Industry Profile – Rayanne Frizzell

Rayanne Frizzell lives in on Prince Edward Island with her husband Chris and three children Curtis (7), Rachel (5) and Hannah (1). Her career and volunteer work focuses on the planning and execution of large-scale events. She shares with us her experiences as the General Manager of the PEI Provincial Exhibition and co-chair of the Atlantic Farm Women’s Conference.

If you are interested in connecting with Rayanne, contact her via email at rayanne.frizzell@gmail.com

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

I grew up in Middle Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, which is a rural community about 20 minutes from Truro. We didn’t farm but had dairy farms all around us!  In elementary school, my two best friends had horses, so it wasn’t long before I started taking lessons and joined the 4-H program.  I was fortunate that my father also had a love of horses, so a barn went up in our back yard and that was my hobby as a kid!

rayanneThanks to 4-H, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (now Dalhousie Agricultural Campus) was a logical choice. I always joke it is the local 4-H retirement home!  I graduated in 2003 with a B.Sc. majoring in Agricultural Business.  While at school I met a boy. He had a family dairy farm on Prince Edward Island. Upon graduation I moved home and we agreed I would apply for any and every job I could find, so I could join him.  I spent that summer and fall travelling to fairs working for Nova Scotia Farm Safety. Little did I know that the exposure I gained at those events would be a big bonus when applying for a position with the PEI Provincial Exhibition Inc. The position had an added bonus. Moving to PEI meant I was closer to future hubby.  I started in the spring of 2004 and have been with the company ever since. Chris and I married in 2006. Our farm milks 270 registered Holsteins (prefix Valleyville) with Boumatic robots.  My husband farms with his parents and brother, and while I’m not in the barn on a daily basis, I still get the cow reports.

Tell us more about your position as the General Manager of the PEI Provincial Exhibition.

Every day is different for me, which is probably what I love about my job the most.  Our 10-day fair is a bit unique as we rent our facilities and my job is focused on those sole 10 days.  I am the only full time employee, so all of the pieces fall to me.  My title is General Manager, but I’m also responsible for marketing, finance, entertainment booking, sponsorship, logistics, and any other task that may arise!  I do have summer staff help, but, really, it’s up to me!  I work for a volunteer board of directors who meet monthly.  I have been very fortunate that they have put a lot of trust in me to make the event happen and in accepting change!  Our fair happens in August and that month is crazy busy for me.  There is a two-week period where I actually move into a hotel that is two minutes from the site and put in 18-hour days. That said, outside of August, it’s a pretty regular 9-5 job with a lot of flexibility! The event started in 1888 and has evolved from a 2-day fall event.  The fair now welcomes 90,000 guests over 10-days and includes livestock and horse shows, entertainment, 4-H and handicraft, and harness racing, which is managed by Atlantic Lottery. We also have the largest parade in Atlantic Canada, which is run by a separate volunteer committee.  It is truly a traditional event for Islanders and many come just for the social aspect. For 10 days, it’s the place to be on PEI!

Tell us more about the Atlantic Farm Women’s conference.

In 2011, a friend of mine from University and I were chatting on Facebook. She was disappointed that I hadn’t attended a dairy industry conference in our region.  In our conversation we chatted about how it would be great to have a conference just for farmwomen.  I suppose you could say a light bulb went off and I thought, “Yes. Let’s do it!”  Our first Atlantic Farm Women’s Conference happened in November 2012.  We have since had events in April 2014 and November 2015 and are now planning for April 2017! Women of all ages from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI with backgrounds in farming and ag industry attend.  My co-Chair Amy Bysterveldt and I do the majority of organizing on a volunteer basis. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but honestly the response from the women who enjoy the event make it all worth it! We typically have 75-80 women and have had some amazing speakers. It’s just a little side activity for me, but it’s incredibly gratifying to have women sincerely thank you and then see them go home and make a difference locally as agvocates. I firmly believe in the movement of farmers and those in our industry telling our stories, so helping people realize the importance of this is great!

