the world. You don’t have to commit to a gender-neutral environment, but you can encourage your children to play with whatever toy they wish and try activities that interest them. We have a unique opportunity in agriculture because our kids also see our work, so strive to give them equal chores inside the house and barn and compensate them equally, if you do allowance.
  4. Call It Out. Trying to teach our children equality is difficult when reps and visitors might assume differently. We have to call these situations out, as difficult as they can be. There are a couple tactics to do this. Humour can help sometimes while restating the comment as a question is another. “If I heard you correctly, you believe only my husband is capable of this task, is that correct?” Most likely they will immediate realize the error of their words.
  5. Be proactive when meeting new people. Extend your hand first, introduce yourself, give an “I” sentence or two – before they start into their introduction.  It sets a tone that you are willing to be in charge of the situation and confident about yourself.  Removing the phrase “I’m just a ….” is also important.  Whatever role you play on the farm, or off the farm, you are important.
  6. Stand together. If you’ve tried to call sexism out and it continues, there are a couple of options. Everyone deserves respect. In a workplace, report it. On the farm, you might consider asking to speak to the individual’s manager. At a minimum, agree as a business team to not work with those who don’t respect everyone on the team. The support of our partner / father / brother(s) is critical. We’re in this together.
  7. Prove ‘em wrong. Time and time again, women have mentioned the best way to earn respect from those around you is to be good at what you do and work hard. Work ethic goes a long way in this industry regardless of gender. If you’re new, ask questions to learn and your enthusiasm will be recognized.
  8. Change your language. Words like “showperson” and “chairperson” instead of “showman” and “chairman” might seem small but they are significant. Probably not many industries ask “ladies bring lunch” and neither should we. If it’s potluck, then a statement around bringing lunch will do.
  9. Help a sister out! We know women aren’t as likely to speak up in meetings or lay claim to their good work or ideas. Support each other and speak up for others in meetings or group discussions. It worked for Obama’s staffers so surely it can work at your next farmers’ meeting.

img_9437Finally, if you work in agriculture (or any industry for that matter), you can save yourself a lot of trouble by not assuming. Address everyone at the table, ask how they are involved (and consider women are more likely to downplay their role) and seek out their opinions.

Truly, reducing unconscious bias starts with ourselves. Gandhi is often quoted as saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.” I recently learned his actual words were much deeper.

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. – Mahatma Gandhi

Indeed, we can only control ourselves and in doing so, we set an example for others to follow. Reduce our own bias and be more open, and those around us will start to be more open also.

For more tips on how to deal with sexism at work, check out Feminist Fight Club. We haven’t read it yet ourselves but we loved the no-bullshit interview with Jessica Bennet, the author.

-Jen C. & Joan C.

 

Can I talk to the man in charge?

True stories about women in agriculture and their experiences with sexism, discrimination and just plain rudeness.

Late in August, our fearless Chair was asked to present to Pioneer regarding the role of women in agriculture and wanted to get some examples of unconscious bias in agriculture. Her reason for starting AWN in 2012 was to create a forum where producers and industry professionals could come together to support each other as we strive for greater gender equality in agriculture. Since this was exactly what the group was created to discuss, she posed a simple questions to the group:

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I anticipate she hoped for a half a dozen stories, examples of basic unconscious bias that women experience everyday, to help highlight the female experience in argiculture. . What I can be certain she did not anticipate, is that this post would received over 120 comments over the next 24hrs and that stories and tales of sexism would continue to roll in over the next weeks from women who have experienced unconscious bias in agriculture (from both men and women).

As a result of this landslide of feedback from our members, AWN decided to deicate our attention to exploring unconscious bias – what it is, how pervasive it is, and how it holding agriculture back. Today, we thought we’d finally share the stories of our colleagues, just in case there are still people who are uncertain as to the extent of it.

TRIGGER WARNING – some of these stories are just plain rude, some may make you nauseous ,while other may shock you with the amount of disrespected directed towards women. And some stories may just make you down right mad.

Many of our primary producer members shared experiences of salesmen and reps coming on farm. It was often stories of  females stereotypes suggesting that men could only be the primary producer.

