Joanna Follings on prioritizing positive relationships – Industry Profile

You may know Joanna Follings from the pages of farm publications where she shares crop advice as part of OMAFRA’s Cereal Specialist role. Joanna shares her own advice with us, and how prioritizing positive relationships makes reaching our own goals easier.

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

I grew up on a dairy and cash crop farm near Ayr, Ontario, so from a pretty young age I developed a strong passion for agriculture. I attended the University of Guelph and earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. During my undergrad studies I worked for a number of agriculture companies including Cargill, BASF and DuPont. After graduation I worked for the Agricultural Adaptation Council as a program coordinator where I assessed research proposals for funding and managed the approved projects through to completion.

After two years of working in the industry I decided to go back to school. Once I completed my Master’s in Plant Agriculture, I was successful in getting my first job with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) as a Research Analyst in the Research and Innovation Branch. I really enjoyed that role but really missed working directly with the agriculture industry, particularly with producers. That’s when I made a huge switch and was successful in getting the Cereals Specialist position with OMAFRA last October. 

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

I am the provincial Cereals Specialist with OMAFRA. I am responsible for providing Ontario growers with production and management information on cereal production systems and collaborating on applied research and demonstration projects. I wouldn’t really say I have a “typical day” because every day is quite different depending on the time of year (which is one of the many reasons I love my job).  Some days I can be found writing articles and researching topics that are relevant to Ontario growers and other days I am on the road giving presentations or working with researchers and growers on research projects.

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

I would have to say that personal success is feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I am doing on both a professional and personal level. No matter how small my contributions may be, if I feel like I am making even the slightest difference for the better, that makes me feel incredibly successful. 

In order to get there, you have to have positive relationships and partnerships in both your professional and personal life.  I am a strong believer that the relationships we build with people are very important for achieving our goals. We also have to refuse to let ourselves get comfortable. Take risks! Pushing the boundaries and trying things we never could imagine ourselves doing and then coming out the other side saying “Wow I did it” is the best feeling in the world. 

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

I recently went through a very challenging personal experience. I don’t want to share all the details but what I can say is that I learned no matter how difficult life may seem at the time, you will get through it and it will get better. You will come out of some challenges as a different person but sometimes that is a good thing. I also learned how important it is to surround yourself with positive people and don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. This applies to both your personal and professional life and goes back to my point about the need for building positive relationships in your life.

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

I have been incredibly lucky to have had a number of positive influencers/mentors in my life but I would have to say my parents have been the biggest influencers. They taught me the importance of being respectful, hard work, determination, having an open mind and a solid handshake!  They also taught me how to stand up for myself and to always learn from your mistakes.

joanna_follings3Learning 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?

So I am the first to admit it, I make a lot of mistakes! One mistake in particular was in my old role as a Research Analyst where I took on too many very different projects. I used to be very afraid of saying no and asking for help. I didn’t want it to appear that I wasn’t working hard enough or that I wasn’t good at my job so I had the tendency to say yes to everything. I also didn’t want to burden others with my work so I didn’t reach out for help. As a result, I ended up having to put in a lot of extra time, lost a lot of sleep, and at the end of the day I wasn’t really happy with the work that I had done. After that I learned that it is ok to say no sometimes and to ask for help.  No one will judge you or criticize you, if anything they will respect you more for being honest.

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

Right now I am trying to figure out what to do next in terms of professional development. I have often thought about an MBA, but would be curious to know what other designations, courses, workshops, etc. AWN members have found to be of value in terms of personal and professional growth.

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

I think there are a number of important topics in agriculture right now including, but not limited, to how we communicate with the public about agriculture, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. Personally, I think we as an industry can do a better job of working together to come up with solutions or a path forward in some of these areas. There are some pretty remarkable people working in this industry with some amazing ideas that we just don’t tap into enough.

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

Don’t be afraid to take risks!  I know sometimes we might be hesitant to go back to school or try new things but I think we learn and grow the most when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. I was terrified to go to graduate school and to take on my current role as the Cereals Specialist, to the point where I almost said no to both opportunities. I am incredibly thankful I said yes to both because I have learned so much from these experiences.

