Change is hard – leaving the family farm

By Carolyn Kozak

20151101_164922-effectsMy parents sold the family farm this year. We have spent the summer cleaning up two generations worth of stuff and there is still so much to do. The news for officially selling the farm was sparked with an abundance of different emotions. As a kid, I always imagined I’d live on or near the home farm in the country, and I have always lived close to my parents and currently live in a town nearby. How could this be my reality? I couldn’t have imagined that the farm would be sold within my lifetime and that I would have to get used to another family enjoying the landscape, the beautiful canopy driveway and what was once my family home.

My parents bought a bungalow on fifty acres about an hour and half away near my brother’s farm. They are still going to be involved in farming in a different community, but change is always hard.  It has taken some time, and has been a rollercoaster of emotions to fully process, but I can accept that the move does make sense for the future. My parents are getting older and the move will centralize all the farm land within a ten-minute radius. It just doesn’t make sense to spend hours convoying equipment back and forth anymore. The logistics alone had become a daunting task and my parents are ready for a retirement friendly home.

20160925_133622Moving the farm has sparked some serious nostalgia because I love the farm. As a kid, I spent hours, upon hours playing with barn cats each summer. I became an exceptional kitten catcher, which led to the tamest, most ridiculously named cats, ever. One summer, I managed to take enough cat photos to fill a whole film, and then proceeded to create a photo album that almost exclusively featured cats with all of their names labelled which I still have to this day. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t turn out to be a crazy cat lady, although, my Mom did mention that she was surprised that I didn’t have any cats at my house.

Every farm kid also remembers one of the most ‘enjoyable’ jobs walking up and down the fields in the spring, picking stones. However, even simple tasks like these have been changed by technology advancements since my childhood. It is interesting to think about how agriculture and agri-food career opportunities have adapted in the last 20 years. There have been entire new sectors and jobs created through technological advancements such as alternate uses for crops like bio-products or fuel.  Services like drones and GPS technologies are revolutionizing farm equipment. There also continues to be a trend toward fewer small family farms, but these industry changes have meant that there are lot of jobs options available for individuals living in urban settings to be involved in agriculture along the value chain.

Jobs in agriculture and agri-food no longer just include the historical stereotypes of farming. As the jobs within agriculture and agri-food change, the number of individuals who grew up on farms will decrease but there will still be a large number of jobs within the agriculture community that need to be filled in these new and innovative sectors.  While these changes to the family farm have been difficult, I am so thankful the industry has evolved in a way where I am able to use my farm knowledge and strengths to remain actively involved in agriculture. The home farm may be sold, and times may be changing, but there will always be a way to stay involved in this wonderful, evolving industry.

Nurturing a new career in agriculture – Lindsay Stallman

Despite growing up with agricultural roots, Lindsay Stallman didn’t consider being a part of the industry until opportunities after university led her back to school and back to agriculture. Now the Liaison Officer for the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph, Lindsay is growing a new enthusiasm for food and agriculture.

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

Lindsay_small_file.pngI’m originally from Burtch, ON, a small community in Brant County. I grew up around my extended family’s variety of agricultural operations: a dairy farm, cash crop farms, an equine operation, and a zoo! Despite all this, as a teenager, with a limited idea of what it could mean to work in agriculture, I eliminated it pretty quickly as a potential career choice for me.

I attended the University of Waterloo where I earned a BA in English Language with a minor in Human Resources Management. In 2014, I moved to Alberta to accept a position at Olds College as a Student Recruitment Officer. Olds is best known for its agricultural related programs. I spent a year and a half in that role, and agriculture was suddenly a central part of my life again. I began to understand the breadth of opportunities in agriculture, especially outside of production.

In October 2015 I accepted the position of Liaison Officer at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. I am responsible for coordinating outreach for high school students, providing learning opportunities related to OAC programs, and promoting educational and career pathways related to agriculture. I feel so passionately about what I do. I didn’t expect to work in agriculture, and I think that allows me to be an even better spokesperson and ambassador for the agriculture and food sectors

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

One of the best things about my job is that I don’t have many ‘typical days,’ at least few of my days are exactly alike. In my job I am responsible for planning on-campus events for high school students, which includes coordinating facility tours, hands-on workshops, and lectures. I attend external events related to agriculture and food, and assist in developing new learning materials for high school students and educators. I get to work with OAC faculty from various departments and I am always learning new things from them.

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

As someone who is still new in their career, establishing priorities, setting goals and developing a plan towards reaching them is really important. However, I don’t know that I would be as motivated or as effective if I didn’t have a job that I love. I have a unique opportunity every day to encourage and support students. I get to inspire them to consider new and exciting opportunities that they might never have considered before. For me, having personal success requires a balance in professional and personal gratification.

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

My biggest professional challenge is probably one that many young professionals are experiencing: simply being young in the workplace. Being a young professional often results in other labels which underestimate abilities and talent. When we talk about discrimination, stereotypes and diversity in the workplace, age somehow gets thrown to the wayside. Being young should not undermine credibility. I continue to grow through this experience; what I’ve learned so far? Be professional, work hard, stand up for yourself and people will recognize your value.