“I had a sales guy assume I had to be married to of moved on the farm and be farming with my dad….. I couldn’t just be a single women managing the dairy herd by herself” – Tarah

“After I was married and my husband and I were farming on our own, I had a sales rep from a livestock exporter come in for a transfer for an animal we had sold. My husband wasn’t home, but I said I could get the transfer for him and his response was “can you sign that?” My response was “I can sign the whole damn farm away!” – Maureen

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And not just from men. It’s important to remember that women can be bias against our own gender too, without even noticing it.

“When a local company’s new agronomist stopped in this spring to introduce herself SHE said “Hi I’m……and I came to discuss some cropping ideas, is your husband available?”………Can you guess how much business that company gained from our farm? Shockingly, another woman in agriculture made the mistake of assuming that my husband is the only decision maker.” – Christie

Others told stories of blatant sexism and rudeness.

“I was once told I was lucky to be ‘pretty and a girl’ because it helps the industry” – Hanna

“I was 18 when I applied for a job at the local feed store. I was told that they couldn’t hire me because their customers wouldn’t be comfortable dealing with a female at the loading dock. The only female at the company was the bookkeeper, squished into a corner of the office.” – Karen

“I had a guy flat out say he would never hire a woman, unless she was well past her child bearing years ‘because most of them just want to get hired and then sit back and get paid to pump babies out, then leave'” – Katherine

“Men are oftentimes surprised that I sell equipment, and some are just outright jackasses. Since I sit in the corner of the showroom, when they come around the partition and find me – they are shocked to see a woman. One of the ‘highlights’ was ‘If I buy this tractor, will you come wash in it your bikini?'” – Stephanie

While many of these stories are horrifying, many women were quick to highlight how important their involvement in this industry and their capabilities.

“While at work I was pulling blood on a cow and chatting with our veterinarian about next steps for her when I had a male feed rep enter the barn and ask me if I was “playing dress up for the day with Reg (our vet)”. When I replied “no, I work here full time”, he responded with “oh that’s cute! Do you get to play with the baby calves when you’re not cleaning?” Our vet responded that I was the herdsmen. I’ve never seen colour drain quite so quickly from someone’s face.” – Steph

“I work on my family farm and at an Ag retailer and I had a fellow farmer ask me why I was doing a mans job working out in the yard loading seed and chemicals and not in the office behind a desk he said this as I was carrying two boxes of chemicals to his truck while he was carrying one” – Emma

“At a trade show I was talking to an older farmer and he simply said “there’s no way you know anything about farming, you’re just a young female”. (Note I then showed up at his dairy farm in my work clothes to help him milk to prove him wrong. Boy did that knock him off his feet lol)” – Stephanie

It is important to discuss why these comments are wrong. As we all know, sexism and the gender stereotypes don’t just hurt women, they hurt men too. Education among our colleagues and peers and actually letting people know that what they’ve said is sexist.  If we  participate in educating them and encouraging them to see things differently, we can make a positive change for the next generation of farmers.

Read more real women’s stories below and feel free to share your own in the comments!

“You didn’t mention that you were married” – to which I responded “I’m sure I mentioned it” when I really meant ‘why does that matter/does it make a difference?'”- Becky

“A few years ago I was working for a seed company and we went to a seed conference in the US. Out of all 600 attendees, I was 1 of 50 women there. My boss of the time was extremely supportive of me being there, but one night at a banquet dinner where I was the only female I was told by a president of a US seed company that the only reason I was allowed to sit at his table was because he wanted the ‘eye piece'”- Kelsey

“When I went to go and buy my first car I actually had a sales guy, only a few years older than me, block me completely to talk to my boyfriend. He had me sit in the back seat for the test drive and my bf drive and even though my bf kept saying the car was for me and I was buying the car he was a complete jerk and ignored me. I refused to even consider his brand or his car and wrote a “strongly worded letter” to the dealership about the whole mess. I couldn’t even believe it!” – Sara

“I work in ag business while my husband is on the farm. My job requires me to be away from home a few times throughout the year and as part of the current AALP class, I am away a fair bit with that as well. The question that I get all the time (and it is usually innocent in intention) is “who has the kids while you gone?” People are usually taken aback when my answer is that they are at home with my husband. Yes people, my children have a farming father who is perfectly capable of looking after them in my absence. I think the question and reaction to my response bother me so much because a) it’s sexist to both me AND my husband; and b) people don’t even realize they are perpetuating the stereotypes” – Jenn

“When I managed a local small ag retail, our fert blender broke down in the middle of seeding and an older farmer looked me in the eye and in all seriousness said ‘I knew this place would go to shit with a woman running it.'” – Adrienne

“I had a neighbour ask me in front of my husband if I actually drove the tractors. Hubby spoke up and listed all the equipment I ran on the farm.” – Barb

 

 

Is Unconscious Bias Holding Agriculture Back?