AWN take over – The ‘Old Boys Club’

Next week, our very own Natalie Walt is taking over AWN!! She has curated a entire week focusing on the ‘Old Boys Club’ and how it affects women in ag. There will be posts on the AWN blog as well as intriguing content from other sources to provide a well-rounded overview of this challenge. We hope you will join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and we are excited to hear your stories and share your advice!

Focus Week-The 'Old Boys Club- final.png

You can follow along on Facebook and Twitter @agwomensnetwork. If you want to get in touch with Natalie directly, you can follow her on twitter @nwalt!

Join us for #AWNChat during Advancing Women’s Conference

We’re excited to let you know that we will be hosting #AWN Chat throughout the Advancing Women Conference in Toronto.  There will be live tweeting about the event, comments by AWN members attending and some questions/comments that we would like to present as discussion items.  We want you to be involved! We will be hosting this through Twitter and it will be active from mid-morning Monday, October 3rd to mid-afternoon Tuesday, October 4th.  Join in whenever it suits your schedule!!! 

twitter-awnFor our members who are not on Twitter, we will be posting some of the #AWNChat content on our Facebook Group page.  We want to give as many women as possible the opportunity to virtually join the AWCeast2016.  We hope you understand that it is difficult to attend a conference like this AND keep up a conversation on both Twitter and Facebook.  So, this time the main focus is Twitter but there will be lots to follow on Facebook as well.

For those of you who are attending the Advancing Women Conference, we are looking forward to connecting with you there.  You can find us at the CAHRC booth as they kindly offered to share their space with us.  We will be handing out AWN stickers for people to place on their nametags.  This will make a great way to connect with other AWN members or to tell conference attendees about AWN. 

If you are attending, we have a unique way for you to participate in the #AWNChat.  Our “AWN Roving Reporter” will be approaching AWN members to give comments, if they wish, that can be used as tweets. She might even ask for a photo or two.  Our goal is to CONNECT and to be VIRTUALLY YOURS!

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


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. ( 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). .  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).

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

Happy Canada Day AWN!

 Imagine if we all gathered together in a big backyard somewhere.  We would have quite the celebration! It is exciting to realize that by including everyone who has engaged with the Ag Women’s Network, whether online or in-person, it would be an across-Canada celebration!

While on recent flights, west to Edmonton and then home from Saskatoon, I gazed out the airplane window as we flew below the clouds.  In a surprising way I felt a kinship to the realities of the rural life below. Thanks to my involvement in AWN, I have grown so much in my understanding of the women of Canadian agriculture.  I looked at the natural beauty of our country and the farm land stretching out below. I thought about the people running the farms, providing services and support to those farms, raising families, being stewards to Canada’s resources, upholding rural life and producing the food that feeds, fuels and brings together the people of Canada.

I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of Canada and, more often than not, the trip has had something to do with farming.  Visiting so many farms has been a wonderful opportunity. I’ve come to realize that the people of Canadian agriculture are a diverse group and our industry’s strength comes from that diversity. There are geographical issues that often rally us into regional viewpoints and historical and cultural backgrounds that can tangle up our understandings.  Our political views are varied.  The commodities we produce can sometimes be competitive. However, we have so much in common. Our differences must not overwhelm who we are and what unites us.  We have common understandings of dedication, resilience, passion, determination, succession and stewardship.  We have common sources of pride in our families, animals, crops, products, land, communities and farms.  Together we are Canadian agriculture.

On those farm visits, there is almost always time for standing in a yard and having a conversation.  It is during those conversations when common understandings and sources of pride are most evident. Farmers are yard people.  People who like to gather- near a barn, around a campfire, in a pasture field, at a picnic table, after a crop tour, beside a tailgate, helping a neighbor, close to an animal’s breath at sunrise or surveying a field at sunset.  We are people who like to be together.

This Canada Day, as you celebrate in your backyard, front yard, farm yard, courtyard, neighbour’s yard or under a yard light, be sure to share your pride in our country and in Canadian agriculture. And then, give an extra wave of the flag for the women of Ag.