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

I am so lucky that this is a hard question to answer. I have an amazing family, and I have been influenced by so many incredible professionals as well. My Grandpa was one of the hardest working, most caring people I have known. He taught me to be many things, but above all showed me the importance of being honest and genuinely kind to others.

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 taught you something important?

I once missed out on a great professional opportunity because I didn’t apply for it. I really didn’t think I had a shot. The manager later approached me and asked what held me back, saying that I would have been perfect for the role. It really taught me how much a lack of self-confidence can hold me back and that I will only get opportunities if I advocate for myself.

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is bigger than most people think. It affects every person, every day, and not only because it produces the food we eat and clothes we wear. It is at the heart of Canada’s economy; it greatly impacts trade and commerce and employs 1 in 8 Canadians. Agriculture involves environmental science, food science, community development and more. It is complex and innovative in science and technology. Agriculture is exciting and evolving as we are met with new challenges every day.

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

Being at OAC allows me to learn new things from the experts every day. However, the more time I spend here the more I understand how little I know about agriculture. There are so many people at Guelph who do incredible and diverse things yet are all contributing to agriculture in different ways, addressing various kinds of questions. There are so many important topics in agriculture right now. For me, I think agriculture matters the most to the future of development and fighting poverty around the world.

What solutions, tools or processes do you think could be put in place to help advance Canadian women, and specifically Canadian women in agriculture? 

Connecting with other women in agriculture has made a big difference for me. I have been lucky to know some remarkable women and men who are committed to supporting women and making the agriculture industry an even better, and more diverse, place for women to advance in their careers.  I’m hoping to attend the Advancing Women in Ag Conference in October, and encourage women to take opportunities like that. There are support networks and incredible who are willing to share their experiences and advice.

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

I have been so positively influenced by the women in my life and truly believe in the value of having a strong mentor who can share their experiences, inspire you, and encourage your growth.

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.

 

Can I talk to the man in charge?

True stories about women in agriculture and their experiences with sexism, discrimination and just plain rudeness.

Late in August, our fearless Chair was asked to present to Pioneer regarding the role of women in agriculture and wanted to get some examples of unconscious bias in agriculture. Her reason for starting AWN in 2012 was to create a forum where producers and industry professionals could come together to support each other as we strive for greater gender equality in agriculture. Since this was exactly what the group was created to discuss, she posed a simple questions to the group:

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I anticipate she hoped for a half a dozen stories, examples of basic unconscious bias that women experience everyday, to help highlight the female experience in argiculture. . What I can be certain she did not anticipate, is that this post would received over 120 comments over the next 24hrs and that stories and tales of sexism would continue to roll in over the next weeks from women who have experienced unconscious bias in agriculture (from both men and women).

As a result of this landslide of feedback from our members, AWN decided to deicate our attention to exploring unconscious bias – what it is, how pervasive it is, and how it holding agriculture back. Today, we thought we’d finally share the stories of our colleagues, just in case there are still people who are uncertain as to the extent of it.

TRIGGER WARNING – some of these stories are just plain rude, some may make you nauseous ,while other may shock you with the amount of disrespected directed towards women. And some stories may just make you down right mad.

Many of our primary producer members shared experiences of salesmen and reps coming on farm. It was often stories of  females stereotypes suggesting that men could only be the primary producer.

“I had a sales guy assume I had to be married to of moved on the farm and be farming with my dad….. I couldn’t just be a single women managing the dairy herd by herself” – Tarah

“After I was married and my husband and I were farming on our own, I had a sales rep from a livestock exporter come in for a transfer for an animal we had sold. My husband wasn’t home, but I said I could get the transfer for him and his response was “can you sign that?” My response was “I can sign the whole damn farm away!” – Maureen

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And not just from men. It’s important to remember that women can be bias against our own gender too, without even noticing it.

“When a local company’s new agronomist stopped in this spring to introduce herself SHE said “Hi I’m……and I came to discuss some cropping ideas, is your husband available?”………Can you guess how much business that company gained from our farm? Shockingly, another woman in agriculture made the mistake of assuming that my husband is the only decision maker.” – Christie

Others told stories of blatant sexism and rudeness.

“I was once told I was lucky to be ‘pretty and a girl’ because it helps the industry” – Hanna

“I was 18 when I applied for a job at the local feed store. I was told that they couldn’t hire me because their customers wouldn’t be comfortable dealing with a female at the loading dock. The only female at the company was the bookkeeper, squished into a corner of the office.” – Karen

“I had a guy flat out say he would never hire a woman, unless she was well past her child bearing years ‘because most of them just want to get hired and then sit back and get paid to pump babies out, then leave'” – Katherine

“Men are oftentimes surprised that I sell equipment, and some are just outright jackasses. Since I sit in the corner of the showroom, when they come around the partition and find me – they are shocked to see a woman. One of the ‘highlights’ was ‘If I buy this tractor, will you come wash in it your bikini?'” – Stephanie

While many of these stories are horrifying, many women were quick to highlight how important their involvement in this industry and their capabilities.

