Expand Your Reach – And Your Sphere of Influence

2186. It’s not the latest GPS screen from John Deere.

2186 is the year that women will finally achieve wage parity, according to the World Economic Forum report released in the fall.

“When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.”

So, it’s not really surprising the United Nations chose the theme “Be Bold For Change” for International Women’s Day earlier this month. Indeed, bold actions are needed to end the injustice women face in the world. Even in our country and industry, where women are granted equal rights, there is a very real gender wage gap and women are still expected to do the majority of the unpaid housework and child rearing.

Bold actions look different for everyone. What is “bold” for me may be no big deal for you and terrifying still for someone else. What is important is we are consciously making the decision to step out of our comfort zone, even if it’s just to question the unacceptable “acceptable” sexism which exists in our society.


That was the message from Claire Cowan, one of the speaker’s at this week’s AWN event, held in conjunction with the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association.

IMG_2731Cowan described the spheres of influence we each have and how we need focus first on ourselves, then slowly move outwards to change our behaviour and eventually, hopefully, attitudes around us will also change.

“Get comfortable with your awkwardness,” she suggested, offering tips for how to react (or not react) when you face an inappropriate comment in the workplace or industry.

Addressing Your Spheres of Influence:

  • Recognize your own biases in the thoughts that enter your head or words and phrases you use.
  • Point out to your colleagues (especially men) when you witness sexism. They may not realize its happening.
  • Have a conversation with them about what they can do to support you and stand up against this behaviour.
  • Ask. Ask if your company has done a gender wage study and what they are doing with the results. Ask your commodity board the same question. Ask if they have a strategy to engage more diverse voices on the board.
  • Make it happen. I see many women leave the corporate world to run a business on their own. Whether you’re a farm or providing ag services, make sure your biases aren’t creating an unfair gender balance.


Step Up, Speak Up, Get Social

Even still, standing up to speak in a meeting or putting our ideas out there is intimidating. I still get nervous and often miss the opportunity to ask a question in a forum, because I’m too scared to step to the mic.

If we get over this though, we can “expand our reach” even further, because as Christina Crowley-Arklie shared;

“Everyone can be good at communication. It doesn’t cost anything or require formal education.”

Christina may have been born a public speaker, but having personally witnessed shy 4-H members develop the confidence and skill to speak in front of an audience, I believe she is right.

Knowing your audience and how to catch their attention is key. Christina cited the U.S. election as an example of where this strategy was employed with incredible precision and great success.

Once you’ve prepped, Christina offered the following  tips on delivering a good presentation.

Tips For Delivering A Good Presentation

  • Warm up by saying the phrase, “Tip of the Tongue, the Teeth, the Lips”. It’s a tongue twister and will get you prepped to speak clearly when you take the mic.
  • Dress for success. If you look your best, you will also feel your best.
  • Get in your comfort zone. Arrive early and make sure all the technology works and you’re comfortable with it.
  • Have your necessary props. If all you need is a “clicker” and you plan to do more speaking or run future events, consider buying one and bring it along with spare batteries.
  • Eyes on the sky. If making eye contact freaks you out, scan the room looking just over people’s heads.

Finally, with social media providing us with an opportunity to share our message with lots of people, it is still very hard to create the personal impact and connection that a well-delivered presentation or speech can have. The best way to practice is by doing, so when you’re ready to reach that next sphere of influence, put yourself out there and be heard!

Follow Christina on Twitter  and check out her blog, The Passionate Voice. for more about public speaking, personal branding and social media.

Follow Claire on Twitter.

Special thanks to the Perth Soil & Crop Improvement Association and all the sponsors whose generous support made this event possible. 

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.


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.

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.

Speed Mentoring Excellent to Inspire & Motivate


Mary Ann Dore & Megan VanSchaik greet guests as they arrive.

Mentorship. It can be an intimidating word for some and it evokes a pile of questions for many. What is a mentor? Do I need a mentor? How do I find a mentor? Can I be a mentor? What do I ask a mentor?

It was some of these questions the Ag Women’s Network sought to answer and hopefully also bring some clarity too at the recent speed-mentoring event.

“I do think the word, ‘mentor’ is intimidating to some people,” said Mary Ann Dore, one of the AWN Leadership Team members and organizers of the event. “People may feel they are too old for a mentor or too young to be a mentor. In reality, anyone can be a mentor or be mentored.”

Indeed, mentorship is often cited by leaders as one of the most important assets they had in their career. Mentorship was also identified by the Canadian Agricultural HR Council (CAHRC) recently as a means to prepare more women to enter leadership positions.


Katie Cheesmond speaks with a group about her career.

Mentorship itself can also take on many different forms. Katie Cheesmond, Director of Business Development at RLB, opened the evening by sharing how mentors, coaches and sponsors all play different roles in our careers. She challenged the group to consider these roles and how each of us may be able to play them at one time or another.

