Industry profile – Becky Parker

Becky Parker is a trained teacher who now works in agriculture education. Her recent move to British Columbia has challenged her, but she’s embracing the adventure, experience and opportunity to broaden her own perspective on Canadian agriculture.

The theme of education runs through Becky’s profile, including her dedication to life-long learning, which is evident through her Nuffield Scholarship. Read on to learn more about Becky’s professional and personal journey.

If you’re interested in connecting with Becky, contact her via Twitter (@becky_parker_2) or through email (beckyparker2@gmail.com )

To start off, please tell the Ag Women’s Network more about yourself.

I grew up as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm in Halton County. After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science at the University of Guelph, I pursued a Bachelor of Education. I taught in the classroom for a few years, but decided that I was looking for something more, so I went back to school for a Master’s of Education. At that point I realized that I wanted to focus more on agricultural education, so my research project was “Lessons of the Land: Best Practices and Experiential Activities for teaching about Food, Agriculture and the Environment”. During my master’s I started working for Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc. (OAFE). I have been with them for four and a half years, and I am currently the Project and Partnership Manager. Recently, I moved to British Columbia on a new adventure for my husband’s career, but I remain employed with OAFE.

You are currently a Nuffield Scholar. Please tell us about your research and focus.

Nuffield Scholarships provide funding for individuals to travel internationally and investigate a topic that is relevant to the agri-food sector. The topic I am addressing is the skill set shortage in the agri-food sector here in Canada. My research is looking for ways to encourage more young people to consider careers in the fields of production, agriculture business and everything in between. In particular, I have been looking for examples of how the agriculture sector, the education sector and youth development organizations (e.g. 4-H, FFA) can work collaboratively to increase the pool of job seekers. So far, my travels have taken me to the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. I’m looking forward to doing more traveling and assembling my findings into some best practices, which can help Canadian agriculture find and maintain a sustainable workforce. (You can read more about her Nuffield experience on her blog: www.lessonsoftheland.com)

Becky Parker 1

I would encourage anyone considering applying for a Nuffield Scholarship to go for it. The international network and opportunity to travel the world has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. My advice for applying would be to make sure you have a good idea and rationale for what you would like to study. The other most important thing is a supportive family and workplace that are willing to let you take the time away to focus on your research.

Professionally we are often seeking success. How do you define personal success?

I believe that personal success is not singular, it is made up of hundreds of specific things that you achieve. Those successes can be small, or large, but they should be in relation to goals you set for yourself. I believe that to achieve success, you first have to know what you are aiming for. My favourite tool is the SMART goal system: specific, measurable, achievable, results- focused and time- bound. It forces me to really define my goal and gives me something to reflect on so that I can know whether I was successful, or not. The most important thing to remember about success is that it takes work. You have to set out to achieve success, rather than waiting for it. That’s luck or coincidence, not success.

What’s the biggest professional challenge you’ve had to face?

One of the biggest personal and professional challenges I have faced is my recent move to British Columbia. I underestimated the complexities of leaving my personal and professional networks to move across the country. There have already been several opportunities that I have had to turn down because of my new geographic location. However, I have learned that with great risk, can come great reward. This represents an experience to expand my network, broaden my perspective and try to make an impact in a different community. It has also reminded me that your level of engagement is only determined by yourself. If you want to be involved you have to knock on the doors.

Who is your biggest influencer/mentor?

As cliché as it sounds, my biggest influencer/mentor is my mom. The older I get, the more I admire her. She has taught me about the value of networking, the importance of family, and the meaning of community contribution. It was her professional development (AALP, CAFA, etc) that motivated me to pursue my Nuffield Scholarship, and her involvement in numerous committees and groups which inspires me to give back through volunteering. Above all, she has taught me to have perseverance in my actions and pride in my accomplishments.

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 that taught you something important?

There isn’t really one mistake that stands out in my mind. However, I can recall a number of times when I have held back my opinion or a rebuttal to an argument in both professional and personal situations. While that isn’t always a mistake to hold back, it is if you are compromising your values through passivity. I am not advocating to be argumentative, but I think that it can be a mistake when we hold back our opinion for fear that it doesn’t matter, or that it will paint us in a certain light. Sometimes, as women, we are concerned about appearing as a know-it-all and that drives us to silence. As I have become more self aware, I have realized that my perspective is valuable and can contribute to a conversation. However, if you are going to give your opinion, you should be proactive to ask for others as well, in the spirit of a true dialogue.

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

I think that the topic of social license is incredibly hot right now and definitely deserves attention. There is some amazing insight into the topic and many people and organizations are offering their perspective. What I am concerned about is that the agriculture community is having this conversation (for the most part) without the consumer. I believe that if we really care about having a respectful and transparent relationship with our consumers, that we have to engage them in the conversation instead of speculating what they think, or trying to tell them what they should feel.

Why are you interested in being a part of the Ag Women’s Network (AWN)?

I am interested in being part of the network because I can’t imagine not working and living in the world of agriculture. It is an amazing experience to connect with people who have something in common with you, yet bring their own unique experiences and perspectives. There is a lot we can learn from each other and many ways we can support our fellow women in agriculture.

Given that I currently live in BC but have roots in Ontario, I am eager to bring a cross country perspective to discussions. My feeling in my brief amount of time in BC is that the province is often ignored in Canadian agriculture discussions. Ontario and the Prairies tend to be the big players. It would be great to make this a more national group that brings together women from across our amazing country.

If you know of a woman whom you think would be a great person to profile, please send your suggestions to Stephanie Craig via email (contact.scraig@gmail.com)

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