“While at work I was pulling blood on a cow and chatting with our veterinarian about next steps for her when I had a male feed rep enter the barn and ask me if I was “playing dress up for the day with Reg (our vet)”. When I replied “no, I work here full time”, he responded with “oh that’s cute! Do you get to play with the baby calves when you’re not cleaning?” Our vet responded that I was the herdsmen. I’ve never seen colour drain quite so quickly from someone’s face.” – Steph

“I work on my family farm and at an Ag retailer and I had a fellow farmer ask me why I was doing a mans job working out in the yard loading seed and chemicals and not in the office behind a desk he said this as I was carrying two boxes of chemicals to his truck while he was carrying one” – Emma

“At a trade show I was talking to an older farmer and he simply said “there’s no way you know anything about farming, you’re just a young female”. (Note I then showed up at his dairy farm in my work clothes to help him milk to prove him wrong. Boy did that knock him off his feet lol)” – Stephanie

It is important to discuss why these comments are wrong. As we all know, sexism and the gender stereotypes don’t just hurt women, they hurt men too. Education among our colleagues and peers and actually letting people know that what they’ve said is sexist.  If we  participate in educating them and encouraging them to see things differently, we can make a positive change for the next generation of farmers.

Read more real women’s stories below and feel free to share your own in the comments!

“You didn’t mention that you were married” – to which I responded “I’m sure I mentioned it” when I really meant ‘why does that matter/does it make a difference?'”- Becky

“A few years ago I was working for a seed company and we went to a seed conference in the US. Out of all 600 attendees, I was 1 of 50 women there. My boss of the time was extremely supportive of me being there, but one night at a banquet dinner where I was the only female I was told by a president of a US seed company that the only reason I was allowed to sit at his table was because he wanted the ‘eye piece'”- Kelsey

“When I went to go and buy my first car I actually had a sales guy, only a few years older than me, block me completely to talk to my boyfriend. He had me sit in the back seat for the test drive and my bf drive and even though my bf kept saying the car was for me and I was buying the car he was a complete jerk and ignored me. I refused to even consider his brand or his car and wrote a “strongly worded letter” to the dealership about the whole mess. I couldn’t even believe it!” – Sara

“I work in ag business while my husband is on the farm. My job requires me to be away from home a few times throughout the year and as part of the current AALP class, I am away a fair bit with that as well. The question that I get all the time (and it is usually innocent in intention) is “who has the kids while you gone?” People are usually taken aback when my answer is that they are at home with my husband. Yes people, my children have a farming father who is perfectly capable of looking after them in my absence. I think the question and reaction to my response bother me so much because a) it’s sexist to both me AND my husband; and b) people don’t even realize they are perpetuating the stereotypes” – Jenn

“When I managed a local small ag retail, our fert blender broke down in the middle of seeding and an older farmer looked me in the eye and in all seriousness said ‘I knew this place would go to shit with a woman running it.'” – Adrienne

“I had a neighbour ask me in front of my husband if I actually drove the tractors. Hubby spoke up and listed all the equipment I ran on the farm.” – Barb

 

 

Unconscious bias is a thing. Full stop. 

What Are Little Boys Made of?

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails,
And puppy-dogs’ tails;
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice,
And all that’s nice;
That’s what little girls are made of.
~19th Century Nursery Rhyme~

You may think that someone being sexist or biased is when misogynistic language and behaviors are being used, but there are many more subtle ways to be anti-women.  Sitting down to compile this post, I was trying to find a study I had read a year or so ago about male and female business students selecting a successful ‘male’ entrepreneur in a case study over a ‘female‘ entrepreneur when they both had the same credential and qualifications. At the conclusion of this study, it was revealed that they were in fact the same person, and that person was indeed a female.  That unconscious bias really stuck with me,  even though finding that study seems to elude me, as it seems to be lost in the many other studies examining unconscious bias that are readily available on the internet. I managed to pull  a few examples to demonstrate not only the bias but the extent to which it impacts the everyday life of women:

  1. S.K. Johnson and D.R. Hekman from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business did a study which had 307 working adults to review a hiring decision made by a fictitious manager.  Participants read a description of the hiring decision, saw a photo of the manager (showing their race and gender) then completed a survey where they rated the manager on competence and performance of that hiring decision.  What they found was that all managers were judged harshly if they hired someone who had the same gender or ethnicity as them, unless they were a white male.  These findings are alarming as it suggests that if a ‘low-status’ group member hires another ‘low-status’ group member they are perceived as incompetent and poor performers.  Not exactly encouraging news when hoping to increase diversity in the workplace, as our unconscious biases are at play judging those around us.
  2.  Moss-Racusin et al, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gave scientists applications from a student applying for a lab manager position who intended to go onto graduate school and was looking for mentoring. Half the scientists were given an application with a male name, the other half a female name. The results found that the ‘female’ applicant was rated lower than the ‘male’ in competence, hire-ability and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.  More shocking still, is that the scientists also offered the female applicant a significantly lower starting salary than the males.