Often when we think of mentors, many of us think of the longer-term relationships with those who inspire us to be our best selves. Our parents may come to mind as the first mentors in our lives but as we progress in our careers, it’s helpful to have a few people you can seek out to help navigate the tough decisions.

Less talked about, but perhaps as important, are coaches and sponsors. Coaches often provide support specific to a skill or outcome we’re trying to achieve, like negotiating a deal or public speaking. Sponsors are like your champion or advocate. They may recommend you for a role in your company or a position on a board or focus group.

Whereas coaches can provide help with one phone call, mentorship and sponsorship both require some level of relationship to be effective. The mentor need not be in the same sector, or even industry, so long as there is a level of trust and comfort to discuss matters openly.


Steve McCabe shares his experience with AWN member Megan Hutchison.

As a result, the speed-mentoring event provided people with an opportunity to get to know a diverse group of leaders from across the industry through roundtable sessions. Mentors shared their stories and offered encouragement to attendees to seek out what they love, stick to their values and build their network. The goal was as much about networking as mentoring, and most people took advantage of the time afterwards to talk further.

Although not decided if or when another speed-mentoring event will be held, the feedback has been very good thus far. One attendee described it as an “excellent networking event to inspire and motivate you to be your best self!”

The Ag Women’s Network thanks RLB for hosting this event and everyone who participated, especially the mentors.


LtoR: Ann Godkin, Stewart Skinner, Steve McCabe, Elgin Craig, Joan Craig, Brad Adams, Denise Zaborowski, Kelly Ward, Kathleen Shore

Is It Time Ag Boards Talk About Gender Quotas?

1-in-3-farmers-in-Canada-are-womenNoted as the “greatest progress women have made since gaining the right to vote”, Germany is the latest country to adopt mandatory quotas to increase gender diversity on their boards.  If public boards do not have at least 30% of seats held by women they are to be left vacant. If Canadian agriculture could achieve this, our boards would at least represent their members (approximately 30% of farmers in Canada are women).

Today, agriculture lags all industries in Canada, with the exception of construction and enterprise-management corporations, when it comes to women on our major corporations’ boards. That’s third last. Not exactly a position to be proud of nor one which we can expect will command a lot of respect as equality and leadership diversity are likely to become a greater focus going forward.

Are quotas the answer?

Board-diversity-quotasWhen I posed this question to our group, is sparked a rich discussion. Women shared  their experiences, debated the merits of a quota and began unpacking the current gender imbalance. The “Old Boys Club“is a common response to what’s preventing women from reaching leadership positions. It was cited most often in the Canadian Agricultural HR Council survey but what does that mean?

I don’t believe the men occupying the boardroom seats today are telling women they can’t be involved. Indeed, many women’s experience has been quite the opposite.

“I’ve never been discouraged to go on a board. Usually they’re happy to have someone step up.” – Karen Dallimore.

Talk of quotas also tends to lead to an assumption that merit no longer matters. Along with many other women, I believe it’s quite the opposite. Merit should always be the first hurdle before any other consideration is given. Women are always quick to point out they do not want to be selected based on gender over leadership.

I think we need to stop making this argument because it suggests there are those seeking promotion based only on gender, which is a ludicrous assumption. Then, it also discredits the work of every woman who has earned her seat at the table. I called this out in a large, agricultural publication’s article last month and with respect to Canada’s current female cabinet ministers, it bears repeating:

“…what’s to say the ones that are there aren’t as strong or stronger than their male counterparts? Just because there’s fewer, doesn’t mean they are any less qualified or deserving. Given the barriers they’ve likely overcome to win their seat, I don’t have an inkling of doubt they’re not up to the job or as fully qualified.”

Some maintain force is not the answer though, and it only promotes progress in the
metric being measured. During the recent World Economic Forum, Sheryl Sandberg addressed this on the Progress Towards Parity panel.

She cites Norway as an example where their quota has increased women’s participation on boards and in government, but it hasn’t helped increase the number of women in management or leadership positions in those organizations, which is equally important. For her, the motivation for diversity is a no-brainer due to the performance advantage diversity offers to companies and organizations


Is Agriculture Up to the Challenge?

One thing we can be certain of is that agriculture doesn’t like regulation. If mandatory quotas are not something you believe our industry should be entertaining, then it’s time you start looking at how you can increase diversity in your sector.

If you’re a woman interested in getting involved, but haven’t been brave enough yet to volunteer, then follow along with us this week. We will be sharing advice and inspiration from other women  who have been there. Tell us what you feel you need to feel prepared to
step forward, and we are committing to continuing to build on this conversation.