  • Joan Craig

AWN launches Facebook Page

Ag Womens Network is happy to announce the launch of our new Facebook page. AWN has nearly tripled in size in the past 6 months. To create stronger connections within the agriculture and agri-food industry, it is important AWN have a public presence on Facebook.

“Being able to talk with other women and share experiences is empowering our members and has always been our main goal. We realize the whole industry cares about the topic of gender balance and now we have a forum to turn the volume up on this conversation.” Says Jennifer Christie, AWN Chairperson.

By sharing content and events with a wider audience, AWN wants to help shift the conversation from focusing on the barriers to finding ways the industry can advance more women into leadership. Multiple different studies have now shown there are benefits in customer focus and financial performance when leadership is more gender balanced.

AWN welcomes all members of the Facebook group to ‘Like’ Ag Women’s Network on Facebook. We will continue to use the group to facilitate private discussions among AWN members. The group will remain closed to members only.

AWN communication team will do our best to limit duplication between the group and the page. We welcome colleagues and friends who are interested in AWN to like the page and support the advancement of women in agriculture.

       AWN Leadership Team

The women who came before us – The Rural Diary Archive

This post is the second in the series ‘The women who came before us’. AWN members were asked to write a tribute to their mothers, the women who came before us, and brought us this far, as a thank you for everything they’ve contributed in celebration of Mother Days. This post was written by a member of the leadership team in collaboration with Jodey Nurse-Gupta.

During a recent visit with my Mom, we happened upon a diary from 1948 that was written by my Grandma.  The daily entries gave evidence of a caring, kind, and determined woman who brought a sense of humour to situations, a love of family, and a deep faith to each day. It was heartwarming to read about my teenage Mom and her family’s life on the farm.  My Mom’s mother passed away when my Mom was under two years of age and the Grandma that I knew, and the woman who authored the diary, married my grandfather and became my Mom’s step-mom. I recently read that Mom’s mother was also a loving and kind woman who was held in high esteem in the community too. I am thankful for the generations of women in my family, and that Mother’s Day is a time to reflect on this blessing.

So often we think of “grandma’s generation” in a romantic, cookie jar filling, apron wearing way. But these women knew what grit was, they knew how to hold their own, they knew how to face the toughest of situations and somehow find courage and grace to deal with it.  They were the ultimate “get it done” generation.  No doubt they had days when they felt overwhelmed – when the well ran dry, when their brood of children were sick, when the weather ruined their hours of field labour, when the need of a female shoulder to cry on was miles away.  They were motivated by circumstance and their influence was strong and secure.

Diaries provide a unique window into previous generations.  They recorded, among other things, the daily weather, family joys and sorrows, community events, and farming details. The founder and project director of the Rural Diary Archive, Dr. Catharine Anne Wilson of the University of Guelph, has created a website that currently contains the diaries of almost 140 diarists from rural Ontario. The diaries range from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the postwar period, and many more diaries will be added to the collection in the future. The Rural Diary Archive actively works to secure diaries and transcribe them through the efforts of online volunteers. The website provides information about the project and will hopefully encourage you to help transcribe some of the rural and farm women’s diaries in the collection.  Dr. Wilson’s passion for diaries started with the discovery of her great, great grandmother’s diary, and as she notes in a piece written for the Rural Women’s Studies Association, “Nothing brings you closer to rural women’s daily life in the past than reading an old diary.”