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Infuriating, yes. And both sexes are to blame.  Women and men were both participants of the studies and held the same biases.  As the authors of the C. Moss-Racusin et al study said “If faculty express gender biases, we are not suggesting that these biases are intentional or stem from a conscious desire to impede the progress of women in science.  Past studies indicate that people’s behaviour is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent…

Being aware of your own biases are the first step towards limiting bias. ‘Project Implicit‘ was created in 1998 as an ‘international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.  The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.”  Run through Harvard University, multiple research teams at the Universities of Washington, Virginia, Harvard and Yale study the results of multiple tests that people can take to rate their biases.  There are tests on Gender-Career, Sexuality, Weight, Religion, and your results and pooled results of everyone who has taken the test are shown to you at the end.

I encourage everyone to explore this website and this project:

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

It starts with you, and how you treat those around you, and especially how you treat children.  It all starts at a young age, they watch how those around them treat others. We need to be more aware of our biases.

  • by Mary Ann Doré

Celebrating Canadian Agriculture at the Calgary Stampede – Erin Stuart

Living in downtown Calgary directly across from Stampede grounds, I look forward to the ten days of Stampede every year – it’s a fantastic kick-off to summer.

This year was no different, I enjoyed corporate events, the rodeo, a pancake breakfast or two, the fireworks and time with friends and family.

image1 (1).jpegTo celebrate the event and the ag women involved in it, I spoke with Erin Stuart, Past Chair of the Beef Cattle Committee, to hear her perspective on Stampede and her advice for others in the industry. Erin’s been a CS volunteer since May 2012. Thanks for your input, Erin!

 1) What’s your favourite part of Stampede/What does Stampede mean to you?

My first stampede memories were of showing my first cutting horse Doctana at the CS Youth Cutting competition in the Big Top when I was nine years old (I’m now 31!!).

When I finished my Masters of Science and moved home from Lincoln, Nebraska I joined the Beef Cattle Committee. It is a relatively small committee but it is made up of such a wonderful group of people. Some of us have Ag backgrounds and some of us don’t- but everyone brings their best. The variety of skill sets and backgrounds the group has creates an excellent experience for our guests and makes being a volunteer a lot of fun. I have made some wonderful friends who share a passion for the organization and giving back to the committee.

My Dad, Byron Hussey, was a Stampede Volunteer for a number of years and recently completed his tenth year as a member of the Calgary Stampede Board of Directors. My Mom, Pat Hussey has supported him during all of those years and has a birthday that falls during Stampede. We have a wonderful tradition of going for dinner and watching the Chuckwagon Races and Grandstand Show as a family on her birthday. My younger sister, Kiersten, has worked at the Lazy S for a number of years. That being said, the Stampede has very much been a part of our family for twenty years. We all have our individual Stampede commitments year round and daily activities on park during the ten day festivities but make time to get together as a family and enjoy ourselves.

The family time we get to share on park, the friends I have made, and the opportunity to give back to the community are some of my favourite things about Stampede.

 2) Why do you volunteer with Stampede?

Growing up in rural Alberta and studying science and agriculture in university fostered a passion for agriculture and all of the great things that the industry does to ensure that our food is safe. Farmers and ranchers utilize good production practices that ensure animals are raised humanely, the environment is respected, and resources are used efficiently. The Stampede does an excellent job of sharing this information with park guests year round and during the ten day festivities and I am very proud to be able to contribute my time and knowledge.

3) Advice for other women wanting to get involved in industry events?

Get involved!! We all have knowledge and skills to contribute and it is very rewarding to participate in and contribute to industry events. You’ll meet people and establish friendships with people that you may not have met otherwise.

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Contributed by Krista Goranson
Interview content by Erin Stuart

Krista works in business and agriculture and lives in downtown Calgary. Follow Krista on Twitter @kristagg1.

 

 

 

Finding a place in a male dominated industry – Aubrie Mowat

Aubrie Mowat works for a commodity marketing and handling company, which seems like a good fit considering she grew up in a family that owns and operates a grain elevator. She’s just starting her career and it hasn’t always been easy to find her place in a male dominated industry, but she’s been building the career she wants through personal drive and goal setting.

If you’re interested in connecting with Aubrie, contact her via e-mail at aubriemowat@live.ca

Aubrie Mowat 1Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

I grew up on a small cow/calf operation and was also involved with commodities as our family owns and operates a grain elevator. I graduated University of Guelph – Kemptville Campus in 2012 with an Associate Diploma in Agriculture. In 2014 I graduated Olds College with a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Agribusiness. I started with BroadGrain Commodities Inc. while finishing my applied degree and was hired as a Rotational Associate. In this role I moved around our offices throughout Ontario for a year to learn about each division. I then moved on to be a Location Marketing Advisor in Brinston, Ontario, which enables me to be back on the farm! I help my customers create marketing plans for their commoditie, and I am also the team lead of our non-GMO/identity preserved food grade soybean program.