A screenshot from the Canadian Liberal Party’s campaign to recruit women to run for election. Source: Liberal Party of Canada

If you’re a man, then consider asking a woman to run for your organization’s board. “Invite her to run” was a successful campaign used by the Liberal Party of Canada to recruit women to run in the last election. They recognized women were 50% less likely to consider themselves a candidate for elected office, but encouragement from a friend could motivate them to consider.

Everything we know about how women tend to approach opportunities supports this could
work in agriculture. This HBR article goes into more detail examining the often quoted statistic: women will wait to apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the qualifications while men will apply if they meet only 60%. It also suggests more information overall about your organization’s nomination process could help increase recruitment.

The bright side is there is only one direction we can really move, and in the past few months we are proud to say many women in the Ag Women’s Network have stepped forward to help guide our industry forward. The question still remains whether we’re making progress fast enough or if we need a little push to make this a higher priority?

I’ve never supported quotas myself, but maybe it’s time we give them some serious consideration in agriculture. We often look to Germany for their leadership on technology in agriculture, perhaps it’s time we also consider their approach to leadership in general.

-Jen C.

Rural Counselling & Mental Health Support Services

This week the Ag Women’s Network is focusing on mental health. There has been lots of discussion on social media and in the media about ending the stigma attached to mental health, so people can find the courage to get the help they need. Canadians set a new record, with over 125 million texts, tweets and shares, raising over $6.2 million for mental health on Bell’s Let’s Talk Day on Wednesday.

Farmers and members of the agriculture industry were actively a part of this as mental illness doesn’t discriminate on gender and rural men are particularly susceptible. 

It is only logical then we focus today’s post on the resources available to help.


After hearing her incredible story, Clara Hughes encouraged us to offer to listen more.

In the simplest of cases, taking action to reduce stress and talking to a close friend or family member can help to minimize anxiety. For me, when I realized I was struggling I turned to friends who encouraged me to consult the resources offered by my employer. Here I found some good information on mental illness, as well as access to a counselor through an online chat and the phone.

Often these services are available not just for employees but also their families, so check with your HR department to learn what assistance your company offers.

Mental Health Services & Counselling for Farmers

Unfortunately, professional help isn’t so easy to find when you’re self-employed, like a farmer, or in a rural area. It’s been mentioned in a couple articles we shared this week (here and here) and echoed by members.

“Accessing help wasn’t easy. I had a choice of driving an hour or go on a year wait list.” Tweeted Sarah Jackson about her struggle. Other members echoed this challenge of finding a public health therapist they liked and didn’t have to wait to talk too.

With the adoption of the Internet, you’d think we’d be further along than we are in offering online support services. A CTV News story about e-health opportunities only speaks to the potential and doesn’t provide any solutions.

As a result, some provincial governments and non-profits have set up hot lines to serve farmers and rural citizens. A counselor at the Manitoba Farm Rural & Northern Support Services still feels they’re rare though and admits they get calls from out of province. You can see from the list below, there is a lot of opportunity to improve services offered to farmers and rural Canadians. In the case where you suspect a life is in danger, you should always call 911 or go to your local hospital first.

If you know of or recommend other services, please leave them in the comments below for our readers.

-Jen C.

Farmer Support and Mental Health Resources in Canada

Resources (rather than just links, we’ve included phone numbers so you can print & share it with someone who may need it). All phone support services listed below are available 24/7 unless otherwise noted and confidential.

Alberta Government Confidential Help Line
Call: 877-303-2642
More information: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/faq8848?opendocument

Manitoba Farm Rural & Norther Support Services / Manitoba Suicide Line
Offers 3 ways to get support:
Call: 1-866-367-3276
Online chat: http://www.ruralsupport.ca/
Email: help@ruralsupport.ca

Ontario The Farm Line – unconfirmed if still operational
Call: 1-888-451-2903 (Mon to Fri – 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.)
You can also search “rural Ontario counselling” and a number of local programs are available, like the Guelph-Wellington Rural Women’s Support Program.

ConnexOntario – Ontario Ministry of Health Mental Health Helpline
Call: 1-866-531-2600
More information: http://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/

Prince Edward Island Farmer Assistance Program
Call: (902) 894-8006
More information: http://peifa.ca/farmer-assistance-program-2/

Saskatchewan Mobile Crisis Farm Stress Line
Call: 1-800-667-4442
More information: http://www.mobilecrisis.ca/farm-stress-line-rural-sask

e-Mental Health Rural and Remote Counselling Services Directory

Farm Support Organizations Outside Canada

The Farming Community Network (UK)
The Upper Teesdale Ag Support Services (UK)
Farm Rescue (North Dakota)
National Center for Farmer Health (Australia)



In the “Spirit” of Continuing Education & Advancement


On Thursday December 3rd, we hosted one of our largest events to date at Dixon’s distillery in Guelph, Ontario.