Jodey Nurse-Gupta, an AWN member, a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Guelph, the Co-coordinator of the Rural History Roundtable, and a member of the Rural Diary Archive team, has studied the roles of women in agriculture and is completing a dissertation about women’s involvement in Ontario agricultural societies and fairs from 1846 to 1979. When I asked her what she has learned about the history of farm women, she explained how farm women were incredibly important to the social, cultural, and economic fabric of their societies. She noted that, historically, Canadian farm women’s work such as tending to the sick, providing childcare, sewing, cooking, preserving foodstuff, dairying, and seasonal field work was necessary for a farm family’s success. Beyond providing for the family, however, Jodey explained that farm women were also committed to serving their community, and through that service they were often empowered. “Often this service – whether as members of the local agricultural society or another community organization – empowered rural women by giving them a degree of social authority in their communities. Fairs were important events because they showcased women’s work. Whether they were exhibiting bread and butter, fancywork, or livestock, women who competed at fairs took advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents and achievements, and publicly show how the things they made or what they did contributed to their families’ and communities’ well-being.” Jodey cites examples of how women’s dairy produce exhibits illustrated women’s importance to the dairy industry in the nineteenth century, or how their participation in agricultural societies in the twentieth century – first simply as “Lady Directors,” but later in a number of different roles – confirmed the need for women’s expertise and leadership. Such participation provided an argument for why women’s work on farms was important, and how their knowledge and leadership could translate into other opportunities for women in agriculture. We owe a great debt to the women who paved the way by participating in early agricultural organizations.

Jodey has much more to share and I have asked her to provide AWN with several upcoming blogs. She graciously said “Yes!” so watch for her upcoming blog features later this year.

It will soon be Mother’s Day, a time to honour the women who mothered us.  A time, as well, to honour the generations of women in our families and their role in our families, farms and communities.

For more about rural history projects and events at the University of Guelph, visit

The women who came before us – Donna Barkey

This post is the first in the series ‘The women who came before us’. AWN members were asked to write a tribute to their mothers, the women who came before us, and brought us this far, as a thank you for everything they’ve contributed in celebration of Mother Days. This first piece was written by Kathryn Doan in collaboration with her siblings about their mother Donna Barkey.

MomDonna Barkey, a farmer for over 50 years, a woman of high values who represents the skills that many people like herself, give to Canadian agriculture.  No, Donna may not still be getting up at 5 am to milk the cows, but what she still does today at the age of 76 as a mother, grandmother and partner in Altona Lea Farms is a vital part of the farm success both past and present.  Defining words that best describe Donna Barkey are energetic, committed, loving, loyal and dedicated to all activities she is involved.


Donna with three of of beautiful grandchildren

In this special Mother’s Day tribute to farming women, Donna Barkey would identify her characteristics as her passion and love for her family, all who were raised on the family dairy farm Altona Lea, near Blackstock, Ontario.  It all started back in 1964 when Donna Johnson married Frank Barkey and located on his family farm in Altona, Ontario.  In the early days on the farm, there were challenges of living under the same roof has her in-laws on the small mixed farm; however it was Frank’s keen eye for purebred Holstein cattle that ultimately led to the their successful business venture and independent farm business.

The farm evolved from their rented historical farm in Altona, which was consumed by the federal government’s aquistion of farmland for the proposed airport to purchasing their own farm near Blackstock in 1978.  The years of starting a business were not easy, with a young family in tow, the new farm was a work in progress, however the ability to own their farm far outweighed the challenges of fixing up the outdated farmstead.  But still today, the care and pride of ownership that Donna & Frank invested in their farm with trees, roses and clematis that adorn the lanes, shed and gardens today.  You can be rest assured, if that cattle break out of the pasture, Donna is the first one out rounding them back in.  To quote Donna, ‘farming is a family business, it is being part of the team’.

3 excellent sisters

Donna, husband Frank who passed away in 2011 with three excellent sister

Donna was blessed with nearly 47 years of marriage to Frank who passed away in 2011, but their legacy was most certainly their children, Sharyn, Elaine, Glenn, Eric, Carolyn and Kathryn, all of whom have married and contribute to her 20 grandchildren.

There are not too many mothers who can proudly say that all six of her kids are university educated and all remain connected to agriculture today.

The Holstein breed was good for the Barkey’s, but equally so the Barkey’s were good for the breed.  Although Frank was politically active in the county and provincial Holstein boards, it was Donna who took charge of caring for the farm with the children.  But never fail, when local fairs, meetings and events allowed Donna to participate, her near photographic memory of people and names always ensured that every person was remembered and always connected through her interactions.