Tell us more about your job and what a typical day looks like.

On a day-to-day basis I keep myself informed with where the futures markets are at and what is happening in our local area in regards to supply and demand. I review my customers’ price targets daily and share the knowledge I have in regards to where the prices are at and reasons supporting those prices. I enjoy helping my customers achieve their goals in regards to marketing their grain and value all of the relationships I have created over the past few years. When the markets aren’t too busy, I also help at the scale, when need be, and enjoy dropping in for farm visits!

Who has been your most significant mentor along the way?

Until I started with BroadGrain, I think it’s safe to say my parents were. They run our family’s grain elevator together and have always been driven to be successful and innovative, and have instilled in me the benefits of hard work from the very beginning. Upon starting with BroadGrain, one of my mentors throughout my rotational program was Sonja. She was in a similar role as I am now but on a much larger scale as she was overseeing different commodities. She is a strong woman with the willpower to push herself past boundaries and continues to set goals. She was also a firm believer in girl power, which I think is VERY important! Although we are in different offices now, she is very supportive and encourages me to grow.

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How do you define professional success?

Professional success is setting goals and pushing yourself to achieve them. It is important to strive for this on a continual basis, as challenges are imperative for our growth and development within our career. All of my current goals have some sort of measurable aspect to them to hold me accountable, but I also like to focus on the skills that obtain those numbers. I am a firm believer that time management and the ability to create and carry out an action plan are two of the most important skills an individual can possess. A person must have “drive” and be willing to work as hard as required to achieve his/her goals time and time again.

What is the biggest professional or personal challenge that you’ve had to face?

The biggest challenge that I’ve had to face is ongoing. Being a female in this industry is a small battle that requires me to prove myself to new customers that aren’t used to female professionals in a position like mine. As time goes on it doesn’t seem as frustrating; now it is just another hurdle to jump over and a chance to improve my skills and competencies. Slowly but surely I know women in the industry will change opinions and views; after all, we are all in this together!

It is important to stay open minded. We never know what is around the corner.

Learning from our mistakes is an important, but sometimes tough, part of life. Are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

While I was going through college I really disliked my sales classes as they were focused on selling a specific product and I decided that I never wanted a career involved in sales. I quickly changed my opinion after an interview when I was asked what I thought of sales and almost immediately said I disliked the whole concept and never wanted a job involved in it. Without even thinking, I almost closed the door to a great opportunity. “Sales” isn’t always about selling an object. Every day I sell our company’s services to our customers. It is important to stay open minded. We never know what is around the corner.

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

The most burning question that people ask me is: “Why aren’t you working at home?” I get asked this question almost every week; I can understand this considering our family has been heavily involved in this industry for more than 50 years, however it still bothers me. I chose to pursue an education related to agriculture in order to secure a challenging career in this industry. I am young, just starting my journey and my main focus is on my own personal development. I am thankful that BroadGrain is such a progressive company and the opportunities within this company are truly endless!

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is the most important thing in this world; there is absolutely no doubt about it. It is an industry that is filled with science, compassion and relentlessness, an industry that is at the mercy of Mother Nature, an industry that literally feeds and clothes the world.

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Aubrie with sister Alysa

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

I think the biggest issue in agriculture right now is how uninformed consumers are as more and more of our population is removed from the farm. It is important that we share our stories. We need to inform these consumers of what we do and why we do it. We need to encourage our consumers to ask questions, invite them to our farms and expose them to a day in our lives. Let’s focus on sharing our story and facts to help our consumers make informed decisions. Let’s be approachable and inviting. Let’s do our job in promoting the industry that has provided us with connections, a chance to be responsible for our animals and crops, the strength to deal with the cycle of life, an opportunity to be stewards of the land and the chance to be a part of an amazing industry!

Jessica Kelly on balancing work, farm and family

Jessica Kelly is the Direct Farm Marketing Program Lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and owns a sow operation with her husband in Perth County. She readjusting to life because she recently went on maternity leave with her first child, but took some time to share her experiences with us.

If you are interested in connecting with Jessica, contact her via email at jessmkelly@gmail.com

Please tell us about yourself and your career path.

I grew up on a hog farm near Drayton, so agriculture has weaved in and out of my life since the beginning. I studied business at the University of Western Ontario (forgive me, aggie friends!), but summers were spent in ag-related jobs and volunteer work: Farm and Food Care, Farms.com, and a probiotic yogurt project in Tanzania. There were certainly times at Western that I didn’t feel as though I was with “my people”, however I don’t regret it. With only two “farm kids” in my class of 350, I was a novelty and had many opportunities to teach my classmates about farming.

After undergrad, I taught at Western for three years and then landed at the University of Guelph to complete a Master’s in Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics (and international development) where my thesis looked at the farmers’ share of the food dollar in Canada. After my master’s I was fortunate to dive right into my current job with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

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Jessica with Leslie Forsythe(middle) and Cathy Bartolic(right) at the Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market to celebrate Local Food Week in June 2015

 

What do you do with OMAFRA? What does your “typical” day look like?

