Amy Matheson found a disconnect and decided to speak out for her industry
By Courtney Denard
When Amy Matheson joined Twitter four years ago one of the first things she noticed was a huge disconnect between the farm world and everyone else.
Matheson could’ve ignored this realization and carried on with her life as a dairy farmer, agriculture professional, wife and mother but that’s not her personality.
Instead she decided to speak up and so began her journey into the exciting and sometimes volatile world of modern agriculture advocacy.
Matheson was raised on a dairy farm in Perth County. Growing up you could find her in the haymow with her nose in a book or tending to the animals.
After high school, she said goodbye to the farm life and headed to Western University to study English language and literature. When she graduated she found work in the non-profit sector as a communications and marketing specialist.
“I had no intention of moving back home to the farm,” Matheson says, but like it usually does life had other plans and in this case they involved meeting a dairy producer named Mark, getting married, and starting a family on his fourth generation farm in Embro.
Today, Amy and Mark, who now have three children, work along side Mark’s father and brother at Lochalsh Holsteins & AG Commodities, a 180-head dairy operation with 1,800 acres of cash crop.
Matheson also works off-farm as a communications administrator for the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture. She was recently elected to the Oxford County Dairy Producer Committee and nominated as a Grain Farmers of Ontario delegate.
Becoming an agriculture advocate was somewhat of an unconscious decision in the beginning, Matheson says.
“I didn’t see why I shouldn’t step in and correct some of the misinformation that’s out there,” she explains. “I had time. I had access.”
It’s not for the faint of heart though. Matheson says since taking to social media she has had her fair share of Internet trolls who hit below the belt, condemn her core beliefs, and even resort to personal attacks.
“I’ve been called a cow raper, a cow murderer and felt particularly threatened in one circumstance.”
Friends and family have commented on Matheson’s way of life too. She’s been told to her face that her farm is a factory farm that doesn’t promote organic.
“I don’t concern myself with what they think about me. I am more concerned about the non-industry people that are reading along, that moveable middle that aren’t fanatical die-hards,” she says.
And that’s where Matheson thinks the agriculture industry can make the most progress. She emphasizes that farmers need to stop “preaching to the choir” and start speaking out.
“You don’t have to go and look for it but if you’re out and you over hear a conversation that’s inaccurate, say something.”
Matheson says farmers need to remember that they have nothing to hide and putting a face to the farm goes a long way.
Plus, speaking out about agriculture isn’t always bad.
“It’s the people that say ‘thanks for saying that, I didn’t know that’s why things were done that way.’ It’s moments like these that keep me pushing back,” says the agvocate.
The support from the Ag Women’s Network (AWN) has been an important part of Matheson’s journey as well. She joined the organization about a year and a half ago.
Whether it’s seeking help with a presentation that she’s giving or asking a question about the farm, Matheson says the AWN has offered her a unique level of support and a deep connection to other women in the industry.
“It’s really quite special to be lifted up by a group of women, many of whom I’ve never even met. It defies words and I believe every woman should have that.” – Amy Matheson
Matheson will be representing Dairy Farmers of Canada at the BConnected Conference in Ottawa on April 24. The conference is a gathering of Canada’s digital influencers and the perfect event for Matheson to take her advocacy to the next level.
“My role is shifting from online advocacy to presenting my story in person. I am very excited and proud to be offered this platform.”
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