In spite of being only one of six microbreweries in Ontario, and only a year and a half old, Dixon’s owners Vicki, JC and Kevin offered a wealth of knowledge and expertise on their business and their industry. The distillery has long been a dream of the owners. The trio has spent the last three years building and renovating the building by hand, only contracting out pipefitters for the most major equipment installation. All three maintain full-time employment outside of the distillery and spend evenings and weekends renovating and trying new recipes.

We were first taken on a tour of their impressive facility and given an in-depth description into how spirits are made. Dixon’s were very happy to share with the group that their grains are all locally sourced from the Guelph-Wellington County area.

We were also given the opportunity to taste a variety of the different spirits. Dixon’s currently makes gin, moonshine, vodka and a variety of flavoured liquors that range from chocolate tea, pumpkin, and spicy Caesars which are all made in small batches to highlight their uniqueness.

Following the tour, our awesome panelists answered a variety of questions from our moderator and audience.

The discussions surrounded the synonymous nature of education and advancement.

The panelists came from a variety of backgrounds and educations and had a wide breadth of knowledge to share with the group, which also consisted of a variety of backgrounds and experience. Education, especially in the agriculture, creates a very important knowledge base. However, the panelists could all agree that continued pursuit of new knowledge and skills has also been a driving force in their careers.

The women wove through a variety of topics that ranged from taking professional designation courses, to certificates, one time classes and even the importance of mentorship in education. Heather Hargrave, Industry and Member Relations Coordinator for Farm and Food Care spoke of the unintended consequences of education, such as networking and building friendships.

“There are many different types of mentors – family, personal, work and peers. You always get more out of your education and experiences than you think”, said Hargrave who was recently in the wedding party of a friend she met through AALP.

It should be noted that if you had asked 2 of the 3 panelist where they intended to be when they started school, they would be miles away from where they are now. Stephanie Craig, grew up on a farm, but started her education at Ryerson in an attempt to get as far away from the farm as possible. Mel Curtis, didn’t really have any intention of school, and only really wanted to go back to the farm. Starting in marketing with an animal science background, she now leverages her additional education for promotions within the marketing and communications industry. Working for an AG PR firm, she has also started her own business as an animal photographer. These women have found careers outside of their original designation by leveraging their continued education.

Moderator Kathryn Doan also brought words from Allison West regarding leveraging educations to make pivots in your career.

“Figure out what you want to be doing right before you retire and figure out a way to get there” said West, “Don’t let the pivot get chosen for you.”

The group was left with lasting words of encouragement from the panel and from within the audience. Education will always give you the confidence and perspective to pick your path and make those positive pivots in your career and life.

As always, we would like to thank our panelists: Stephanie Craig, Mel Curtis, Heather Hargrave, and our moderate Kathryn Doan.

We would love more feedback! What great AG continuing education opportunities have YOU heard of or participated in which were valuable to you?

Ag Hall of Fame – Where are all the Women At?


The OAC describes Laura Rose as “instrumental” in modernizing dairy. Photo source: Ontario Agricultural College

Today, the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame inducted five deserving men into their ranks. Among them, a man known as the “father of 4-H” in Canada, the late E. Ward Jones. Though 4-H started over 100 years ago as a Boys club, it quickly morphed into the Boys and Girls Clubs and today, Canadian 4-H membership boasts a slightly higher percentage of female participation over males.

Sadly, this level of equal representation is not yet the norm everywhere in agriculture and the Hall of Fame is no exception. The Mission of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame is to “honour and celebrate Canadians for outstanding contributions to the Agriculture and Food Industry and to publicize the importance of their achievements to Canada.” Since its inception in 1960, no more than four women have been inducted:

All four have made formidable contributions to agriculture in the areas of animal breeding, journalism and home economics. One cannot help but wonder though why there aren’t more women’s portraits hanging on the gallery walls?

Just last year, the Ontario Agricultural College celebrated 140 years with a campaign called “140 Faces of OAC“. I distinctly recall many other women featured in this campaign who had made incredible and fascinating contributions to agriculture. Laura Rose, an expert “butter maker”, pioneer in modernizing dairy and the namesake for the Women’s Institute’s Rose program. Sarah Potter, who was not only an instructor but modelled over 900 fruits and vegetables from wax to be used as teaching aids (that in itself deserves recognition in my opinion).  Closer to my current home, there’s Susannah Isabella Steckle, who planted the first commercial orchard in Waterloo, after being the first female agriculture graduate from the OAC.

Where are these women among the Hall of Fame inductees?

We cannot fault the Hall of Fame alone. Their role is to select from the nominations received and nominations come from the industry. Two of the above women were nominated by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, but the responsibility should not rest solely with them. All agricultural associations and corporations should be stepping up to recognize the women who have made notable impacts on agriculture, lest they be forgotten.