I am the Direct Farm Marketing Program Lead within OMAFRA’s Agriculture Development Branch. In this job, my aim is to help direct marketers (farmers’ markets, on-farm markets, agri-tourism, etc.) and food entrepreneurs access the information and build the skills they need to strengthen their businesses. There is a lot of variability in what I do throughout the year!  Conferences and training workshops fill my calendar in fall-winter; reports and administration are a main focus in the spring; and summer-fall is my time to hit the road and visit farm businesses.

Please tell us more about your farm. How do you balance roles to make the farm business run smoothly?

My husband, Stewart, and I own about 350 sows in Perth County and our farm business works very closely with my in-laws’ farm. We are also undertaking an expansion to capitalize on a business opportunity to raised pigs under a humane certification program. Our roles on the farm are primarily dictated by the fact that Stewart and I are, in many ways, total opposites! He’s amazing at building connections, seeing new opportunities and dreaming big. Without him, I might be too timid to try new things. I’m the detail person who loves to-do lists and asks the tough questions as a “reality check” when new ideas come up. Without me, he might be on to dream #3 before dream #1 is done. Since I work off the farm, my role is primarily bookkeeping in the evenings and weekend chores when an extra hand is needed.

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A family affair at the Ag Women;s Network Speed Mentoring event with her husband Stewart Skinner and son Bryce. This was Bryce’s first official AWN event! 

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

For me, personal success is all about using your talents to make a contribution, no matter how big or small, and constantly striving to learn new things. I keep a journal of inspirational quotes; one favourite is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” To me this is a reminder that success is more than what you do, but how you do it.

Who would say is your biggest influencer/mentor? What have you learned from them?

One of just many important things I learned from my parents is the importance of being a lifelong learner – asking questions and learning no matter what age and stage you’re at.  When I was in grade 4, my Mom went back to school to complete the agribusiness MBA from the University of Guelph, while working more-than-full-time managing two farm businesses. My Dad was a city kid turned pig farmer, who learned from asking questions and soaking it all in.

In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

Regret may be a better term, but I sometimes wish that I had pursued a designation (such as accounting) when I was at Western. At the time I decided against the specialized accounting courses because I (unreasonably, in hindsight) worried that I would be confined to be a career accountant doing audits day after day, which didn’t interest me. Lesson learned: opportunities are a chance to add an experience to your toolbox. They do not dictate your career path or close other doors.

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

I’m currently on maternity leave, so the career questions on my mind are looking more to the future…childcare, balancing farm/off-farm/family, etc. I know many members of the AWN are amazing, active parents, so I’ll be paying closer attention to their perspectives!

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Jessica with her mom Joanne Selves and son Bryce before for the Hog Jog at the Ontario Pork Congress in June 2016

 

Speaking of maternity leave, do you have any professional advice for women who are preparing to do the same?

I’ve only been on maternity leave for a few months, so I’m going to recycle some advice given to me! The leader of our local Early Years centre always tells us to “leave our capes at the door.”  When we have superhero notions about parenthood and maternity leave we set ourselves up for disappointment. I’m someone who loves to-do lists and calendars, so for me, “taking off my cape” means recognizing that each day is different. One day a victory can be a day where I went grocery shopping, did farm books and made supper. Then another day is a victory because I got out of my pyjamas and took a shower, and that’s okay too.

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

I’ll answer these two together! My definition of agriculture is very broad – encompassing those involved in all links of the food production system and the supporting services. In my position with OMAFRA, I am fortunate to work with an amazing, eclectic, and entrepreneurial group of farmers ranging from on-farm cideries and butcher shops to pick-your-own farms and agri-tourism destinations.  This has been a great reminder about the diversity of the agriculture industry!

I think one of the most important topics in agriculture right now is the importance of unity when communicating with the public or working to improve our industry. Since agriculture’s so diverse it’s easy to draw artificial lines – direct marketing vs. commodity marketing, organic vs. conventional, supply-managed vs. not supply managed — but there are too few of us involved in the industry to not play on the same team.

Krista Hulshof on finding her niche in ‘Agritecture’

Krista Hulshof has turned a niche into her career. She’s a self-described “agritect” serving rural and agricultural businesses in designing beautiful and sustainable buildings. As well as running her own architecture business, she and her husband are busy raising two young children. Krista shares with us about developing her business, being a mom and working to make our world more sustainable.