Last week, I addressed a group of producers at a Dupont Pioneer dealer’s customer appreciation event. The objective of my presentation was to raise awareness of unconscious bias in agriculture and its impact on talent retention and social license.

At times, the presentation was uncomfortable, for those listening and for me. As women in a male-dominated field we are encouraged (often by ourselves) to not show weakness. We don’t share the encounters that make us uncomfortable or cause us to doubt our abilities because we don’t want to be perceived as complaining or unable to “hack it”.

However, if we truly love agriculture and desire to see it prosper, then few would disagree ensuring everyone within it, regardless of gender (or race, religion or sexuality) have equal opportunities to thrive. We also have to acknowledge the issue.

Enter unconscious bias. Even as I shared stories from women working in agriculture who have been subject to sexism and discrimination (from men and women), I made the mistake of directing a comment about the seed dealership to the male host, assuming he was the owner. As it turns out, he is an associate dealer and Laura is the primary. Shame on me.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 3.51.58 PMWe are so conditioned to expect men and women to fill certain roles on our farms, in our industry and in society we judge people and their competencies without even realizing it.

Often it’s harmless, like when the church ladies guffaw at choosing to be in the barn rather than the house or when a sales rep comes to the door asking for the boss.

Other times it’s downright discriminatory, like when hiring managers rule out women because they fear they will become pregnant and leave. And sadly, it can also be harassment as several women have shared stories of lewd remarks and inappropriate advances.

Luckily, it appears many of the horror stories from other industries aren’t present in agriculture. And a 2015 study by AgCareers.com found the percentage of people who felt gender inequality existed in agriculture was lower than that of business in general. Like many other studies on the topic though, there is a pronounced difference between the perception of its existence between  men and women.

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Although the cost of gender bias in agriculture hasn’t been explicitly quantified, one could easily argue it’s negatively impacted social license, talent retention and potentially even business results overall.

While moms and millennials have been identified as significant influencers of food trends (The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity), only 12% of major agricultural associations in Canada have female leadership (CAHRC). If “unconsciously, we tend to like people who look like us, think like us,” (Trang Chu) then there is reason to think the gender gap in agriculture leadership may be partially to blame for the current gap in understanding about modern farming practices.

Additionally, bias impacts people at a subconscious level, impacting their self-confidence and aspirations. Over time, negative bias will demotivate employees and even discourage them from striving for leadership opportunities. (See Companies Drain Women’s Ambition After 2 Years).

“When I was a feed rep, I got told by a farmer that my job was in the kitchen. Most things I took a grain of salt but made me realize I didn’t want to be part of the feed industry in that specific area and “changed” careers.”  Quote from a woman in ag.

With the current labour gap in agriculture (it’s estimated 59,000 positions are currently unfilled, costing the industry $1.5 billion in lost farm receipts), stories of women subjected to sexism deciding to leave the industry should be a hard pill to swallow. Add to this all the industry boards seeking volunteers to replace retiring directors and agriculture needs to attract new talent, not turn it away.

Finally, celebrating diversity and tapping into its innovative potential is what will make Canadian agriculture a global leader in the future. One only needs to look to the proven success of companies with women in leadership to see the opportunity which awaits the businesses and organizations in agriculture who make gender diversity and women’s leadership advancement a priority.

The challenge then is “how”? This is a topic we will explore in our next post, but it seems unanimous the first step is starting with awareness. Have you experienced bias in your workplace, sector or farm? Do you feel the agriculture industry is better or worse off than other industries when it comes to the existence of sexism and how its handled? Share your thoughts in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

-Jen C.

Unconscious bias is a thing. Full stop. 

What Are Little Boys Made of?