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

To me it is at the end of the day being proud of what I played a role in on that given day and knowing that I completed it to the best of my ability/resources.  I am the type of person who will take a project and throw my whole self into it. It could be something small at my kids’ school or a major part of our event but I still put the effort in. I don’t leave things half done and I know that my own expectations for executing the small details in projects are probably higher than anyone else’s. For me it’s not about receiving lavish compliments or big thank yous (although I gratefully accept them!). I really consider an event a success when no one complains!  Honestly, I’ve discovered that people are quick to complain but rarely tell you positives; for me, a lack of complaints is the best compliment!

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

I am definitely detail oriented and have learned how important it is to surround yourself with a team that you know you can trust. In a perfect world, if I give a task to someone, I expect him or her to complete it to my satisfaction and do so in a timely manner.  I will not micro manage and I do not hover, which I think stems from me resisting those who try to micro manage me. Being that we hire staff for 6-10 week periods and those people often change year over year, this is not always the best management style. Adapting my management style and evaluating new staff quickly to understand how best to manage their personalities has been a huge learning curve for me.

Who would say is your biggest influencer/mentor?

I would probably have to say my Dad. As a kid growing up, both of my parents were super supportive of my love of horses, but especially Dad. He hauled me across the countryside, watched lessons, mucked stalls and always made sure that if I fell off, I got right back on the horse. This is also a great motto for life! Dad spent a lot of time (and, let’s face it, money) supporting me and if I didn’t have horses, and eventually 4-H, I’m not sure I’d even be involved in agriculture today! Dad definitely spurred my love for agricultural fairs, although when growing up it’s not something I ever considered could be a career!  Looking back, my life could have been very different if not for my Dad’s influences and support.

We are fortunate to have a group of amazing dairy-farming friends who understand the challenges and positives of farming. We are quick to celebrate each other’s successes, but even faster to band together and support each other in challenging times, whether personal or farm related.

In the spirit of these profiles helping others, can you share a mistake you made but that taught you something important?

One of my first years at Old Home Week, booking and confirming a chef for our daily food demonstrations didn’t get done. Somehow it was missed on my list.  I can remember sitting at my desk and my boss looked at me in complete disbelief; we were a week away from our event and I had missed a huge portion of the programming.  I’m sure I had thoughts in my mind that I was going to be fired on the spot, and I’m sure I could have lied to him or come up with an excuse, but it was a matter of fessing up that it got missed and then working through the solution. If you’re wrong, just admit it and move on. It’s not worth the time and effort to create elaborate excuses. I think my job has definitely made me a straight shooter. I’ll tell you like it is and then move on! I definitely expect this of my staff, friends and even my kids!  Just tell me what went wrong and then let’s work together to fix it!

What’s the most burning question for you right now in your career?

For me right now, it’s getting the work/life balance figured out!  With kids in school, the summer months have become more important in terms of family time, but that is my busiest time at work.  In fact, each August I send the kids to my parents in Nova Scotia for two weeks, so I don’t have responsibilities at home. Having last summer off on maternity leave made me realize how much I miss out with my kids by working hard in the summer, and how little time I was spending on the beaches of PEI! My kids will only be this age once, and I am leaning toward stepping back a bit at work and letting someone else take the lead. It’s not an easy decision and there are lots of pros and cons to consider.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now?

With consumers being removed from agriculture production, the challenges of promoting food has become incredibly challenging. Terms like GMO’s, organic, natural, grass fed, hormone free, family farm, factory farms, and the list goes on are being used as marketing tools by companies and businesses to sell.  Even more challenging is how farmers speak about other farmers. Too often we see one side boost themselves up by insulting and degrading another form of production. It drives me nuts to have negative generalizations made about one production technique in an attempt to have the other look superior.  While consumers try to wade through the marketing terms, how can we as primary producers help the situation? We should be educating on how we produce our products and not bringing down those who do so differently. I guess I just wish we could all be friends, we could see the positives in others’ actions and we could work together to educate consumers on buying local and most importantly Canadian products.  Maybe it’s too much to wish for, but arguing amongst ourselves doesn’t help the consumer, and we need to please those who consume our products!

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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