If you’re interested in connecting with Krista, contact her via email (krista@veldarchitect.com) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/VeldArchitect/)

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

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I am an architect who specializes in rural, and agritourism design. I grew up on a dairy/poultry farm and went to the University of Waterloo for architecture. In third year I found a book called “Barns”, which included numerous projects that renovated old barns into homes. I realized I missed the farm life and culture, but I also loved architecture. So I set out to figure out how to bring architecture and agriculture together. I spent my thesis year studying sustainable farming practices and designing a 150-acre farm (land and buildings). I specialized in sustainable farm design through my master’s thesis, and now call myself an agritect! So what does an architect, or agritect do? An architect helps facilitate and guide clients through the millions of decisions required to prepare a building for construction (from colours to insulation), and document these decisions in the form of drawings for permits and construction. Using their training, expertise, and experience they assist in creating an efficient, flexible, and beautiful building for the long term of your major investment.

Tell us more about your work as an agritect.

 After university I worked for another firm while I tried to figure out how to break into this niche market of ‘agritecture’. This was a big challenge because farmers don’t traditionally hire architects. But a new industry of agritourism (on-farm, value added services like wineries, on-farm stores, farm tours, wedding venues, etc.) was emerging. This emerging industry often required architects and there was real value in helping farmers through the red tape of zoning and building codes required; this is where I targeted my skills. In 2012 I started VELD Architect. I am the only architect that I know of working specifically in this niche market.

I assist farmers and farm owners with the planning of their agritourism or farm projects from the master planning stages, through the hoops of regulations, building designs, permits, and the construction stages. You can see examples of my work on my website at www.veldarchitect.com. I have worked on wineries, distilleries, kennels, event venues, farm stores, equestrian facilities, barn conversions, as well as farmhouse and residential design.

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Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on?

My firm is young, so the portfolio is small, but my favorite project so far is my first barn conversion to a house. It also happens to be my house so I might be biased, but I’ve learned so much, and I very proud to say we saved a bank barn that would have been torn down (http://www.veldarchitect.com/?projects=wartburg-residence). My second favorite project was for a not-for-profit group called My Farm in Waterloo (http://www.veldarchitect.com/?projects=sample-project-2). They hired me early on to help them plan a 10-acre sustainable farm with a gathering and working “barn”. The project is still in its early stages of site grading and tree planting using “restoration agriculture” methods (Here’s a video to explain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_t-sVVzF0) There is no building yet, but I hope they have continued success and we can slowly fulfill the vision we had for the property.

You have two very young children. How do you balance your time as a mom and an entrepreneur? 

I have lots of help! My 2-year-old goes to a babysitter three days a week (daycare one day, Nana’s one day, and Oma’s another day). My 6-month-old stays with me and I work as fast as I can when he is happy or sleeping! I have had to sacrifice both in my career and in mothering. I have learned to say ‘no’ to potential clients that don’t enhance my portfolio in the direction I want my firm to go. I have also hired a co-op student to assist me during busy times to ensure my clients are satisfied.

As a mother I sometimes feel that by sending my kids to daycare I miss out on so much of their learning and development, but I know they also learn a more varied amount of skills through the experience. It also helps that their babysitters are their grandparents and I hope this develops a special bond between them, as they grow older. I also try to keep my housework lower and realistic, so that I don’t get overwhelmed or upset with myself. My husband is a pig farmer, and he does his best to pitch in and share the responsibility of household chores. I also work flexible hours (nap times, slower response times, evenings, etc.) and share my life situation with clients and only work with those who ‘get it’.

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

I used to want to be a famous architect! There are only a few who get to be that, but I hope that I can be published and recognized not only by the architecture community but also by the agriculture community for providing value and enhancing rural culture. I work toward this slowly with each project, giving my clients efficient, inspiring spaces, and making the building process as painless as possible.

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

Balancing being a mom and an entrepreneur has been my biggest challenge. I didn’t have time to get good at either without being busy with the other. So I’m learning to be a mom while also learning to be an entrepreneur. Not an east task!

Krista Hulshof.jpgIn the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

I took on a very large project that with another architect. The design process was long and a very big undertaking. I made a lot of mistakes and embarrassed myself and the other architect. I was pregnant, had severe morning sickness and was busy with my 8-month-old. And that is no excuse, but I realized I bit off way more than I could chew. I often think I can do more than I can. I learned two lessons: 1) Say no when you need too, and 2) Review your work and take care in everything you do. When I make mistakes, it costs people money.

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

What will my firm look like in the future? Do I want to grow and at what cost to time with my kids? Should I be looking for a partner or an employee to take on more projects? Will they be as invested as I am?

How do you define agriculture?

Agriculture is a community of people engaged in the production of food. It’s more than just farming; it’s a way of life.

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

Moving toward less fossil fuel intense farming and looking at alternative more sustainable practices (restoration agriculture, keyline farming, urban gardens, CSAs, local food, increasing soil organic matter, enhancing natural ecosystems with farming, etc.). I know it’s controversial and change is hard in rural communities, but I think there are ways to address the challenges. The consumer is demanding alternative methods, more transparency, and farms are businesses trying to meet customer demands. There is no business model in the world that can survive ignoring the market trends and consumer needs. Farming is not an exception and will NEED to adapt.