Farming organizations, such as Junior Farmers, provided a key foundation to Donna’s upbringing.  It certainly provided the opportunity to meet Frank, but it also taught the values of community building, socializing and providing a network of longtime friends, that still exist today.  The primary youth organization that the Barkey children were encouraged to participate in was 4-H.  Donna was a proud 4-H Mom and today 4-H Grandmother, where she still appreciates ALL youth, not just her own relatives, engaging and being excited about agriculture.  For example she still supports and sponsors the pre-4-H calf show yearly.


Donna still regularly attends and supports 4-H Shows

If an award was given to the most hours spent ring side, watching cattle or 4-H shows, Donna would be a top contender.   A core family value, which is something experienced through life, and not necessarily taught, is the ability to give back, and be a part of a community.  These are the skills which have been passed on to her children who thrive in giving back to agriculture, as much as she does.

Unfortunately when Frank passed away in 2011, a huge void was created in her life and the farm, however still living in the main farm house where the hub of activity occurs provides the daily interaction of the farm, combined with her family visit each and every day, that make life worth living. As Mom would say “Family isn’t an important thing. It’s everything.”

MomandDadDonnaFrankStopping by the Altona Lea farm today, you will find Donna busy at work doing one of mostly likely four things; 1) looking after her grandchildren such that the business of the farm life isn’t compromised by the safety of everyone involved in the farm today (she has no problem “keeping everyone inline”), 2) cooking meals for visitors, hired help, or making special ‘grandma bread’ for anyone stopping by, (she has an ability to make anyone feel a part of the family and welcome to just stop by anytime) 3) working in her extensive vegetable garden and rose flower beds that surround her property, 4) doing the farm book keeping, updating of cow signs or mostly likely, she will be doing all four, as she the most energetic 76 year old women out there.


Kathryn (Barkey) Doan,

Creating Energy and Opportunity – AWC West Recap 2016

While last week in Ontario, we were busy relaunch the AWN logo, AWN member Krista Goranson attended Advancing Women’s Conference West 2016 with her mom. Since we couldn’t make it, we asked her to write about her experience and what she took away from the conference.


The Ladies! Over 560 of agriculture’s finest

 It’s the first day of the Advancing Women’s Conference in Calgary. I feel a surge of energy during the afternoon networking break when Katy Perry’s “Roar” blares throughout the reception area at the Hyatt Regency. I can’t help but feel as though this group of 560 women had really “made it” and this was our celebration as we shared stories and laughter…

I grew up on a grain farm and am from a farming family and community, but I don’t think I really appreciated what this meant until I left home, moved to the city and really settled into my career. Attending industry events, such as Advancing Women, is a great way to reflect, celebrate, and get energized for what’s ahead and there are so many exciting things ahead.



Selfie Time!! Krista and her mom, Bonnie at AWC West 2016

I was incredibly honoured to attend the event with my mom, a farm wife, career woman and community supporter. These honest and humble values are the foundation of what make women in agriculture so amazing.

 I also couldn’t help but being struck by the stories of the speakers. It’s about how we are living our lives, the choices we make and how to own these decisions. Having the courage to be your best self and to live life by design is empowering and it’s a journey to get there. Chantelle Donahue, VP of Corporate Affairs with Cargill told us “There is no playbook in life. You need to make the best choice for you.” Carol Kitchen, CEO of UFA Cooperative told us “The world doesn’t come to you. You have to go find it.” These are meaningful messages calling us to reflect, make decisions and to act. The time is now.

 Since the conference, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the experience and think of all the strong and confident female mentors that I’ve had in my life. I had the opportunity to reconnect with one of these mentors at the conference, and it meant a lot to me. It was so encouraging that mentor-ship was a strong theme at Advancing Women, as these connections help encourage and build us up to become the people we need to be to best serve the industry.

“The world doesn’t come to you. You have to go find it.”- Carol Kitchen, CEO of UFA Cooperative 

 It was an incredible and meaningful experience. I personally had the chance to connect with former colleagues and friends and share the experience with my mom. I am in the middle of starting a new professional chapter, and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to attending again next year!



Follow Krista on twitter @kristagg1