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails,
And puppy-dogs’ tails;
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice,
And all that’s nice;
That’s what little girls are made of.
~19th Century Nursery Rhyme~

You may think that someone being sexist or biased is when misogynistic language and behaviors are being used, but there are many more subtle ways to be anti-women.  Sitting down to compile this post, I was trying to find a study I had read a year or so ago about male and female business students selecting a successful ‘male’ entrepreneur in a case study over a ‘female‘ entrepreneur when they both had the same credential and qualifications. At the conclusion of this study, it was revealed that they were in fact the same person, and that person was indeed a female.  That unconscious bias really stuck with me,  even though finding that study seems to elude me, as it seems to be lost in the many other studies examining unconscious bias that are readily available on the internet. I managed to pull  a few examples to demonstrate not only the bias but the extent to which it impacts the everyday life of women:

  1. S.K. Johnson and D.R. Hekman from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business did a study which had 307 working adults to review a hiring decision made by a fictitious manager.  Participants read a description of the hiring decision, saw a photo of the manager (showing their race and gender) then completed a survey where they rated the manager on competence and performance of that hiring decision.  What they found was that all managers were judged harshly if they hired someone who had the same gender or ethnicity as them, unless they were a white male.  These findings are alarming as it suggests that if a ‘low-status’ group member hires another ‘low-status’ group member they are perceived as incompetent and poor performers.  Not exactly encouraging news when hoping to increase diversity in the workplace, as our unconscious biases are at play judging those around us.
  2.  Moss-Racusin et al, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gave scientists applications from a student applying for a lab manager position who intended to go onto graduate school and was looking for mentoring. Half the scientists were given an application with a male name, the other half a female name. The results found that the ‘female’ applicant was rated lower than the ‘male’ in competence, hire-ability and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.  More shocking still, is that the scientists also offered the female applicant a significantly lower starting salary than the males.

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Infuriating, yes. And both sexes are to blame.  Women and men were both participants of the studies and held the same biases.  As the authors of the C. Moss-Racusin et al study said “If faculty express gender biases, we are not suggesting that these biases are intentional or stem from a conscious desire to impede the progress of women in science.  Past studies indicate that people’s behaviour is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent…

Being aware of your own biases are the first step towards limiting bias. ‘Project Implicit‘ was created in 1998 as an ‘international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.  The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.”  Run through Harvard University, multiple research teams at the Universities of Washington, Virginia, Harvard and Yale study the results of multiple tests that people can take to rate their biases.  There are tests on Gender-Career, Sexuality, Weight, Religion, and your results and pooled results of everyone who has taken the test are shown to you at the end.

I encourage everyone to explore this website and this project:

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

It starts with you, and how you treat those around you, and especially how you treat children.  It all starts at a young age, they watch how those around them treat others. We need to be more aware of our biases.

  • by Mary Ann Doré

Farm girl carves out her own place in agriculture

With no opportunity to transition into the family farm, Janet Chapman chartered her own route

By Courtney Denard

Ag Women’s Network

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Growing up, Janet Chapman, the daughter of a dairy farmer, wasn’t encouraged to go into farming.

As the only girl in a family of four, Janet was in fact never allowed to touch any of the equipment on the farm. She was responsible for completing daily chores like her three brothers though.

“I was always at home as I was the oldest. I worked right alongside the boys in the barn or the boys worked right alongside me, I guess I should say.”

Even so, Janet wasn’t asked if she wanted to farm and like many operations the plan was to eventually transfer the business to the next generation of males.

In 1975, Janet married Tom, also a child of a farmer, and the two set out to build their life together near Alliston.

Tom’s parents did not promote a life in agriculture either. ‘There’s no money in farming,’ they told them so the young couple took heed and chose another direction.

“I think Tom and I would have continued farming if we had any kind of encouragement at all but Tom got into construction and renovation so we went with the path that we did,” Janet says.

Janet found a job with the Baxter Corporation, a company that manufactures and markets medical products, and has worked there for the past 40 years.

She took time off between having her four children, all of whom are adults now and living in different parts of the country. Seven grandchildren have been added along the way.

Five years ago, Janet and Tom made their way back to farming (not that they were ever really far from it) through the development of Maple Lane Heritage Turkeys & Heirloom Vegetables, a community supported agriculture (CSA) they run from home.

“I think deep down we have always wanted to farm so that’s where the idea for the CSA came from,” Janet says.

Maple Lane grows a variety of in-season herbs and vegetables, all without inputs or sprays. Janet labels this as ‘natural’ production and says it’s what CSA customers are looking for.

There are heritage chickens and four breeds of heritage turkeys on-farm that are sold for their meat and eggs.

The CSA’s customer base is mainly families who have the option of buying a half-share or full-share of goods throughout the growing season.