‘Ag Wannabe’ – Christina Fitzgibbons on joining the AG industry

Christina (Couture) FitzGibbon is a member of the Ag Women’s Network leadership team. She found a fantastic professional fit in agriculture, and she’s embraced new opportunities to expand her network and contribute to the industry. She shares with us some advice that she’s picked up along the way and her questions about next steps in life and her career.

If you’re interested in connecting with Christina, contact her via Twitter: https://twitter.com/@agcouture or email: couture.christina@gmail.com

1c68df8Please tell us a bit about yourself and your career path.

I am a passionate ‘ag wannabe’ and proud to be able to bring my consumer perspective to the industry. Growing up in rural Ontario enabled me to experience my first taste of agriculture, and I instantly became enthralled with the process, the effort, and the craft of making food and the farmers behind it. Being a small town girl, when it came a time to choose a University, the University of Guelph was the obvious choice! There I obtained a degree in psychology (with a minor at “the Ranch”) and then furthered my education by obtaining a post graduate honours degree in marketing management from Humber College.

After living and gaining professional experience in Toronto I found myself back in Guelph, in the hub of agriculture, working in a marketing role within the agri-food industry. Today, I work at RKD Web Studios in marketing and account management with both ag and non ag clients. Becoming more involved in the ag community has been very important to me, and has given me a true sense of pride. I love that through professional and personal channels I have the opportunity to lend a hand to the agricultural community and offer an educated voice and perspective from the consumer standpoint.

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

I am a strong believer that success is self-defined. What I think is successful may not be what my friend or colleague believes. But to answer the question… my definition of success is being in a place of continual betterment and learning. If you are able (and lucky enough) to find a position or a role that you are continually learning from and growing from I believe you are successful. For me, my career path has had some ups and downs, but today I consider myself very successful. I hold a position in an industry and organization that is constantly changing and evolving, therefore there is always something to learn and stay ahead of.

“While I have never helped calve a cow, I embrace the agriculture mindset and I am not afraid to get involved or get my boots and hands dirty. My desire for consumers and ‘non-aggies’ to get more involved and engaged in how food arrives from the farm gate to consumer plate is what drives me to continue to be an Agvocate for the industry.“ – Christina FitzGibbon

The biggest step I took in my career and one I continue to take is to get involved! Network, meet people, and put yourself out of your comfort zone! The first organization I joined was Canadian Agri Marketing Association (CAMA), and to be honest I was nervous to get involved and share my voice. But now, I can proudly say I have been on the CAMA board for three years and I am now the Vice President of the Ontario Chapter. The Ag Women’s Network and CAMA have forced me out of what is ‘comfortable’ and have made me more confident to take on new roles professionally.

In the spirit of these profiles helping others, are you willing to share a mistake you made but taught you something important?

Without trying to sound like everything is sunshine and rainbows, I do not think in your career or life you can make ‘mistakes’. Everything is a learning experience and it is how you approach a situation, and what you take from it, that will define the outcome.

That said, I will share a lesson I learned on workplace politics that I believe can be applied to the office or barn… DON’T GET INVOLVED. This can be easier said than done, but I honestly have never heard of an outcome where someone got involved and it ended well. Whether you wear boots to work or three inch heels, try to take the high road and refrain from commenting or lending your opinion. And if you feel you have to, ensure it is constructive and will have a positive effect on those around you.

Christina with Husband Nick FitzGibbon

Christina with husband Nick

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

As someone fast approaching 30, some would say the biological clock is ticking! How starting a family will impact your career is something a lot of my friends and colleagues have been discussing in GREAT length. When is a good time? Will my employer think of me differently? Where do I need to be before I make that step? Lots of questions and thoughts.

A main concern of mine is my career slowing down as priorities change. To be a successful business woman AND have a family is definitely the goal, but what is realistic? I have seen so many women become superwomen, amazing moms and never miss a beat in their career. And of course I strive to be like them.

But does being superwomen come at a cost? Women in agri-business, like other industries, tend to feel the pressure to work through their maternity leaves or come back early to their jobs due to lack of coverage or feeling they are being left behind. So my burning question is, is it fair for employers to expect the ‘superwoman’ as the new norm? Or are we setting unrealistic expectations when it comes work and family life? I would love to hear your comments on this one!

How do you define agriculture?

The center of the world. Without agriculture and the production of food where would we be?

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Mary Ann Doré, Robyn Walsh, Maureen Balsillie, Jen Christie, Christina Crowley-Arklie, and Christina Fitzgibbons during an AWN Leadership team meeting

What do you do as part of the AWN Leadership Team?

Since becoming part of the leadership team in 2014, I have had the opportunity to work on various projects including event planning, governance/policy and currently working on a new website (coming soon!). From the beginning when AWN was just a small group of women meeting in my kitchen to now, a group of 1300+ women and counting, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to both work and learn from this network of strong women.

Currently our leadership team consists of eight strong women from all different backgrounds and expertise. Working with them has been a pleasure and given me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. A big thank you to Jenn, Christina, Maureen, Joan, Megan, Robin and Mary Ann for your continued support; I look forward to helping AWN grow and take on new challenges with you all.