Janet says one of the biggest complaints she’s received so far is that the baskets have too much food in them.

“Gone are the days of the 30-pound turkey and freezers full of food to get you through the winter,” she says about this lesson in modern food demand.

Maple Lane chose to offer a slightly less typical CSA product with their heirloom vegetables and heritage poultry because as Janet says, they wanted to stand out.

Running a CSA may be different than the dairy farm Janet grew up on but it still has many of the same challenges.

Unpredictable weather, growing a product the customer wants, determining a fair and profitable pricing scheme, and finding time to get all the work done in a given day are a few that come to mind.

Dealing with the non-farming public is a new challenge and Janet doesn’t hold back on this topic of conversation.

“A lot of people want something for nothing but I will not sell my product for nothing,” she says. “Why should I not make money? I just don’t understand that and I think the farming industry as a whole faces this dilemma.”

Janet says the consumers themselves are the cause of commercial farming. She says they asked for it when they demanded fast, cheap food. And the fact that there are so many unfounded complaints these days about farmers treating their animals poorly fires her up!

“People don’t like how I put it out there but don’t tell me that farmers are doing something immoral. In the grand scheme, farmers are better to their animals than anyone else.”

That same passion shines through when you ask her about gender inequality in the agriculture sector.

“Gender inequality makes no sense to me,” she says. “The men out there treating farm women differently probably have daughters of their own. Would they want their daughters to be treated any differently than their sons?”

To Janet, farming is a family business, which should include everyone. “I don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl and I find it disturbing that some people do,” she adds.

She also firmly believes that men and women should get paid equally for the same job, which in Canada is still not the case.

“Where in the constitution is it okay to pay a man more than a woman? I just don’t get that. It should be paid by the job not by the gender.”

As a member of the Ag Women’s Network, Janet has had the opportunity to connect with others in the sector that share her beliefs.

She says she joined the organization at first to see if she could promote her CSA but she also wanted to know what other women in the industry were up to.

Janet finds it interesting to read about the other members’ farm family life and says so much has changed over time.

“There are so many more outside influences on farming now than there was when I was growing up. There’s a lot for farm families to juggle,” she says.

Janet and Tom are no different. As the couple moves closer to retirement they’re looking at how they want to spend their time.

The plan is to continue with the CSA with the possibility of adding some beef cattle down the road.

“Both of us have been around farming all our lives, growing stuff, and harvesting stuff so this will be our little bit of agriculture, our little bit of farming that we get to keep,” she says.

Building a Better Society – From Generation to Generation

 Because it’s 2016, Canadians are recognizing 100 years of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Canada.  Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp.  The Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women will be celebrating this milestone at their upcoming national convention in Calgary.  Equal Voice will mark this anniversary with the unique initiative “Daughters of the Vote” involving young women from every federal riding in Canada. (https://youtu.be/jvs_T-AAU0I) These are just a few examples of an important celebration!  Below is an updated version of a blog that was originally posted in October, 2015 prior to the federal election.  It’s a tribute to the women of the past who worked so hard to build a better society for us.

Voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility and should not be met with apathy.  For women, it is a right that had to be won.  It was in 1916, only 100 short years ago, when women were first given the right to vote in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  Other provinces followed but it was a long journey until all women in Canada were eligible to vote.

Five Canadian women, known as the “Famous Five”, are most recognized for their leadership in the women’s suffrage movement in Canadian history.  Nellie McClung, is credited with working to establish women’s right to vote.  She later joined Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby when they networked together to win the case for women to be recognized as persons and eligible to be appointed to the Senate (1929).  http://www.famou5.ca/the-famous-five-women/ .  While Agnes Macphail was not one of the Famous Five, she is indeed a woman of renown.  She was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1921). http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/agnes-macphail/

With this look to our past…the words and images of these women remind us of their determination to gain recognition and rights for Canadian women.  Their bios are rich with farm-raised, rural-rooted, community-minded, organization-leading history. They were committed, passionate and even a little fierce in their goals.  They made their actions for the women of that time, but, they also spoke, rallied, performed, wrote and advocated for the generations that have followed.

Each generation has the hope of creating a better society for the next. As women, we share the duty and joy of ensuring ours is a society where all women progress and flourish.  No matter our age, our role or our path, we have opportunities to mentor and develop the generation following us.  These are legacy building privileges and responsibilities…to be greeted positively and not to be met with apathy!

  • Joan Craig